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Exodus commentary

Exodus 1:1-22
Moses on the Nile

Exo_1:22

A very easy plan, was it not? Whom you fear, destroy; that is a brief and
easy creed, surely? This was turning the river to good account. It was a
ready-made grave. Pharaoh did not charge the people to cut the sod, and
lay the murdered children in the ground; the sight would have been
unpleasant, the reminders would have been too numerous; he said, Throw
the intruders into the river: there will be but a splash, a few bubbles on the
surface, and the whole thing will be over! The river will carry no marks; will
tell no stories; will sustain no tomb-stones; it will roll on as if its waters had
never been divided by the hand of the murderer. All bad kings have feared
the rise of manhood. If Pharaoh has been afraid of children, there must be
something in children worthy of the attention of those who seek to turn life
into good directions. The boy who is the terror of a king may become valiant
for the truth. Never neglect young life: it is the seed of the future; it is the
hope of the world. Nothing better than murder occurred to the mind of this
short-sighted king. He never thought of culture, of kindness, of social and
political development; his one idea of power was the shallow and vulgar idea
of oppression.

"And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives"


(Exo_1:15).

So the king could not carry out his own command. A king can give an order,
but he requires the help of other people to carry it into effect Think of the
proud Pharaoh having to take two humble midwives into his confidence! The
plan of murder is not so easy a plan after all. There are persons to be
consulted who may turn round upon us, and on some ground deny our
authority. From the king we had a right to expect protection, security, and
encouragement; yet the water of the fountain was poisoned, and the worm
of destruction was gnawing the very roots of power. What if the midwives
set themselves against Pharaoh? Two humble women may be more than a
match for the great king of Egypt. No influence, how obscure soever, is to be
treated with contempt. A child may baffle a king. A kitten has been known to
alarm a bear. A fly once choked a pope. What if a midwife should turn to
confusion the sanguinary counsels of a cowardly king?

"But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of
Egypt commanded them, but saved the men-children
alive" (Exo_1:17).

They who fear God are superior to all other fear. When our notion of
authority terminates upon the visible and temporary, we become the victims
of fickle circumstances; when that notion rises to the unseen and eternal, we
enjoy rest amid the tumult of all that is merely outward and therefore
perishing. Take history through and through, and it will be found that the
men and women who have most devoutly and honestly feared God, have
done most to defend and save the countries in which they lived. They have
made little noise; they have got up no open-air demonstrations; they have
done little or nothing in the way of banners and trumpets, and have had no
skill in getting up torchlight meetings; but their influence has silently
penetrated the national life, and secured for the land the loving and mighty
care of God. Where the spiritual life is profound and real, the social and
political influence is correspondingly vital and beneficent. All the great
workers in society are not at the front. A hidden work is continually going
on; the people in the shade are strengthening the social foundation. There is
another history beside that which is written in the columns of the daily
newspaper. Every country has heroes and heroines uncanonised. Let this be
spoken for the encouragement of many whose names are not known far
beyond the threshold of their own homes.

"Therefore God dealt well with the midwives.... And it


came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he
made them houses" (Exo_1:20-21).

They who serve God serve a good Master. Was God indifferent to the
character and claims of the midwives who bore practical testimony for him in
the time of a nation's trial? His eye was upon them for good, and his hand
was stretched out day and night for their defence. They learned still more
deeply that there was another King beside Pharaoh; and in the realisation of
his presence Pharaoh dwindled into a secondary power, whose breath was in
his nostrils, and whose commands were the ebullitions of moral insanity. No
honest man or woman can do a work for God without receiving a great
reward. God made houses for the midwives! He will make houses for all who
live in his fear. There are but few who have courage to set themselves
against a king's commandment; but verily those who assert the authority of
God as supreme shall be delivered from the cruelty of those who have no
pity. There are times when nations are called upon to say, No, even to their
sovereigns. Such times are not to be sought for with a pertinacious self-
assertion, whose object is to make itself very conspicuous and important;
but when they do occur, conscience is to assert itself with a dignity too calm
to be impatient, and too righteous to be deceived.

How will these commands and purposes be received in practical life? This
inquiry will be answered as we proceed to the second chapter.

"And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to


wife a daughter of Levi" (Exo_2:1).

There is nothing extraordinary in this statement. From the beginning men


and women have married and have been given in marriage. It is therefore
but an ordinary event which is described in this verse. Yet we know that the
man of Levi and the daughter of Levi were the father and mother of one
whose name was to become associated with that of the Lamb! May not
Renown have Obscurity for a pedestal? Do not the pyramids themselves rest
on sand? What are the great rocks but consolidated mud? We talk of our
ancestry, and are proud of those who have gone before us. There is a sense
in which this is perfectly justifiable, and not only so, but most laudable; let
us remember, however, that if we go back far enough, we land, ii not in a
common obscurity, yet in a common moral dishonour. Parents may be
nameless, yet their children may rise to imperishable renown. The world is a
great deal indebted to its obscure families. Many a giant has been reared in
a humble habitation. Many who have served God, and been a terror to the
Wicked One, have come forth from unknown hiding-places. I would dart this
beam of light into the hearts of some who imagine that they are making
little or no contribution to the progress of society. Be honest in your
sphere,—be faithful to your children, and even out of your life there may go
forth an indirect influence without which the most sounding reputation is
empty and worthless.

"And when she could not longer hide him, [that is, the
child that was born to her,] she took for him an ark of
bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and
put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the
river's brink" (Exo_2:3).
The first going from home of any child always marks a period of special
interest in the family. What a going was this! When some of you went from
home, how you were cared for! How your family gathered round you to
speak a kind farewell! What a box-filling, and portmanteau-strapping, what a
fluttering of careful, anxious love there was! What has become of you? Were
you suffocated with kindness? were you slain by the hand of a too anxious
love? Truly, some men who have had the roughest and coldest beginning
have, under the blessing of God, turned out to be the bravest, the strongest,
the noblest of men! I believe in rough beginnings: we have less to fear from
hardship than from luxury. Some children are confectioned to death. What
with coddling, bandaging, nursing, and petting, the very sap of their life is
drained away. There is indeed another side to this question of beginnings. I
have known some children who have hardly ever been allowed to go out lest
they should wet their feet, who have been spared all drudgery, who have
had every wish and whim gratified, whose parents have suddenly come to
social ruin, and yet these very children have, under their altered
circumstances, developed a force of character, an enduring patience, and a
lofty self-control never to have been expected from their dainty training. But
a man is not necessarily a great man because he has had a rough beginning.
Many may have been laid on the river Nile, whose names would have done
no honour to history. Accept your rough beginning in a proper spirit; be not
overcome by the force of merely external circumstances; wait, hope, work,
pray, and you will yet see the path which leads into light, and honour, and
peace. The mother of Moses laid the ark in the flags by the river's brink. Ay,
but before doing so she laid it on the heart of God! She could not have laid it
so courageously upon the Nile, if she had not first devoutly laid it upon the
care and love of God. We are often surprised at the outward calmness of
men who are called upon to do unpleasant and most trying deeds; but could
we have seen them in secret we should have known the moral preparation
which they underwent before coming out to be seen of men. Be right in the
sanctuary, if you would be right in the marketplace. Be steadfast in prayer, if
you would be calm in affliction. Start your race from the throne of God itself,
if you would run well, and win the prize.

"And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done
to him" (Exo_2:4).

Society needs watchers as well as workers. Had we been passing the spot at
which the sister of Moses took up her position of observation, we might have
condemned her as an idler standing there and doing nothing! We should be
careful of our condemnation, seeing how little we know of the reality of any
case. In doing nothing, the girl was in reality doing everything. If she had
done more, she would have done less. There is a silent ministry as well as a
ministry of thunder. Mark the cunning of love! The watcher stood afar off.
Had she stood quite close at hand, she would have defeated the very object
of her watching. She was to do her work without the slightest appearance of
doing it. Truly there is a great art in love, and in all good ministry. There are
wise master-builders, and also builders who are very foolish. Sometimes we
must look without staring; we must speak without making a noise; we must
be artful without dissimulation, and hide under the calmest exterior the most
urgent and tumultuous emotion.

"And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash


herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by
the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the
flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had
opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe
wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is
one of the Hebrews' children" (Exo_2:5-6).

"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." When the child cried, the
heart of the daughter of Pharaoh was moved, as simple and beautiful a piece
of human nature as is to be found anywhere. How poor would the world be
without its helpless ones! Little children by their very weakness make strong
men stronger. By the wickedness of the wicked, the righteousness of the
righteous is called forth in some of its most impressive and winsome forms.
Looking at the daughter of Pharaoh from a distance, she appears to be
haughty, self-involved, and self-satisfied; but, stooping near that little ark,
she becomes a woman, having in her the instinct of motherliness itself! We
should all be fathers and mothers to the orphan, the lost, and the desolate.
The government of humanity is so ordered that even the most distressing
circumstances are made to contribute to the happy development of our best
impulses and energies. No man can be permanently unhappy who looks into
the cradles of the poor and lonely, as Pharaoh's daughter looked into this ark
of bulrushes. Go by the river's side, where the poor lost child is, and be a
father and a mother to him if you would have happiness in the very core of
your heart! Even a king's daughter is the richer and gladder for this stoop of
love. Some have been trying to reach too high for their enjoyments; the
blooming fruit has been beyond their stature; they have therefore turned
away with pining and discontent, not knowing that if they had bent
themselves to the ground they would have found the happiness in the dust,
which they attempted in vain to pluck from inaccessible heights.

"Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go


and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she
may nurse the child for thee?" (Exo_2:7).

The watcher came without making a noise. Who ever heard the light come
over the hills? Who ever heard the violet growing? The watcher, too, spoke
to the king's daughter without introduction or ceremony! Are there not times
in life when we are superior to all formalities? Are there not sorrows which
enable us to overcome the petty difficulties of etiquette? Earnestness will
always find ways for its own expression. The child might well have pleaded
timidity; fear of the greatness of Pharaoh's daughter, or shamefacedness in
the presence of the great and noble; under ordinary circumstances she
would undoubtedly have done so; but the life of her brother was at risk, the
command of her mother was in her heart, and her own pity yearned over the
lonely one: under the compulsion of such considerations as these, the
watcher urged her way to the side of Pharaoh's daughter, and made this
proposition of love. False excuses are only possible where there is lack of
earnestness. If we really cared for lost children, we should find ways of
speaking for them in high quarters. There is a boldness which is consistent
with the purest modesty, and there is a timidity which thinly disguises the
most abject cowardice.

"And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid


went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's
daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse
it lor me, and I will give thee thy wages" (Exo_2:8-9).

All done in a moment, as it were! Such are the rapid changes in lives which
are intended to express some great meaning and purpose of God. They are
cast down, but not destroyed; persecuted, but not forsaken! From the action
of Pharaoh's daughter we learn that first thoughts are, where generous
impulses are concerned, the only thoughts worth trusting. Sometimes we
reason that second thoughts are best; in a certain class of cases this
reasoning may be substantially correct, but, where the heart is moved to do
some noble and heroic thing, the first thought should be accepted as an
inspiration from God, and carried out without self-consultation or social fear.
Those who are accustomed to seek contribution or service for the cause of
God, of course know well what it is to encounter the imprudent prudence
which says, "I must think about it." Where the work is good, don't think
about it; do it, and then think. When a person goes to a place of business,
and turns an article over and over, and looks at it with hesitation, and finally
says, "I will call again," the master of the establishment says in his heart,
"Never!" If Pharaoh's daughter had considered the subject, the probability is
that Moses would have been left on the Nile or under it; but she accepted
her motherly love as a Divine guide, and saved the life of the child.

"And the woman took the child, and nursed it"


(Exo_2:9).

What her self-control in that hour of maddening excitement cost, no tongue


can tell. She took the child as a stranger might have taken it, and yet her
heart was bursting with the very passion of delight. Had she given way for
one instant, her agitation might have revealed the plot. Everything
depended upon her calmness. But love can do anything! The great question
underlying all service is a question not so much of the intellect as of the
heart. We should spoil fewer things if our love was deeper. We should finish
our tasks more completely if we entered upon them under the inspiration of
perfect love. The mother consented to become a hireling,—to take wages for
nursing her own child! Love can thus deny itself, and take up its sweet cross.
How little did Pharaoh's daughter know what she was doing! Does any one
really know what work he is doing in all its scope and meaning? The simplest
occasion of our lives may be turned to an account which it never entered
into our hearts to imagine. Who can tell where the influence of a gentle
smile may end? We know not the good that may be done by the echo as well
as by the voice. There is a joyful bridegroom throwing his dole into the little
crowd of laughing eager boys. One of those boys is specially anxious to
secure his full share of all that is thrown: he has snatched a penny, but in a
moment it has been dashed out of his hand by a competitor: see how anger
flushes his face, and with what determination he strikes the successful boy:
he is a savage, he is unfit to have his liberty in the public streets, his temper
is uncontrollable, his covetousness is shocking: he wins the poor prize, and
hastens away; watch him: with his hard-earned penny he buys a solitary
orange, and with quick feet he finds his way up a rickety staircase into a
barely-furnished garret; he gives his orange to his poor dying sister, and the
juice assuages her burning thirst. When we saw the fight, we called the boy
a beast; but we knew not what we said!
We call the early life of Moses a miracle. There is a sense of course in which
that is literally true. But is there not a sense in which every human life has
in it the miraculous element? We are too fond of bringing down everything to
the level of commonplace, and are becoming almost blind to the presence of
elements and forces in life which ought to impress us with a distinct
consciousness of a power higher than our own. Why this worship of
commonplace? Why this singular delight in ah things that are supposed to be
level and square, and wanting in startling emphasis? I would rather speak
thus with myself:—My life too is a miracle; it was put away upon a river and
might have been lost in the troubled water; kind eyes watched the little
vessel in which the life was hidden; other persons gathered around it and
felt interested in its fortunes; it was drawn away from the stream of danger
and for a time hidden within the security of love and comfort and guidance.
It has also had to contend with opposition and difficulty, seen and unseen; it
has been threatened on every side. Temptations and allurements have been
held out to it, and it has been with infinite difficulty that it has been reared
through all the atmosphere intended to oppress and to poison it. I could shut
out all these considerations if I pleased, and regard my life within its merely
animal boundaries, and find in it nothing whatever to excite religious wonder
or religious thankfulness; but this is not the right view. To do so would be to
inflict injustice upon the Providence which has made my life a daily wonder
to myself. I will think of God's tender care, of the continual mercy which has
been round about me, and of the blessed influences which have
strengthened and ennobled every good purpose of my heart; and I, too, will
stand side by side with Moses when he sings the wonders of the hand
Divine. The miracle is not always in the external incident; it may be hidden
in the core of things and may slowly disclose itself to the eyes of religious
reverence and inquiry. O that men were wise: that they would consider their
beginning as well as their latter end, and learn to trace the hand of Heaven
even in those comparative trifles which are supposed to lie within the scope
and determination of time.

Exodus 4:1-12
Moses Excuses Himself

Exo_3:13-14

The wisdom of Moses is seen in the nature of the inquiry which he proposed.
He was resolved not to go a warfare at his own charges. Every man should
know upon whose business he is going in life. Who is sending me? is an
inquiry which a man should put to himself before venturing upon any course
that is doubtful, hazardous, or experimental. Moses wished to be able to
identify the personal authority of his mission. It was not enough to have a
message, he must also know the name of the Author. There are some
doctrines which are independent of personality; there are others which
depend upon personality for their authority and beneficence. Amongst the
latter are all religious doctrines and appeals. The Giver is greater than the
gift. The Speaker is greater than the speech. To know the Speaker is to have
deep insight into the meaning of the words spoken. The answer returned to
Moses was the sublimest reply ever made to reverent inquiry. God
announces himself as Personal, Independent, Self-existent. There is no word
to qualify or limit his personality—it is, so to speak, pure being—it is infinite
life—it is the fountain out of which all other lives start on their little course.
Mark the comprehensiveness of the name. It relates not only to being, but to
character, to self-completeness; it is the ONE life which can live without
dependence and without society. The element of sublimity must be found in
religion; the measure of the sublimity is the measure of the condescension.
A man proceeding to his work under the influence of such a revelation as
was granted to Moses must be superior to hardship and triumphant in the
presence of difficulty. A man's inspiration should always be in excess of the
duty which is imposed upon him. The inspired man descends upon his work
and conducts his service with an overplus of power; but he whose inspiration
falls below his duty toils fretfully and unsuccessfully, and eventually
becomes the prey of the spirit of the hireling. It is here that the Christian
worker actually triumphs in his labour, and rejoices even in persecution and
tribulation: God the Holy Ghost is in him, and so the whole tone of his life is
infinitely superior to the influences which seek to distract his attention and
baffle his energy. In the absence of God the Holy Ghost, Christian service
becomes a toil, and ends in failure and mortification: but under the influence
of the life-giving and light-giving Spirit of God, sorrow itself is turned into
joy.

Notwithstanding this revelation, Moses was unable to overcome his infirmity;


he still doubted, as well indeed he might, in the presence of such a vocation
as had probably never been addressed to man. Let us listen to his excuses,
and we shall see how unbecoming it would be on our part to sneer at a man
upon whom the Divine burden pressed so heavily. Moses himself was not
disobedient unto the heavenly vision, nor did he doubt the authority with
which he had been charged; but a difficulty presented itself from the other
side. Moses thus puts the case:

"And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will


not believe me nor hearken unto my voice: for they will
say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee" (Exo_4:1).

Human distrust is a difficulty which every preacher, teacher, and holy


labourer has to encounter. All great movements are carried by consent of
parties. God himself cannot re-establish moral order without the concurrence
of the powers that have rebelled against his rule. Moses had difficulty to fear
on the side of Israel, as well as on the side of Pharaoh. His message was to
be addressed, in the first instance, to the children of Israel. The tidings of
their proposed deliverance might be too much for their faith. They had been
the sufferers of so many terrors and disappointments,—they had been so
long buried in the darkness of despair,—that the gospel of emancipation
might appear to them to be but a mocking dream. What if they should hear
the message of Moses, and treat it in a spirit of unbelief? The suggestion of
Moses was not at all unreasonable. He will work none the less effectively for
putting these preliminary inquiries, provided he does not carry them to the
point of excess. So long as they come out of a humble and reverent spirit,
God will answer them with gracious patience; but should they become
degraded into mere excuses, or discover a cowardly spirit, the patience of
God will become a flame of judgment. After all, the spiritual labourer has
less to do with the unbelief of his hearers than with the instruction and
authority of God. We have to ascertain what God the Lord would have us
say, and then to speak it simply, distinctly, and lovingly, whether men will
hear or whether they will forbear. The preacher must prepare himself for
having doubts cast upon his authority; and he must take care that his
answer to such doubts is as complete as the authority itself. God alone can
give the true answer to human doubt. We are not to encounter scepticism
with merely ingenious replies and clever arguments, but in the power and
grace of the living God.

Moses, having being furnished with signs by which to convince the children
of Israel that he was the messenger of God sent to redeem them from the
oppression of Egypt, might be supposed to be fully qualified for his mission.
Surely, there is now an end of inquiry and debate upon his part. Not so,
however; Moses fell back upon his own unworthiness.
"And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not
eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken
unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow
tongue. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made
man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the
seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore
go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what
thou shalt say" (Exo_4:10-12).

Moses has now descended from the high level of the argument, and
narrowed the case into one of mere human personality. He has forgotten the
promise, "Certainly I will be with thee." The moment we get away from
Divine promise and forget great principles, we narrow all controversy and
degrade all service. Self-consciousness is the ruin of all vocations. Let a man
look into himself, and measure his work by himself, and the movement of
his life will be downward and exhaustive. Let him look away from himself to
the Inspirer of his life, and the Divine reward of his labours, and he will not
so much as see the difficulties which may stand ever so thickly in his way.
Think of Moses turning his great mission into a question which involved his
own eloquence! All such reasoning admits of being turned round upon the
speaker as a charge of foolish if not of profane vanity. See how the
argument stands: "I am not eloquent, and therefore this mission cannot
succeed in my hands," is equivalent to saying, "I am an eloquent man, and,
therefore, this undertaking must be crowned with signal success." The work
had nothing whatever to do with the eloquence or ineloquence of Moses. It
was not to be measured or determined by his personal gifts: the moment,
therefore, that he turned to his individual talents, he lost sight of the great
end which he was called instrumentally to accomplish. How sublime is the
rebuke of God! Cannot the Maker of man's mouth touch with eloquence the
lips which he has fashioned? What is human eloquence but the expression of
Divine music? Pedantic rhetoricians may fashion rules of their own for the
refinement of human speech, but he who waits diligently upon God, and
whose purpose is to know the will of God that he may speak it to men, will
be entrusted with an eloquence rhythmic as the sea, and startling as the
thunder. Rhetoric is the gift of God. Eloquence is not a merely human
attainment. The secret of convincing and persuasive speech is put into the
hearts of those who forget themselves in their homage to God and truth.
Moreover, God condescended so far to the weakness of Moses as to find for
him a coadjutor in his mission to the children of Israel and to the king of
Egypt. Aaron could speak well. Moses was a thinker; Aaron was a speaker.
Aaron was to be to Moses instead of a mouth, and Moses was to be to Aaron
instead of God. Thus one man has to be the complement of another. No one
man has all gifts and graces. The ablest and best of us cannot do without
our brother. There is to be a division of labour in the great work of
conquering the world for God. The thinker works; so does the speaker, so
does the writer. We are a chain; not merely isolated links; we belong to one
another, and only by fraternal and zealous cooperation can we secure the
great results possible to faith and labour. Some men are fruitful of
suggestion. They have wondrous powers of indication: but there their special
power ends. Other men have great gifts of expression; they can put
thoughts into the best words; they have the power of music; they can
charm, fascinate, and persuade. Such men are not to undervalue one
another; they are to co-operate as fellow-labourers in the kingdom of God.

Here we leave the region of the miraculous and come into relations with
which we are painfully familiar. Man excusing himself from duty is a familiar
picture. It is not a picture indeed; it is a personal experience. How inventive
we are in finding excuses for not doing the will of God! How falsely modest
we can become! depreciating ourselves, and putting ourselves before God in
a light in which we could never consent to be put before society by the
criticism of others. Is not this a revelation of the human heart to itself? We
only want to walk in paths that are made beautiful with flowers, and to
wander by streams that lull us by their own tranquillity. Nerve, and pluck,
and force we seem to have lost. In place of the inventiveness of love we
have the inventiveness of reluctance or distaste. It should be our supreme
delight to find reasons for co-operating with God, and to fortify ourselves by
such interpretations of circumstances as will plainly show us that we are in
the right battle, fighting on the right side, and wielding the right weapon.
The possibility of self-deception is one of the most solemn of all subjects. I
cannot question the sincerity of Moses in enumerating and massing all the
difficulties of his side of the case. He meant every word that he said. It is not
enough to be sincere; we must have intelligence and conscience enlightened
and enlarged. Mistakes are made about this matter of sincerity; the thing
forgotten being that sincerity is nothing in itself, everything depending upon
the motive by which it is actuated and the object towards which it is
directed. The Church is to-day afflicted with the spirit of self-excusing:—it
cannot give, because of the depression of the times; it cannot go upon its
mighty errands, because of its dainty delicateness; it cannot engage in
active beneficence, because its charity should begin at home; it cannot enter
into ardent controversy, because it prefers the comfort of inaction. Churches
should not tell lies to themselves. The first great thing to be done is for a
man to be faithful to his own heart, to look himself boldly in the face, and
speak the clear truth emphatically to his own consciousness.

Exodus 4:1-31
Moses Before Pharaoh

Exo_4:21

There are of course many difficulties, by us insoluble, in connection with the


sovereignty of God. This must be distinctly recognised, and no man must
expect to have all mysteries dwarfed to the measure of his own
understanding. The greatest of all mysteries is God himself, yet we are not
therefore to doubt his existence, or to deny his loving providence. The mere
fact of any question being mysterious does not in any way affect its
truthfulness. There are mysteries which are against reason, and there are
mysteries which are above reason. It is in full view of these principles that
we discuss this difficult subject.

Looking at human history generally in relation to Divine sovereignty, three


things are clear:—First: That all nations are not equally honoured. This
difference amongst the nations, let it not be considered trite to say, is not
made by the Bible, or by any system of theology; it is simply a matter of
fact, whatever may be our views respecting either God or the Bible. One
nation is highly civilised, another is in the lowest condition of barbarism; yet
all the nations are under the government of the same gracious God. Every
day the sun sees some nations worshipping the true Spirit, and others
bowing down before idols; yet all people, let it be repeated, are under the
government of the same Creator. This is pointed out as a mere matter of
fact, and as presenting the gravest possible difficulties, whatever may be the
theological or philosophical theory by which we regulate our observation of
human affairs.

Second: That all individuals are not equally endowed. We are all men, and
yet no two men are alike. In every history you find the great man and the
little man. The poetic dreamer and the prosaic clown; the daring adventurer
and the self-regarding coward; the child of genius and the creature of
darkness; yet all claim to be men, and all may theoretically acknowledge the
same God and Redeemer. These are facts with which we have to deal
whether we open the Bible or not, whether we acknowledge a system of
Divine Providence or not, whether we are atheists or saints.

Third: That Divine judgment is regulated by Divine allotment. Here we open


the Bible, in which we find that to whom much is given, from him shall much
be required, and that it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day
of judgment than for nations which have enjoyed a fuller revelation of Divine
purpose and requirements. The heathen are a law unto themselves. Five
talents are expected to produce more than two. The Divine plan of judgment
therefore is not arbitrary, but moral. If we lose hold of this principle, we
shall see confusion where we might see the order of righteousness. First of
all, and last of all, it must be our settled and unalterable conviction that God
must do right, or he is no longer God. Everything must perish which opposes
this law. We are not, however, to look at incomplete cases, and regard them
as final criteria by which to test the wisdom and righteousness of the
Almighty. In many cases we shall have to repress our impatience, and
calmly to wait until fuller light is granted.

So much for general principles; let us now look at the particular instance
before us, and in doing so we must at the outset clearly mark the limits of
the ground which it occupies. The children of Israel were under the
sovereign control of the king of Egypt. In some sense he had property in
them. They were his bondsmen, delivered into his hands, and subject to his
government. His relation to them was distinctly that of a political ruler; not
based upon theological antipathies. He did not maltreat the Israelites
because of their religious opinions. Pharaoh was a king, and it was strictly in
his royal capacity that he dealt with the question of Israelitish bondage.
Suddenly, to himself, Moses and Aaron proposed in the name of the Lord
God of Israel that Pharaoh should let the people go to hold a religious feast
in the wilderness. Pharaoh was of course startled. As a pagan he did not
acknowledge the name or government of the God of Israel. A political
petition was addressed to him, and he dealt with it on political grounds. It
was not a spiritual question which was proposed to Pharaoh. It was not a
question which involved his own personal salvation, or his own relation to
the great future; it was purely, simply, and exclusively a political question. It
was, therefore, within this sphere that the Divine action was taken, and that
action is fitly described as a hardening of Pharaoh's heart. We do not
attempt to modify the words, or in any sense to gloss them over; we accept
them in their plain and obvious signification. The question now arises, what
the meaning of that hardening was, and what useful results accrued from a
process which appears to us to be so mysterious. We have already laid down
the fundamental and eternal principle that God must do right, and that,
consequently, however mysterious may be the processes through which he
moves, his purpose is infinitely just. The hardening of Pharaoh's heart, as
involving the development of a merely political scheme, may amount in
effect to no more than this,—"I will delay the process; this request shall not
be granted at once; and I prolong the process in order that I may bring out
lessons for Pharaoh himself, for the children of Israel, and for mankind at
large: were Pharaoh to let the children of Israel escape from him at once,
the result would be mischievous to themselves; therefore, in mercy, not in
anger, I will harden Pharaoh's heart." This is eminently reasonable, and has
been found to be so in our own experience. When men have snapped at
their blessings, and instantly secured all their purposes, they have
undervalued the advantages which have been thus realised. There is a
hardening that is really merciful. "God cursed the ground for man's sake."
Instead of the word cursed, insert the word hardened, and you will see what
is meant by a hardening process taking place at the suggestion of a merciful
disposition. God hardened the ground for man's sake; God hardened
Pharaoh's heart for the sake of all parties involved: by delaying the result,
he urged and exemplified lessons which could not have been successfully
inculcated in any other way.

So far, the question is not a moral one, except in the degree in which all
questions have more or less of a moral bearing. It has been supposed by
some that in the case of this exercise of Divine sovereignty, the sum total of
Pharaoh's wickedness was increased. This, however, was by no means the
case. There is the greatest possible difference between wickedness being
focalised, and wickedness being increased. Let us then assume that it was
altogether a moral question, and show that the sovereignty of God did in no
wise add to the iniquity of Pharaoh. It is possible for a man to become
virtuous in one direction, that he may concentrate his wickedness in
another. Here, for example, is a man who has been notoriously indolent,
intemperate, or otherwise evil-disposed;—by some means that man
becomes energetic, self-controlled, and apparently attentive to some
discipline which has a good moral effect upon him; looked at outwardly, it is
evident that a beneficial transformation has taken place upon him. What,
however, is the reality of the case? The man has actually put himself under
discipline, that he may prepare for a prize-fight! He has made his very
virtues contribute to the purposes of his vice. Instead of his wickedness
being distributed over large spaces of his life, it is gathered up and
expressed in one definite act. Even, therefore, were we to suppose that the
hardening of the heart of Pharaoh involved moral consequences, it would by
no means follow that the sum total of his wickedness was thereby increased.
It would only show that wickedness in its intensity; it would focalise the
scattered energies of the bad man, and show their fierceness in one
supreme act.

As the history proceeds, we see that the political situation enlarges itself into
a spiritual problem. Pharaoh sees the wonders of the Lord, and feels the
terribleness of his scourge Under the influence of fear, he makes a promise
unto Moses and Aaron that if the Lord will withdraw his hand, he will let
Israel go. Thus the question becomes moral as well as political. Pharaoh
makes a promise, and therefore implicates his honour and his conscience. It
is to be observed, too, that the promise was made in connection with a
special request for religious supplication on the part of Moses. Thus Pharaoh
said, "Entreat the Lord, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from
my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the
Lord." Thus the ground is entirely changed. By some means or other the
moral nature of Pharaoh has been touched, and the consequence is a pledge
on his part to permit Israel to do sacrifice. But was Pharaoh faithful to his
word? Was he not in reality trying to turn the moral into the political, and so
to get out of an honourable pledge by an unworthy strategy? It would
appear that this was really the case, for "when Pharaoh saw that there was
respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them;" "And
Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have
sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.
Entreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings
and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer." Did Pharaoh fulfil
his promise? No! "When Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the
thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and
his servants." Thus it is clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and
whatever may be the mystery of Divine sovereignty in this matter, Pharaoh
himself is distinctly charged with the responsibility of his own obstinacy.
There was undoubtedly a Divine action in the process; but that Divine action
did not involve the spiritual destiny of Pharaoh Applying these lessons to
ourselves as sinners, I have now to teach that Jesus Christ tasted death for
every man, and that whosoever will may avail himself of the blessings
secured by the mediation of the Saviour. If any man excuses himself on the
ground that God has hardened his heart, that man is trusting to an excuse in
the most solemn affairs of his being which he would not for a moment
tolerate in the region of his family life or commercial relations. We must not
be sensible in ordinary affairs and insane in higher concerns. Were a servant
to tell her mistress that she is fated to be unclean in her habits, that
mistress would instantly and justly treat her with angry contempt. Were a
clerk to tell a banker that he was fated to come late every morning, and go
away early every afternoon, the statement would be received as a proof of
selfishness or insanity. Were a travelling companion to tell you to make no
attempt to be in time for the steamboat or the train, because if you were
fated to catch it there would be no fear of your losing it, you would treat his
suggestion as it deserved to be treated. Yet men who can act in a common-
sense manner in all such little affairs, sometimes profess that they will not
make any attempt in a religious direction, because they believe in the
doctrine of predestination or fatalism. Wicked and slothful servants, they
shall be condemned out of their own mouth! "Come unto me, all ye that
labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." "Whosoever will, let
him come." "Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." "How often
would I have gathered you, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings,
and ye would not!" In presence of such statements as these, it must be the
very consummation of blasphemy to turn round upon God and say, "I
wanted to be saved, but thou didst harden my heart and condemn me to
hell."

Note

The taskmasters were Egyptian bailiffs or general managers; the officers


were Hebrews, and had each the charge of a certain number, of whom, and
their work, they had to keep account (hence called Shoterim or Writers).
When recently in Egypt, I saw this very system still in operation on a road
which the Viceroy was constructing. A Turkish officer superintended so much
of the road; under him was an Arab, generally a sheikh of an adjoining
village, whose duty it was to mark out to his people what they had to do,
and to keep strict account how it was done; and under him was a
miscellaneous company of men, girls, and boys, working in a state of semi-
nudity, under the discipline of the stick. The stick served a double purpose:
laid along the road, it marked out how much was to be done within a given
time; laid on the backs of the unfortunate fellaheen, it painfully reminded
them, that, whether able for it or not, their full tale of task-work must be
completed.
A European who has not been in the country can hardly imagine the extent
to which the stick is used in Egypt. The natives seem almost to glory in it as
an ancient and venerable institution. "The Moslems have a proverb that 'the
stick came down from heaven a blessing from Allah.'.... To 'eat stick,' as a
sound thrashing is technically termed, is submitted to with a degree of sang
froid quite astonishing to European nations, and is no at all degrading in the
eyes of the Egyptian."—W. L. Alexander, D.D.

Exodus 16:1-36
1. And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the
children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin (exactly one month after
the departure from Egypt), which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth
day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt 2.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured (this is the
third murmuring) against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:

3. And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God (Heb. omits the
word God) we had died by the hand of the Lord (perhaps an allusion to the
last of the plagues) in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and
when we did eat bread to the full (a compliment to Egypt); for ye have
brought us forth into, this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with
hunger.

4. Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for
you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day (a day's
meal for a day), that I may prove them (what God did in Eden) whether they
will walk in my law, or no.

5. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day (in Egypt the week of
seven days was at this time unknown) they shall prepare that which they
bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.

6. And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye
shall know that the Lord hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:

7. And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord; for that he
heareth your murmurings against the Lord: and what are we, that ye
murmur against us?
8. And Moses said, This shall be, when the Lord shall give you in the evening
flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the Lord heareth
your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your
murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.

9. And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the
children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for he hath heard your
murmurings,

10. And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the
children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the
glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud (the pillar of the cloud is meant).

11. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

12. I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them,
saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with
bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.

13. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up (the common quail
is very abundant in the east), and covered the camp: and in the morning the
dew lay round about the host (literally, there was a lying of dew).

14. And when the dew that lay was gone up (drawn by the heat of the sun),
behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as
small as the hoar frost on the ground.

15. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is
manna (what is this?); for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto
them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat (and which
they did eat for forty years).

16. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every
man according to his eating, an omer (about three pints English) for every
man (for every head), according to the number of your persons; take ye
every man for them which are in his tents.

17. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.

18. And when they did mete it with an omer (publicly measured in the
camp), he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little
had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.

19. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.

20. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left
of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth
with them.

21. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating:
and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.

22. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much
bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came
and told Moses (who had either not made known the law, or the rulers had
forgotten it).

23. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow
is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord (not the rest. The absence of
the article intimates that it is a new thing that is announced): bake that
which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which
remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.

24. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink,
neither was there any worm therein.

25. And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for to-day is a sabbath unto the Lord:
to-day ye shall not find it in the field.

26. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath,
in it there shall be none.

27. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the
seventh day for to gather, and they found none.

28. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my
Commandments and my laws?

29. See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth
you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place,
let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
30. So the people rested on the seventh day.

31. And the house of Israel called the name thereof manna: and it was like
coriander seed, white (a small round grain, of a whitish or yellowish grey);
and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

32. And Moses said, This is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an
omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread
wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from
the land of Egypt.

33. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna
therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations.

34. As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony
to be kept.

35. And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a
land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the
land of Canaan.

36. Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.

Manna In the Wilderness

Exodus 16

Always remember that these are the people who had just been singing.
Whatever they did they seemed to do with a will. We thrilled under their
song: we called it sublime, religiously impressive, and morally full of the
spirit of education and comfort. The song has hardly died away from their
lips when they begin to murmur. They first murmured at Marah because the
waters were bitter, and now they murmur in the wilderness because food is
scanty. There are many people who sing with great expression and fervour
when everything is going just as they want it to go. Their song is full of
emptiness; it is a vain speech and a profanation of music. There are many
such living and have lived in all ages. We know how their business is going
by the way in which they accost us. They have no souls. Always remember,
further, that just one month had elapsed since the departure from Egypt.
The poet makes a point of the two little months that had elapsed between
two circumstances which were apparently incongruous and irreconcilable. He
cries the more bitterly when he says,—"But two months—two little months!"
Here that act, so startling, marked by cruelty and by baseness of design, is
completely outdone: for there was but one month—one little month between
the mighty deliverance and the atheistic murmuring. It is difficult to have a
solid piety—really four-square, permanent in its dignity, independent of all
circumstances, except so far as its immediate being is concerned,—a piety
founded upon a rock lifting up its turrets and pinnacles to the sky, defying all
wind, and thunder, and tumult of the elements. Until we realise such a piety
as that, our education is immature and incomplete.

Observe how the most astounding miracles go for nothing. Then the miracles
were nothing to those who observed them. They were applauded at the
time, they sent a little thrill through those who looked upon them with eyes
more or less vacant and meaningless; but as to solid result, educational
virtue and excellence, the miracles might as well not have been wrought at
all. It was the same in the days of Jesus Christ. All his miracles went for
nothing amongst many of the people who observed them. A miracle is a
wonder, and a wonder cannot be permanent. Wonders soon drop into
commonplaces, and that which astounded at first lulls at last,—yea, that
which excited a kind of groping faith may by repetition soon come to excite
doubt and scepticism and fear. What wonder, then, if the miracles having
thus gone down in importance and value, the most splendid personal
services followed in their wake? This is a necessary logic; this is a sequence
that cannot be broken. He who goes down on the Divine or upward side of
his nature must go down on the human and social side in the same
proportion; when faith in miracles goes, faith in all that is noblest in
brotherhood will follow it. A kind of socialism will be trumped up, a species of
commonwealth will be attempted, men will try to make up for their non-
religion by their surplus philanthropy; but the adequate truths being absent
the attempt will end in spasm, and impotence, and uselessness. We owe
more to the religious element than we suppose. Religion is not confined to
the region of contemplation, speculation, metaphysical inquiry, secret and
ineffective worship. It comes down into all the lines of life; it lifts up
common speech into uncommon eloquence; it raises out of the stones
children unto Abraham; it turns the common supper-bread into a symbol of
the Lord's body. Do not let us imagine, then, that we can dismiss faith in the
miracles, faith in inspiration, faith in the Bible,—and yet retain society in all
its deepest meaning and tenderest ministries and noblest uses. When the
altar falls, the home is no longer safe.
Observe what an effect long servitude had produced upon the children of
Israel. Was there ever a meaner cry than this:—"Would to God we had died
by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots,
and when we did eat bread to the full"? That is not manly. How is such
unmanliness of whining and whimpering to be accounted for? By long
subjugation; by days and months and years and generations of servitude.
The man can be driven out of the man; the man can be debased into almost
a beast of burden. He can forget his yesterdays, his heaven-pointing book,
his prayer, and all the upward look that made him almost an angel.
Servitude has done this in every country; and we cannot expect people who
have been for generations in bondage to stand up and claim intellectual
equality with men who have been living under the sun of freedom century
after century. The criticism would be unfair. Were this a merely historical
matter, it would be of comparatively little consequence; but it is a spiritual
matter. The eternal form of the lesson is this:—that servitude to sin takes
the pith out of manhood. A man cannot be both a bad man and a strong
man. The law—unwritten, if you please—of heaven, of the eternities is
against this anomaly. Repeat the sin, and you drop into a deeper baseness;
renew your loyalty to the devil, and your power of resisting him goes down
with every new act of obeisance. So the time comes when the strong man
becomes himself in abject servility to the foe. He who once could say No
with all the roundness and emphasis of the thunder, can now only whisper
his consent to the temptations of the devil. Virtue grows stronger and
stronger. He that hath clean hands becomes a mightier man every day; at
the last he is a giant, as in the midst he was a hero.

What do the people do? They rest in second causes. The people saw no
further than Moses and Aaron: they complained against their leaders; they
murmured against the Divinely-appointed princes of Israel. What is the all-
healing method of looking at things?—looking at the whole, or taking a
comprehensive view. This is the difficulty of all time. It is the supreme trial
of many men. Who can see a whole horizon? Who has a pivotal mind that
can turn round and see all that there is to be seen? We suffer from our very
intensity of mind,—that is to say, from our power of fixing the attention
upon one point only and not taking the whole circle and the whole balance of
the Divine economy. What a difference there is amongst men in this respect!
How needful it is to get rid of the sophism that one man is equal to another,
or is upon a level with another, or is to be accounted only as one by any
other. We need correction upon the matter of personality. Moses was more
than a person in the narrow and familiar sense of that term. So are all the
prophets and leaders of the Church, so are all the seers and mighty men of
God in every age. Luther was not one; Wesley was not one—simply a man, a
figure, a unit. There are personalities that are compendiums; there are
individualities that are full of nations and empires and fatherhoods of glory.
There are Abrahams who have in them a multitude no more to be counted
than is the sand upon the seashore. So when we talk about "personal
following" we talk about that which needs definition. Who is the person? Is
he the father of a multitude, the prince of nationalities? Is he fruitful of
thought, having ideas on which ages may feed? So we say "Take him for all
in all," or, to use a commoner form of expression, "Looking at him all
round." But in many cases there is no "all for all" to take: there is no "all
round" to survey. In such instances, we cannot talk about persons and
personalities and individual followings, for following there will be little or
none. It is the man who is himself a Multitude that takes the nations with
him. Moses, therefore, is not to be noted in the census of the wilderness as
one but as a whole nation.

So far the children of Israel were right: they complained against the right
man—if it were proper to complain against him at all. What we need is the
complete view, the all-including view,—the Apostolic view, lifted up to which
the greatest man born of woman has said, "All things work together for good
to them that love God." We sometimes miss the sublime boldness of that
speech by omitting to reflect that the man who spoke it had a mind that
could stretch itself by sacred imagination and tender sympathy over all the
things of which the Divine economy is compounded. God is the real object of
murmuring. Moses put this point very clearly:—"Your murmurings are not
against us, but against the Lord." The people did not mean that, perhaps;
but we cannot be measured by our own reckoning when we come into the
sphere religious and moral. We are always doing things we do not mean to
do, and sometimes we do things of which we are wholly ignorant; and when
we are sharply reminded of what the real meaning of our action is, we stand
back in affront and express the language of surprise, and assume an attitude
of unbelief. But we need the great teachers of the Bible, the men of
penetration of every age, to show us what an action is. The man of science
tells us that when we lift a hand we send a motion to the stars. Having
heard that statement we account it grand, because it is the statement of one
of the exact sciences. When another man of science says that every breath
you draw affects the general level of the Atlantic, we say, "How amazing are
the discoveries of science!" When the moral seer tells us that our whining is
not against man but against God, we call him a "fanatic"! The ways of man
are not equal. He who is amazed, because he is given to understand that the
lifting of his hand sends a shudder to the stars, listens with unbelief to the
statement that a lie grieves the Spirit of God,—a sin of any name wounds
the peace of Heaven.

God knows how far he himself is responsible for our circumstances, and up
to that degree he is faithful. He will find a solution of all difficulties how
tangled and obstinate soever. This is a case in point:—The people had not
taken themselves into the wilderness: God had taken them there, and he
will see them out of it. So we say about honourable men when they
undertake to lead us, and certain circumstances transpire which are of the
nature of difficulty and hindrance. They say, in the spirit of honour,—"We are
accountable for this; our strength is yours until this battle is fought; you did
not bring yourselves in here, and out of it we will see you, health permitting,
life being spared." So the Lord will not leave us in wildernesses into which he
himself has brought us. If we ourselves have gone into the desert without
his permission or consent, we may be allowed to die there, and to remain
without a grave in the sand in which we vainly thought to find a heaven: but
if we have obeyed the Divine voice, and gone in the providential way,
whatever there is on the road—Marah, or place of sand, or great river, or
greater sea—God will find a way through all. Wherefore comfort one another
with these words.

See how wonderfully God asserts law in the very midst of the most
compassionate mercy:—I will give you bread in the wilderness, but on the
sixth day you shall gather a double quantity; the Sabbath must be kept.
How marvellous are the compassions of God! and how marvellous the law of
God! We are not given over to wantonness and licence, gathering just as
much as we please and every day of the week. God will have his time
respected. If you gather more than he wants you to gather, it will rot,—it will
offend your nostrils by its pestilent odour, and you will be glad to get rid of
it. If you go out on the Sunday to see if you cannot do something that you
did on Saturday, God will attend to the penal side of the act; you are
building a house of smoke, and you can never live to enjoy it. Life is law—
mercy; work-day—rest-day; labour—prayer; on the earth—in heaven.
Blessed is the man whose life is thus balanced.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven;
but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God
is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth lite unto the world. Then
said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread." A noble prayer!
Made for every age, capable of being uttered by every tongue. "He that
believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did
eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh
down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living
bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall
live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for
the life of the world. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not
as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread
shall live for ever." So there is an evangelical use of the ancient incident.
Thus old history is turned into new uses, and all the days of the past are
regarded as parables which have been teaching some higher truth than was
at first observed within the corners of the narrow facts.

God is repeating this manna miracle every day. All food comes from above.
You mistake, if you think you find your food otherwhere than from heaven.
No sky, then no wheat; no cloud overhead, then no garden round about; no
firmament, then no earth; no rain, no beauty; no fragrance of flowers, no
summer feast. What are we eating? On what is our life being supported? We
ought to ascertain this, and be very clear and distinct about it. At what table
are we sitting? a table of our own spreading, or of God's? "Ho, every one
that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye,
buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without
price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your
labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye
that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." These are the
invitations that make the Bible the most hospitable of all books. The Bible
will have us eat and drink abundantly at God's banquet board. What is our
reply? Shall we eat bread for the body and have no sustenance for the mind?
Shall we feed the flesh and starve the soul? Are we—men of boasted wisdom
and education—the men to strengthen the bones and make as iron the
sinews, and attend to all the wants of the flesh, and to let the soul, the
spirit, the inner guest die for want of light and air, and nutriment? Count him
a murderer who kills his soul.

Moses In the Wilderness of Sin

Exo_16:3

People may be strong and hopeful at the beginning of a project, and most
effusively and devoutly thankful at its close, but the difficulty is to go
manfully through the process. Israel was in the desert, and never were
spoiled children more peevish, suspicious, and altogether ill-behaved. If they
could have stepped out of Egypt into Canaan at once, probably they would
have been as pious as most of us; but there was the weary interval, the
inhospitable wilderness! It is so in our life. Accept it as a solemn and
instructive fact that life is a process. It is more than a beginning and an
ending: more than a cradle and a grave. The child may be good, and the old
man may be tranquil, but what of the petulant, self-willed, and prayerless
being between these extremes?

The history leads us to dwell on Processes. See how far the historical
teaching represents our own experience.

First. Processes try men's temper. See how the temper of Israel was tried in
the wilderness! No bread, no water, no rest! How do processes try men's
temper? (1) They are often tedious; (2) they are often uncontrollable; (3)
they often seem to be made worse by the incompetency of others.

We must not drive life. Nature is not to be whipped and spurred by impatient
riders. God's administration is calm. The wheels of his chariot are not
bespattered by the mud of blustering and reckless haste. On the other hand,
we are not to find in this reflection an excuse for the indolence and
incapacity of men. There are stones which we can roll away. There are turbid
little streams which we can bridge. There are gates which weaker men than
Samson can carry away. There is the profoundest difference between the
indolence of men and the eternal calm of God. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth
to do, do it with thy might." "I must work while it is called day."

Second. The trials of processes are to be met not all at once, but a day at a
time. "I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and
gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will
walk in my law, or no." See the law by which the manna was given. There
was not a large store sent down. Daily hunger was met by daily bread. We
are not allowed to live two days at once. In the parable the pendulum was
told that it had to give but one tick at a time. The heart beats in the same
way. Upon how little sleep it lives!

This daily display of Divine care teaches (1) that physical as well as spiritual
gifts are God's; (2) that one of God's gifts is the pledge of another. "Not as
the world giveth, give I unto you." Why am I to be easy about tomorrow?
Because God is good to-day! "He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for
ever.

Third. Processes show the different dispositions of men. Not their tempers
only, but the deeper realities and aspects of their character. They were told
not to leave any of the manna until the morning of the following day, but
some of them did leave it. You cannot convince some men, nor can you bind
them by authority, nor can you bring them under a common discipline. No.
Provision must be made for madmen. Every society out of heaven is
probably disturbed by some kind of eccentricity. Though the people were
told in the distinctest manner that there would be no manna on the seventh
day, yet they went out to gather it just as if they had never been warned!
Such men are the vexation of the world. They plague every community of
which they are a portion. You tell them that tickets cannot be had after a
certain day, but they give you the lie, as far as they can, by coming for them
two days after. There are such wise men everywhere, but happily they are
now and then effectually checked and humbled. What a humiliation awaits
them in the long run!

The history, at this point, urges the most direct application of its truths upon
our spiritual nature, (1) We have the means of life at our disposal: the
manna lies at our tent-door! (2) We are distinctly assured that such means
are given under law: there is a set time for the duration of the opportunity:
the night cometh!

Some men will set themselves against God in these matters. They will
persistently work contrariwise. They will defy the law: they will challenge the
sword: they will tell you that the night has no darkness for them, and that
when God has shut the door the key of their importunity will open it! Beware
of such men. They will fail you at last; and when you smite them with your
reproaches, you can add no pain to the torment of their damnation.

Fourth. All the processes of life should be hallowed by religious exercises.


There was a Sabbath even in the wilderness. The Sabbath is amongst the
very oldest institutions. God rested on the seventh day, and blessed it.
Before the law was given from Sinai God gave the Sabbath to Israel. Man
must have rest, and all true rest is associated with religious ideas and
aspirations. The animal rest is but typical: the soul must have its hours of
quietness; the spirit must pause in the presence of God to recover its
strength.

(1) The Sabbath is more than a mere law; it is an expression of mercy. (2)
No man ever loses anything by keeping the Sabbath: "The Lord giveth you
on the sixth day the bread of two days." (3) He is the loser who has no day
of rest.

Fifth. Processes should leave some tender and hope-inspiring memories


behind them. "Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they
may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I
brought you forth from the land of Egypt." The way to enrich life is to keep a
retentive memory in the heart. Look over a period of twenty years, and see
the all-covering and ever-shining mercy of God! How many special
providences have you observed? How many narrow escapes have you
experienced? How many difficulties have you surmounted? How often have
you found a pool in unexpected places? We should lay up some memory of
the Divine triumphs which have gladdened our lives, and fall back upon it for
inspiration and courage in the dark and cloudy day. Go into your yesterdays
to find God! Search for him in the paths along which you have come, and if
you dare, under the teaching of your own memories, deny his goodness,
then betake yourselves to the infamous luxury of distrust and reproach!

Sixth. The process will end. Though the wheels move slowly, yet will they
reach the goal! You are not the men you were twenty years ago! The most
of the desert-road is now behind some of you. Your future on earth is
narrowing itself to a point. How is it with your souls? Your feet are sore with
the long journey; are your wings ready for flight into the kingdom of the
crystal river and the unsetting sun?

Note on Manna

"It may have been derived from the manna rams known in various
countries. There is an edible lichen which sometimes falls in showers several
inches deep, the wind having blown it from the spots where it grew, and
carried it onwards. In 1824 and in 1828, it fell in Persia and Asiatic Turkey in
great quantities. In 1829, during the war between Persia and Russia, there
was a great famine at Oroomiah, south-west of the Caspian Sea. One day,
during a violent wind, the surface of the country was covered with what the
people called 'bread from heaven,' which fell in thick showers. Sheep fed on
it greedily, and the people who had never seen it before, induced by this,
gathered it, and having reduced it to flour, made bread of it, which they
found palatable and nourishing. In some places it lay on the ground five or
six inches deep. In the spring of 1841, an amazing quantity of this
substance fell in the same region, covering the ground, here and there, to
the depth of from three to four inches. Many of the particles were as large as
hail-stones. It was grey, and sweet to the taste, and made excellent bread.
In 1846, a great manna rain, which occurred at Jenischehr, during a famine,
attracted great notice. It lasted several days, and pieces as large as a hazel-
nut fell in quantities. When ground and baked it made as good bread, in the
opinion of the people, as that from grain. In 1846 another rain of manna
occurred in the government of Wilna, and formed a layer upon the ground,
three or four inches deep. It was of a greyish-white colour, rather hard,
irregular in form, without smell, and insipid. Pallas, the Russian naturalist,
observed it on the arid mountains and limestone tracts of the Great Desert
of Tartary. In 1828, Parroth brought some from Mount Ararat, and it proved
to be a lichen known as Parmelia Esculenta, which grows on chalky and
stony soil, like that of the Kirghese Steppes of Central Asia. Eversmann
described several kinds of it, last century, as found east of the Caspian, and
widely spread over Persia and Middle Asia. It is round, and at times as large
as a walnut, varying from that to the size of a pin's head, and does not fix
itself in the soil in which it grows, but lies free and loose, drinking in
nourishment from the surface, and easily carried off by the wind, which
sweeps it away in vast quantities in the storms of spring, and thus causes
the 'manna rains' in the districts over which the wind travels." —Geikie's
"Hours with the Bible."

Exodus 17:1-16
1. And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the
wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of
the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to
drink.

2. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that
we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore
do ye tempt the Lord?

3. And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured
against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out
of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?
4. And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people?
they be almost ready to stone me (tumultuary, not legal stoning).

5. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with
thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river,
take in thine hand, and go.

6. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb (some
particular rock in the Horeb range); and thou shalt smite the rock, and there
shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in
the sight of the elders of Israel.

7. And he called the name of the place Massah (trial or temptation), and
Meribah (chiding or quarrel), because of the chiding of the children of Israel,
and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?

8. Then came Amalek (the first formal mention as a nation), and fought with
Israel in Rephidim.

9. And Moses said unto Joshua (the first mention of Joshua, the tenth in
descent from Joseph, probably forty-five years old), Choose us out men, and
go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with
the rod of God in mine hand.

10. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek; and
Moses (upwards of eighty), Aaron (eighty-three), and Hur (the grandfather
of Bezaleel, and not much younger than Moses or Aaron) went up to the top
of the hill.

11. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed:
and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

12. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone (only an
eyewitness would have noted this), and put it under him, and he sat thereon
and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the
other on the other side and his hands were steady until the going down of
the sun.

13. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the
sword.
14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and
rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance
of Amalek from under heaven (done finally and completely in the reign of
Hezekiah, see 1Ch_4:43).

15. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi
(Jehovah, my banner).

16 For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with
Amalek from generation to generation (because the hand of Amalek is
against the throne of God, therefore the Lord hath war with Amalek from
generation to generation).

Rephidim: Ancient and Modern

Exodus 17

Chapters like this enable us to see how far the race has advanced in a moral
direction. How far have we travelled from Rephidim? This is more than a
question in geography: it is a profound inquiry in morals. We are too apt to
dismiss as ancient history terms which we consider to be merely local. The
terms themselves may be strictly local and hardly worth remembering; but
they may be associated with qualities, influences and ministries, which
constitute an eternal presence in human life. The New Testament did not
hesitate to make use of the history of the Old, and we are called upon in this
matter to follow the example of Christ and to imitate that of the Apostles.
They told us the meaning of the things which happened aforetime; and
every teacher who would maintain a profound influence upon any age must
see to it that he does not allow the unity of the ages to be broken, but
rather insist upon their continuousness, their solidarity, and their unanimous
meaning. The ages are one. If we ask how far have we advanced in a
mechanical direction, it will be difficult to establish any link of union between
our country to-day and five hundred years ago. Verily, we have travelled
from ourselves innumerable thousands of miles in all matters of a merely
mechanical nature. Our ancestors would not know us in these particulars. All
things have been created anew. It would be impossible for us to go back
upon the olden days. We should scorn their narrowness, wonder at their
poverty, and hold in more or less gracious contempt the slowness, and the
weariness, and the dull monotony of the old times of our forefathers. We
rejoice in this progress; we mark it in a way that cannot be easily mistaken,
and say that civilisation has expanded its influence and consolidated its
empire. So be it. How far have we advanced in a literary direction? Again the
progress has been almost immeasurable. In words, in pureness of literature,
in daring boldness of conception, in loftiness of speculation, in splendour and
vividness of diction and representation, we seem to have advanced almost
incalculably from many of the old standards. So be it. In this respect there is
in very deed what may be termed ancient history. We have almost a new
English. We have been so complete in our criticism and progress as to have
almost established a new alphabet of things. We rejoice in this, and call it
progress, and boast of it with honest and legitimate triumph. But the
preacher's question is: How far have we advanced morally, spiritually, and in
all the higher ranges and Diviner outlooks of our being? Here we seem to be
still at Rephidim. Geographers say they cannot find out the exact locality.
Verily, there need be no difficulty about the exact locality—it is just where
we are. We carry the locality with us. Let men who like to search the sand,
and turn over the stones, and compare ancient and modern geography,
bewilder themselves in seeking for square feet and precise positions; we
interpret the event by a broader law, and have no difficulty whatever in
affirming that we carry Rephidim with us, and this day, four—five thousand
years away in time from the place, we are standing in the very footprints of
old Israel, and doing in all their broader meanings exactly the actions which
old Israel performed. Unless we seize this idea of the Scriptures we shall
separate ourselves very far indeed from their truest and deepest meanings.
We must not allow little boundaries, and local names, and occult Hebraisms
and Chaldaisms to come between us and the great unity of the human race.
We must overleap these, or crush our way through them, and claim
association with the central and abiding line which marks the development of
human history and Divine purpose.

Why be so emphatic about our being at Rephidim? Because, first of all, I said
that the people at Rephidim were tormented by a continual consciousness of
necessity. How far have we got from necessity? Not one inch. Necessity has
followed us all the time. It is awake in the morning before we open our eyes,
and the last thing we see, before we close our vision in sleep, is the grim
image of necessity. The people wanted bread a day or two ago—now they
are consumed with thirst, and are chiding Moses and murmuring bitterly
against him because of the want of water. If that is so, verily we are still at
Rephidim. Every life knows the bite of necessity; every man represents the
great void of need; every soul cries out in pain because there is wanting
some completing favour, some culminating and all-contenting benediction.
Here it is bread; there it is water; but everywhere a famine—a hungrier
famine than the wolfs cry for food in many a case,—a famine of the soul, a
spiritual destitution, a consciousness of a void which time cannot satisfy or
space content. Why did they not find themselves water? Why did they not
supply their own necessity? This is the mystery of human life: that we are
not self-complete, but are debtors to nature. We must put out our hand and
receive from another that which we daily need. Poor creatures!—yet so
august in greatness. We are indebted to one another. We find a leader when
we are in pain, sorrow and deep necessity. In the great round of daily
occurrences we pay but small heed to him—he is there, or will soon be
present, or where he is we hardly know and do not specially care; but let us
become surrounded by danger, let us become conscious of some new
necessity, let a sudden pain strike our life and torment our happiness, and
up goes the cry, Where is Moses? Where is the leader? Where the priest who
can pray? Where the man who is a host in himself? These are the hours in
which we discover just what we are and just what we can do. Strange that
men who cannot support the body without help have in some infatuated
cases supposed that they could nurture the soul without assistance. God will
have hold of us somewhere. If we do not give him the opportunity of laying
hold of our consenting minds, and burning, loyal, devoutest love, he will get
hold of our fleshly necessities, and we shall cry to him, whom we spiritually
deny, when our tongue is athirst for water and our life is perishing for want
of bread. Pray we must—a prayer of agony and hopefulness. Prayer in its
deepest meaning—not in its formality, or as a matter of attitude, and
posture, and mechanical expression—is a necessity of life, an instinct of the
soul, and an aspiration that separates us from the base and makes us men
We must advance from the lower to the higher. We have it before us as a
certain and indisputable fact that for the support of the body we need
external help: we need the whole ministry of kind and gracious nature. What
wonder if in the education, and culture, and strengthening of the soul we
need all heaven, with its infinite Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
Were we pressed to affirm that necessity it would be in strict consonance
with all the other wants that follow and devour our wasting life.

Why be so emphatic about our still being at Rephidim? Because at Rephidim


help was found in unexpected places and given in unexpected ways: "Thou
shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people
may drink." Is that ancient history? It may be ancient, but it is very new—
quite modern, young as the morning, present as our immediate
consciousness and experience. We are always helped by unexpected people,
in unexpected ways, and at unexpected places. God would appear to delight
in baffling the ingenuity that would forecast the future with too exclusive a
minuteness. God will not allow us to trifle with his prerogatives. He will find
water where we should find none. The rock is not an inhospitable stone; it is
a congealed fountain. Human necessity and Divine grace meet in sweet
consent Have no fear then. I know that there is a rock immediately ahead of
me; but God can melt it into a river. I know that there is a Red Sea just in
front of me; but God can divide it and let me pass as through an iron gate. I
am aware that Jordan's water is rolling just a few paces ahead, and I may
have to go so near it as to touch it; but the moment the foot of faith
splashes in the waters of danger they must give way, for faith can never fail.
Lord, increase our faith.

In the great encounters of life, either the spiritual or the material must give
way, and God has never been stopped by that which is material and
physical. Say that it is a work of imagination if you please, but as such it is
done with infinite skill—a skill so infinite as to be more than human. God is
never represented as being worsted, baffled, by any of the material which is
built up into the house which we call his universe. "If ye have faith as a grain
of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder
place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." We
die when our faith dies. Our power is not a power of genius, but an
almightiness of belief. Nature is always equal to our physical necessities.
God has put everything into nature which that other nature, called human,
requires for its bodily sustentation. All food is in the kind earth. All medicine
is in the garden. All healing is in the air which is blowing around us like a
Divine benediction. The water is sometimes kept in the rock, and the bread
is sometimes locked up in the cloud and allowed to drop down upon us like a
very small coriander seed which we gather with wonder, and eat with an
inquiry, saying, What is it? All help is near, if you did but understand it:—
"there standeth One among you, whom ye know not; he it is." The unknown
is sitting next to you. The tree you need for the cure of the bitter pool is
bending over the very water that needs to be healed. We realise the
nearness of food, the nearness of music, the nearness of the living air, the
nearness of those elements which are essential to the upbuilding and
maturity of our lower nature,—why do we not realise the nearness of the
redeeming God—the immediate presence of him who says—"Behold, I stand
at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will
come in"? In all other things we glory in the nearness of the remedy, in the
close proximity of what we need: yet, when we come into spiritual inquiries,
the soul says—"Why standest thou afar off, O God?" and the inquiry is
rebuked by the infinitely tender gospel—"I am a God near at hand," saith the
Lord, "and not a God afar off." A wonderful rock!—I cannot explain it; but
rocks and more than rocks; rivers and more than water—the Lord hath
turned every Nile into saving blood, every rock into living water, and he has
interpreted the parable of nature into the great and saving gospel of love.
Do you ask the meaning of the rock? The Apostle Paul shall give it:—"I
would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under
the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptised unto Moses
in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did
all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that
followed them: and that Rock was Christ." Be it mine to belong to the school
that sees great things in little ones, that sees the moulding hand of God in
the dew-drop as well as in the infinite constellations which seem to crowd
the very amplitude of infinity. The very hairs of your head are all numbered;
and as for so-called small things, take heed that ye despise not one of these
little ones; it were better for that man that a millstone were hanged about
his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea, than that he
should dispossess or offend one of God's little ones. Look for great
meanings. See in the dust the possibility of children being raised up unto
Abraham. See in the temple stones possible voices of praise, if the natural
worshippers should suddenly become dumb; and see in every rock not stone
only, but an unhewn stairway up to the Jerusalem which is lighted by the
Lamb.

Why be so emphatic about still being at Rephidim? Because peevish


tempers were corrected by great duties in that ancient locality. So the
providence of God continues to work in us. The children of Israel were
peevishly sighing and crying for the old Egyptian life, longing for the
fleshpots of Egypt, desiring to be back again where they had food enough,
because even Egyptian slave-drivers were wise enough not to starve their
beasts of burden. So Israel fell into fretfulness, and whining, and
dissatisfaction, and rebellion. What did God do? He sent Amalek upon Israel.
That is the function of war among the nations. It is no use reasoning with
peevishness. It is time wasted to try to expostulate with any man who is in a
whining mood of soul, displeased because of his bread, discontented
because of the scarcity of water, making no allowance for the undulations of
life,—reasoning, remonstrance, expostulation would be lost. What must be
done? An enemy must be raised up to smite him with the sword. Then he
will come into a new mood of mind, forget his littleness, and, springing
forward to a realisation of his true power, he will lose in service the
discontent which he contracted in unbelief.

What we want to-day is persecution. We do not want eloquence, criticism,—


new learning, some new invention in theological confectionery that shall
tempt appetites that have been sated; we want war—persecution—the
enemy at the gate. Then we should begin to forgive one another, to pray for
one another, to come more closely together at the altar and more near in
that consent of soul which is blessed with insight into spiritual mysteries. We
have lost in losing the enemy. The sting of Smithfield fire would correct our
theology a good deal; the old gibbet would take the fretfulness out of our
tone; the great earthquake rocking our cities would make us forget our
animosities and unite us in bolder intercession. This is the meaning of your
commercial depressions, of your mercantile losses, of your great and small
afflictions in the family. This is the meaning of the little coffin in the upper
chamber, of the father's dead body being carried out to the churchyard. This
the meaning of all the gloom, and cloud, and battle, and contest. We have
been too peevish, wandering, discontented. We have been in need of
knowing the true tragedy of life and of being whipped out of our peddling
criticism, out of our mean and contemptible conceptions of God and his
universe; and if we accept the Divine discipline in the right spirit, when that
discipline has exhausted itself, each man will say for himself, "It was good
for me that I was afflicted; before I was afflicted I went astray." "No
chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless
afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which
are exercised thereby." "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers
temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience."
When God sends the Amalekite upon you, it is that the enemy may teach
what the friend has failed to convey.

A most beautiful picture:—the old men up the hill praying, Moses, and
Aaron, and Hur—a man almost as mysterious in history as Melchisedek
himself,—all the three men more than eighty years of age, away supplicating
Heaven; the young men fighting as young men always should be, and the
Lord watching. Now the Amalekite prevails—now Israel. How goes the fight?
Watch the leader's arms. They are up; then the banner is Israel's that floats
with triumph in the hot air;—the poor arms have fallen down, and Amalek
springs towards the temporary victory It is a great parable; it is a most
tender idyl. This scene is full of present mystery and present grace. Mock
the suppliants if you will; but they are men who are engaged in the upper
regions of the battle. They are not cowards who have fled from the fight,
they are heroes who are standing at its front and have undertaken the
responsibility of its success. Young men, go forth to the war. I am ashamed
of the young man who stays at home and sates himself with debasing
luxury, when there are great wars to be fought, great positions to be taken,
mighty fortresses of evil to be overthrown. Awake! awake! put on thy
strength, oh redeemed life, and carry the Lord's banner away to the front
and set it up in sign of victory.

Wondrous is one little line in the history:—"And thy rod, wherewith thou
smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go," and afterward Moses, having
spoken to Joshua, said, "I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God
in mine hand." Never forget the old rod, the old book, the old truth;—the
sword that cut off the head of Goliath—"Give me that," said David, "there is
none like it." Thus God hides inspiration in things of apparently little value,
and touches the imagination and the faith by books, ministries, churches,
altars, which we thought had passed away into desuetude, perhaps oblivion.
Your first prayer may help you to-day. The faith of your youth may be the
only thing to win the battle which now challenges your strength. One little
hour with the old, old book may be all you need to obtain the sufficiency of
light which will drive away the cloud of mystery and bring in the heaven of
explanation. Of ancient Rephidim we know nothing: the geographers and
discoverers are still searching for it; but the modern Rephidim of conscious
necessity, of finding help in unexpected places, of having peevish tempers
corrected by great duties,—that Rephidim is our present environment. May
we answer the call of God when challenged to battle with a heroism that
cannot cringe and with a faith that can only satisfy itself with prayer.

Exodus 20:1-26
The Commandments

Exodus 19-20

We cannot get rid of Sinai in human education. If we persuade ourselves by


some false reasoning that the things recorded in these chapters did not
literally happen, we are playing the fool with ourselves. God could only come
to us at the first by the letter. He touches us by infinite accommodations of
his own nature and by a gracious study of our own. This is the plague of the
imperfect reason, that it will quibble about the incident, the wrappage, and
decoration of things. It seems to be unable to penetrate to inmost thoughts,
essences, qualities, and meanings. Sinai is in every life. Let us part with as
much as we can of the merely external, and still there remains the fact that
in our lives are lightnings, and thunderings, and great trumpetings of power,
as well as solemn claims and urgent appeals to every quality and force in
our nature. Who has not been in stony places in the carrying out of his
education,—great, black, inhospitable localities, well called wildernesses;
wild and howling deserts; mountains of stone; embodiments of difficulty;
types of arduous discipline and inexorable demand? Why play the fool? Why
miss the wine of God's grace and wisdom by asking narrow or foolish
questions about the vessel which contains it, when within the whole mystery
of life there stands the barren mountain—the inhospitable sand stretches
mile on mile on every hand and nothing speaks to us in all the terrific scene
but law, claim, and obligation—the tremendous demand of an unyielding
creditor, who has come to arrest and imprison us until the uttermost farthing
be paid? Our spiritual experience makes the letter quite small. There are still
those who are asking questions about the local Sinai, the narrow and
comparatively trivial incident, and are missing all the poetry of the occasion,
not hearing the Divine and solemn voice, and not answering the sublime
demand for more perfect purification, completer refinement, and profounder
obedience. Why not start our inquiries from the other side?—What is this
voice of law? What is this standard of discipline which forces itself upon our
moral attention? What is this claim that is pressed upon us by every variety
of expression which follows us, now affrontingly, now pleading, according to
the moral phase which we exhibit towards it? Did we begin our inquiry at
that end, and so come along the line of revelation, Sinai, the local mountain,
and the desert, and all trumpetings, thunderings, lightnings, tempests, all
upheavals, and earthquakes, and terrible scenes, would fall into their right
proportion and relation, and the one sovereign thought would be,—Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do?

Instead of looking at the commandments one by one, and thus running the
risk of missing their whole meaning, let us look at the commandments in
their totality and call them One Commandment with many different phases,
and aspects, and bearings upon human life.

What is the teaching of that great law pronounced from heaven? Is there
any grace in it? Is there any touch of love? Is there any trembling of pathos?
Is it all hard iron? Is it all tremendous exaction, pitiless, tyrannous claim?
Have we always read the commandments aright? and have we been just to
their innermost meaning when we have characterised them as hard? I think
not. What do these commandments urge upon us?—A right view of God.
That is the first injunction. We are called to right theology—not of a formal
and technical, but of a moral and spiritual kind. The great movement of the
heart must first of all be Godward. We cannot work until the soul is brought
into the right mood and proper quality by a full perception of the sovereignty
and righteous claim and tender grace of God. We cannot break in upon the
commandments where we please, and obey the law in parts and parcels.
There is a temptation to think we can do so. We are sometimes tempted to
think that we can keep the eighth commandment, but not the fifth; the
fourth, but not the ninth; the tenth, but not the first, and so on. That is
impossible. To keep one commandment is to keep all; to offend in one
commandment is to break all. This may not seem to be so on the surface;
but a complete analysis of the occasion and circumstances will result in the
finding that the commandments are one law, complete, indivisible, only set
forth in points and aspects for the convenience of learners, and as an
accommodation to the infirmity or incompleteness of children. First of all,
then, we are called to a right view of God. We cannot move one step in a
right direction until something like this view has been realised. Every
succeeding commandment will be dumb to us, if we have not entered into
the mystery of the first. What is God to us? What are his claims upon us?
What is there in us that responds to his presence, and that, so to say,
reveals him before he comes with any obvious manifestation of his
personality upon us? Are we akin? Are we his children? Is there any sound in
the ear or the heart which, being interpreted, means,—"In the beginning
God made man in his own image and likeness"? That is our first study. We
shall be mere moralists if we begin at the second commandment. That is so-
called legalism and morality,—the pedantry which snaps off the
commandments from the great central stem and treats them as separate
particles, as isolated possibilities of virtue. We must come from the Divine
point, from the spiritual communion of the soul with God, and then the
commandments will come upon our souls as appeals to our power, and as
sweet necessities, not as arbitrary impositions and tyrannies.

What next have we in this consolidated commandment? Having a right view


of God, we have a right view, in the next place, of labour. God condescends
to take notice of our working ways, of our allotments and appointments of a
temporal kind. The voice of mercy is in this injunction regarding labour. In
effect, God says to us, "You must not always toil; your heads must not be
bent down in continual proneness to the earth; you may labour six days, but
the seventh part of your time should be devoted to spiritual communion, to
the culture of the upper and better nature, to the promotion of your higher
and nobler education." This is the gracious law; but, say, is this law without
tears? Is this commandment without grace? Is there no mercy here? Is there
not a subtle allusion to an earlier charter in which God made man to
commune with himself? If you are doomed to seven days' work, it is against
God's mind. If any have to work seven days for the mouthful of bread they
need, it is the doing of an enemy; it is not the claim of God. I ask you to
praise him for this defence of feeble human nature and this plea for a higher
human education. Do not fritter away the blessing by technical inquiry and
pedantic analysis of meaning. The sublime, infinite purpose is this: that man
is more than a labourer; he is a worshipper; he is a kinsman of God; he has
belongings in the sky. A religion that thus comes to me and takes me away
from my toil, and bids me rest awhile and think of the larger quantities, and
the more ample time, and the heavenly kingdoms, is a religion I cannot
afford to do without. It is a religion of grace; it is a religion which knows my
necessities, pities my infirmities, spares my wasting strength. The Sabbath,
in its spiritual aspect and meaning, is one of the strongest defences of the
inspiration of the Bible and the Divinity of the religion which it reveals. It is
man's day and God's day; more thoroughly man's day because completely
God's day. It is their united time,—time of fellowship, hour of communion,
opportunity for deeper reading, larger prayer, and Diviner consecration.

Having a right view of God and a right view of labour, we have also a right
view of physiology. The Bible takes care of man's body. Thou shalt not waste
it; thou shalt not poison it; thou shalt not degrade the inner nature by a
prostitution of the outer constitution. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." A
commandment which so speaks to us is associated with a religion that is no
merely spiritual phantasy. This is a practical monitor. It enters every room,
remains in the house night and day, tarries as a guest seven days a week,
goes out with us to the marketplace, takes care of our bodily ablution and
cleansing, and regards the sanctity of the body with a Divine care. Who are
they that tell us that the Bible religion is a superstition, an affair of fancy,
something having in it bright points here and there, and to be treated with
proportionate respect? The Bible searches us, tries us, and finds if there is
any wicked way in us, and is as careful about the body in its degree as about
the soul in its higher plane, because nobler quantity. No man ill-treats his
body with the permission of the Bible; no soul quenches its thirst at
forbidden wells with the sanction of the Book which we believe to be God's.
The Bible would keep society sweet, would watch over our life with ineffable
tenderness, would have us right in tone, wholesome, good at every point. A
book so graciously exacting, charged with so Divine a spirit of discipline, is a
book which will survive every assault made upon it, and return to the
confidence of man after many an act of apostacy and ingratitude on his part.

A right view of God, a right view of labour, a right view of physiology, and
then a right view of society. Not only is God interested in the individual man,
he is also interested in the social, imperial, national world—humanity. What
says he?—"Thou shalt not kill,"—however hot thy blood, thou shalt not kill;
however apparently just thine anger, restrain thyself, lift not the hand to
strike, have no weapon in thy fist,—"Thou shalt not kill." Woe betide society
when it holds human life lightly, when it regards human existence as a mere
trifle in an infinite aggregate of circumstances and events! Blessed be that
society which numbers the hairs of its children, in which a sparrow is not lost
without knowledge, and in which a gracious economy will gather up the
fragments that nothing be lost! This is Christian society which will not allow
one chair to be vacant. Seeing that vacant chair, Christian solicitude
becomes akin to Divine agony; a parental yearning makes the heart sore
because one little child is absent, one wanderer is not at home, one man is
missing.

"Thou shalt not steal." It is not enough to be less than a murderer, we must
be honest,—not superficially honest, not having hands merely untainted with
overt crime, and theft, and felony; but thoroughly honest, sweet in the soul,
really, superbly, almost Divinely honest in thought, in speech, in feeling, and
in all the relations of life. Where is there an honest man, except in the
common and superficial sense of a man who is not a thief? Honesty is not a
negative virtue; honesty is a positive excellence. It renders to every man his
due; it steals no man's reputation; it trifles with the property of no heart; it
is more anxious to give than to take away. "Thou shalt not covet." We are
becoming more spiritual still. "Thou shalt not kill,"—to that we assented
readily; "Thou shalt not steal,"—to that we also assented with large
concession; "Thou shalt not covet,"—who knows when he covets? We can
covet in secret; we can covet, and never speak about the covetousness.
Desire need not commit itself to audible terms. We can desire what another
man has and yet can look the embodiment of innocence. The law is now
becoming sharper, keener, more like a two-edged sword piercing to the
dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. We cannot keep company with
this law in its inner and deeper meanings without finding that its intention is
to divide us asunder, and search us, and try us, and never leave us until we
become like the Lawgiver himself. Can we wonder that Jesus Christ said he
had not come to destroy but to fulfil?—that is, to interpret the law and give
it its fullest and deepest meaning. When asked what the law was, he said,
'All the law is fulfilled in one word—love." But we read the commandments
and found no love in them,—because we misread every tone in the ancient
and solemn music. You could not have the commandment but for the love
which makes it law. Outwardly it looks iron-like, stern, rigorous, exacting,
pitiless; but within its heart is large as the heart of God.

Mark the elevation of the commandments,—of what god are they unworthy?
Their Divinity must have impressed us. Point out one weak word; lay the
critical finger upon one line that is wanting in intellectual dignity or in moral
splendour. By the nature of the laws themselves their inspiration may be
vindicated. A bold task it was for any mere poet or dreamer to attempt to
invent a commandment which would be worthy of God; but the task was
realised. Great opening lines have been expressed in the very finest terms,
in the most delicate and exquisite exactions and compulsions. Nowhere does
this Decalogue fray away into pointlessness, vagueness, intellectual
meanness, moral declension. From first to last the level is one, and the level
is worthy of God. To find fault with the commandments is to injure
ourselves; to trifle with the commandments is to jeopardise society. They
are not repeated formally in the New Testament, but they are fulfilled in that
holy covenant. We are now in Christ Jesus, if we are living up to Gospel
privileges and opportunities; and, being in him, we breathe the
commandments, rather than execute them as with arduous effort. They
become part of our very life; they belong to us as the fragrance belongs to
the odorous flower. They are no longer burdens grievous to be borne. We
love them because we have experienced their love. Away with moral
legerdemain! Away with the gymnastics which attempt to climb to heaven by
their own moral cleverness! We must go the right road, from God to man,
from the law to the neighbour, from the heavenly image to the social
obligation; and if the Church would, in the spirit of Christ, without one taint
of legalism or servility, keep the commandments, we should have a right
view of God, a right view of labour, a right view of the body, and a right
view of society. The life would be consolidated upon love and law, and lifting
itself up with infinite strength, would be crowned with beauty, and on the
top of the pillar would be lilywork; RIGHTEOUSNESS and GRACE would form
one noble, sublime, everlasting figure.
Note

"The promulgation of the law, including the construction of the tabernacle,


occupied nearly twelve months—from Whitsuntide to Whitsuntide—as we
should say. Throughout this period the people were encamped in the wide
plain at the foot of the 'Mount of God.' The whole region seems to be called
'Horeb'; the mount is called 'Sinai.' Travellers seem now disposed to identify
it with an isolated mountain which rises so abruptly from the great plain at
its foot, that its northern cliff might be said to be touched by one standing in
the plain. The northern peak is called Ras-Susâfeh; the southern, Jebel-
Mûsa. It rises to a height of 2,000 feet above the plain, and about 7,000
above the sea level."—Bible Educator.

"A spacious plain (Er Rahah) confronts a precipitous cliff 2,000 feet in
height, which forms the north-western boundary of that great mountain
block called Jebel-Mûsa, which tradition and the opinion of travellers and
authors of eminence alike point to as the mountain of the law. The plain is of
a level character—as flat as the palm (rahah) of the open hand. It is large
enough, if needs be, to encamp all the hosts of the Israelites. There are fully
400 acres of the plain proper, exactly facing the mount, with a wide lateral
valley, which extends right and left from the base of the cliffs. Besides this,
there is a considerable further open space extending northwestward from
the watershed or crest of the plain, but still in sight of the mount—the very
spot, it may be, to which the trembling Israelites 'removed and stood afar
off' when they feared to come nigh by reason of the cloud and thick
darkness."—Captain Palmer.

Exodus 19:9
"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud." —Exo_19:9.


This is a sample of God's daily visitation of the world.—God cannot come
otherwise than in a thick cloud. The cloud is not necessary for him, it is
necessary for those to whom he comes.—No man can see God and live.—
Many a cloud that we blame is created for the purpose of attempering high
light to our vision.—The darkness of the way is as much to be attributed to
God as is the light.—He makes us stand still as well as go forward.—The
cloud does not deprive us of the music of the voice.—Mere spectacle would
do little for us; it is to the voice itself that we must pay heed.—Remember
that the cloud only conceals God: it does not destroy him.—Clouds and
darkness are round about him; righteousness and judgment are the
habitation of his throne.

Exodus 19:7
Redeeming Points

Exo_14:31; Exo_19:7; Exo_36:5

In the book of Exodus we have an account of the character of the people


delivered by the power of Jehovah and guided and directed by the
statesmanship of Moses. Sometimes in reading the history we think there
never were such rebellious and stiff-necked people in all human history.
Moses is often angry with them; the Lord himself often burns with
indignation against them; sometimes, as cool and impartial readers, we feel
the spirit of anger rising within us as we contemplate the selfishness, the
waywardness, and the impracticableness of the children of Israel. We feel
that they were altogether undeserving the grace, the compassion, the
patient love which marked the Divine administration of their affairs. The
spirit of impatience rises within us and we say, "Why does not God bury this
stiff-necked and hard-hearted race in the wilderness and trouble himself no
longer about people who receive his mercies without gratitude, and who
seeing his hand mistake it for a shadow or for some common figure? Why
does the great heart weary itself with a race not worth saving?" Sometimes
the Lord does come nigh to the act of utter destruction: and it seems as if
justice were about to be consummated and every instinct within us to be
satisfied by the vindication of a power always defied and a beneficence never
understood.

Give yourselves a little time to discover if you can the redeeming points
even in so ungracious and so unlovable a history. It will indeed be a religious
exercise, full of the spirit of edification and comfort, to seek some little
sparkles of gold in this infinite mass of worthlessness. It will be quite worth a
Sabbath day's journey to find two little grains of wheat in all this wilderness
of chaff. Surely this is the very spirit of compassion and love, this is the very
poetry and music of God's administration, that he is always looking for the
redeeming points in every human character. Allowing that the mass of the
history is against the people: still there cannot be any escape from that
conclusion. If it were a question of putting vice into one scale and virtue into
the other, and a mere rough exercise in avoirdupois-weighing, the Israelites
could not stand for one moment. To find out the secret of patience, to begin
to see how it is that God spares any man, surely is a religious quest in the
pursuit of which we may expect to find, and almost to see face to face, the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Moses, having come from the Divine presence:

"called for the elders of the people, and laid before their
faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.
And all the people answered together, and said, All that
the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Exo_19:7-8).

That was an outburst of religious emotion; that exclamation showed that the
heart was not all dead through and through. That one sentence might be
remembered amidst many a hurricane of opposition and many a tumult of
ungrateful and irrational rebellion. We understand this emotion perfectly.
There have been times in our most callous lives when we have caught
ourselves singing some great psalm of adoration, some sweet hymn holding
in it the spirit of testimony and pledge and holy oath. It would seem as if
God set down one such moment as a great period in our lives—as if under
the pressure of his infinite mercy he magnified the one declaration which
took but a moment to utter into a testimony filling up the space of half a
lifetime. It is long before God can forget some prayers. Does it not seem as
if the Lord rather rested upon certain sweet words of love we spoke to him
even long ago, than as if he had taken a reproach out of our mouth at the
moment and fastened his judgment upon the severe and ungrateful word? Is
it not within the Almighty love to beat out some little piece of gold into a
covering for a long life? It is not his delight to remember sins or to speak
about the iniquities which have grieved his heart, or to dig graves in the
wilderness for the rebellious who have misunderstood his purpose and his
government. "His mercy endureth for ever," and if we have ever spoken one
true prayer to heaven, it rings, and resounds, and vibrates, and throbs again
like music he will never willingly silence It would seem as if one little prayer
might quench the memory of ten thousand blasphemies. "And all the people
answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Here
you find a religious responsiveness which ought to mark the history of the
Church and the history of the individual as well.

"The people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and
his servant Moses" (Exo_14:31).

Every good thing is set down. The Lord is not unrighteous to forget your
work of faith. We wonder sometimes in our ignorance whether any little sign
of good that has been in the heart is not written most legibly in heaven; and
all things unlovely, undivine, so written that none but God can decipher the
evil record. It would be like our Father to write our moral virtues in great
lustrous characters and all the story of our sin and shame so that no angel
could read a word of it. This is the way of love. How much we talk about the
little deed of kindness when we want to save some character from fatal
judgment, from social separation, and from all the penalties of evil
behaviour! There is no monotony in the recital; love invents new phrases,
new distributions of emphasis, wondrous variations of music, and so keeps
on telling the little tale of the flower that was given, of the smile that was
indicative of pleasure, of the hand that was put out in fellowship and pledge
of amity. Again and again the story so short is made into quite a long
narrative by the imagination of love, by the marvellous language which is
committed to the custody of the heart. It is God's way. If we give him a cup
of cold water, he will tell all the angels about it; if we lend him one poorest
thing he seems to need, he will write it so that the record can be read from
one end of the earth to the other; if we give him some testimony of love,—
say one little box of spikenard,—he will have the story of the oblation told
wheresoever his gospel is preached. Yes, he will tell about the gift when he
will hide the sin; he will have all his preachers relate the story of the
penitence in such glowing terms that the sin shall fall into invisible
perspective. God is looking for good; God is looking for excellences, not for
faults. Could we but show him one little point of excellence, it should go far
to redeem from needful and righteous judgment and penalty a lifetime of
evil-doing.

"The people bring much more than enough for the


service of the work" (Exo_36:5)
There is a redeeming point. The spirit of willingness is in the people. They
have a good season now; they are in their best moods at this time; they are
most generous; they come forward in their very best force and look quite
godly in their daily devotion and service to the tabernacle. Surely in the
worst character there are some little faint lines of good! Why do we not
imitate God and make the most of these? We are so prone to the other kind
of criticism: it seems to be in our very heart of hearts to find fault; to point
out defections; to write down a whole record and catalogue of infirmities and
mishaps, and to hold up the writing as a proof of our own respectability. God
never does so; he is righteous on the one side and on the other; he never
connives at sin; he never compromises with evil; he never fails to
discriminate between good and bad, light and darkness, the right hand and
the left; but when he does come upon some little streak of excellence, some
faint mark of a better life he seems to multiply it by his own holiness, and to
be filled with a new joy because of pearls of virtue which he has found in a
rebellious race. Character is not a simple line beginning at one point and
ending at another, drawn by the pencil of a child and measurable by the eye
of every observer. Character is a mystery; we must not attempt to judge
character. "Judge not, that ye be not judged." "Blessed are the merciful: for
they shall obtain mercy." The Pharisees dragged up those whom they found
doing wrong, but their doing so was never sanctioned by the Master; in all
their attempts at judgment they were judged; whenever they displayed their
virtue he burnt up the rag and left them to carry the cinders away. This
should lead us to much seriousness in estimating character, and should keep
us from uncharitableness; but at the same time it should encourage our own
souls in the pursuit and quest of things heavenly. We do not know the
meaning of all we feel and do. Let me suppose that some man is not
regarded by others as religious and spiritual; let it be my business as a
Christian shepherd to find out some point in that character upon which I can
found an argument and base an appeal. I may find it sometimes in one great
hot tear; the man would not have allowed me to see that tear on any
account if he could have helped it, but I did see it, and having seen it I have
hope of his soul. He is not damned yet. I may notice it in a half-intention to
write to the wronged ones at home. The young man has taken up his pen
and begun to address the old parents whose hearts he has withered. When I
observe him in the act of dipping his pen, I say, "He was dead and is alive
again"; and though he should lay down the pen without writing the letter of
penitence, I have hope in him: he may yet write it and make the confession
and seek the absolution of hearts that are dying to forgive him. Do not tell
me of the spendthrift's course, do not heap up the accusation—any hireling
can be bribed to make out the black catalogue; be it ours to see the first
heavenward motion, to hear the first Godward sigh, and to make the most of
these signs of return and submission. Good and bad do live together in
every character. I never met a human creature that was all bad: I have been
surprised rather to see in the most unexpected places beautiful little flowers
never planted by the hand of man. All flowers are not found in gardens,
hedged and walled in, and cultured at so much a day; many a flower we see
was never planted by the human gardener. In every nation, he that feareth
God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Heaven. At the risk of
incurring the unkind judgment of some in that I may be ministering to your
vanity—how they mistake the case who reason so!—I will venture to say
that in every one, however unrecognised by the constables of the Church or
by the priests of the altar, there are signs that they are not forsaken of God.

Now comes the thought for which I have no language adequate in


copiousness or fit in delicateness. It would seem as if the little good
outweighed the evil. God does not decide by majorities. There is not a more
vulgar standard of right and wrong than so-called majorities; it is an evil
form of judgment wholly—useful for temporary purposes, but of no use
whatever in moral judgment. The majority in a man's own heart is
overwhelming. If each action were a vote, and if hands were held up for evil,
a forest of ten thousand might instantly spring up; and then if we called for
the vote expressive of religious desire, there might be one trembling hand
half extended. Who counts?—God. What says he? How rules he from his
throne? It will be like him to say, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of
the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." If he could find
out in our life that we once dropped on one knee, and began a prayer, there
is no telling what may be done by his love in multiplying the act into an
eternal obeisance and regarding the unfinished prayer as an eternal
supplication. This is how the judgment will go. God has not forsaken us. To
open his book with any desire to find in it reading for the soul is a proof that
we are not abandoned of our Father; to go into the sanctuary even with
some trouble of mind or reluctance of will—to be there is a sign that we are
not yet cast out into the darkness infinite.

Yet even here the stern lesson stands straight up and demands to be
heard—namely:—If any man can be satisfied with the little that he has, he
has not the little on which he bases his satisfaction. It is not our business to
magnify the little; we do well to fix our mind for long stretches of time upon
the evil, and the wrong, and the foul, and the base. It is not for us to seek
self-satisfaction; our place is in the dust; our cry should be "Unclean!
unprofitable!"—a cry for mercy. It is God's place to find anything in us on
which he can base hope for our future, or found a claim for the still further
surrender of our hostile but still human hearts.

Exodus 19:1-13
1. In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the
land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai (about
eighteen miles).

2. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of
Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the
mount.

3. And Moses went up unto God (ascended Sinai), and the Lord called unto
him out of the mountain (while he was yet a great way off), saying, Thus
shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:

4. Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on
eagles' wings ("As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young,
spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them upon her wings"),
and brought you unto myself (out of Egypt and its corrupting influences).

5. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant,


then ye shall be a peculiar treasure (some valuable possession which the
owner has got by his own exertions) unto me above all people: for all the
earth is mine:

6. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These


are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

7. And Moses came and called for the elders (the usual channel of
communication) of the people, and laid before their faces (a curious piece of
literalism) all these words which the Lord commanded him.

8. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath
spoken we will do. And Moses returned (reported) the words of the people
unto the Lord.
9. And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud (in
the denseness of a cloud) that the people may hear when I speak with thee,
and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the
Lord.

10. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them
(an outward purification symbolic of inward fitness) to day and to morrow,
and let them wash their clothes (the Levitical law requires the washing of
clothes on many occasions),

11. And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come
down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai

12. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take
heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of
it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:

13. There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot
through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet
soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.

The Results of Obedience

Exo_19:1-13

Israel having gone from Rephidim, came to the desert of Sinai, and there
Moses, having gone up the mountain, received from God a distinct message,
"If ye will obey my voice, ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me." This is a
tabernacle without form; this is a sanctuary not made with hands. If we can
seize the meaning of this passage we shall have in our hands one of the key-
paragraphs of the whole history. Let us try to classify the thoughts which
grow as in a garden planted by the Lord himself; a garden whose hedges are
far away; for he whose mercy endureth for ever makes no small gardens; he
would, indeed, have no desert land.

Here is a Gospel originating in heaven. Moses is not the leading speaker. No


desire has been expressed by the people that any such arrangement as this
should be completed. The movement is always from above. The rains that
water the earth, that make it bring forth and bud, are clouds far above our
heads and far beyond our influence. The great thoughts all come down
tipped with a light above the brightness of the sun. If any man lack wisdom
he is to ask of God. It is not a plant that is grown in the clay; it is a flower
that blossoms and blooms in the eternal paradise. Keep this steadily in mind
in the perusal of the sacred record, that no great thought ever came from
the human side. Man has had but to reply; the infinite appeals of judgment
and of grace have come out of the hidden heavens. We are, therefore,
debtors to grace. We have nothing that is worth having that is of our own
invention or manufacture. All eternal thought and all eternal feeling, being
wise, pure, and beneficent, can be traced to him who giveth all good and
perfectness. This is the foundation thought.

Now comes a Divine method which attests the heavenliness of its origin,
having about it all the mystery of the infinite and unspeakable. God says: "If
ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant." Can he not make
them do so? There is no compulsion in worship, or in morals, or in true
spiritual obedience. A child can turn his back upon God and treat the
Almighty with sullenness. The tiniest knee can stiffen itself, and decline to
bow before the heavens. In its bodily relation, it can be crushed, broken,
destroyed; but representing the mind, the heart, the will, God cannot bend
that obstinate iron. So God begins by seeking consent. Man has to be a
party to this marvellous covenant If we sing, it is because our love is so
burning that we cannot keep back the music; if we obey, it is because our
hearts consent to the statute which demands obedience. Has God, then,
given any detailed laws up to this time which he means the people to
accept? No. Here is the wondrousness of the method, the laws—using that
word in the plural number—have yet to come. Mark the Divine wisdom—the
wondrous reach of the Divine thought. To have come with ten words, or a
thousand lines of statute and precept would have excited argument and
discontent, criticism, and possible rebellion. Not a word was said about the
detail. God will not light the mountain until the sacrifice is prepared; the
smoke, and the fire, and the trumpet will come by-and-by. What is first
wanted? The spirit, not the act, of obedience. Everything turns upon that
distinction. God asks broadly and comprehensively for obedience. He must
have a spirit in tune with the music of his own purpose, and then, as to the
separate melodies that must be played, they will fall into their right place,
and will assume new relations and new value, because of the spirit of
obedience which has been enkindled and sanctified in the human heart. That
is the Divine philosophy—not to come with two tables of stone, and to invite
detailed criticism and wordy controversy, but to face the creature, as it
were, and to say, "Wilt thou obey thy Creator in very deed?" The creature
answers gladly, "I will." After that you may have as many tables of stone as
the occasion requires, or as human development may call for in the ages of
education yet to dawn upon an advancing race.

Mark the wondrousness of the Divine providence, and the Divine method:
First, the spirit of obedience is created; then the separate words, or
individual and singular laws, are uttered to a prepared heart. Probably it
could be proved that a great deal of our conscious disobedience has arisen
from our looking at the law we have to obey, rather than preparing the heart
to obey the whole counsel of God. You have no right to look at the laws,
until you have promised obedience, and pledged with an oath of the heart
that you will be true to the Divine proposals. Men first disqualify themselves
for judgment, and then proceed to criticism; they say, "What are the
Commandments?" That is not a permissible inquiry. We are not dealing with
plurals and details, with daily discipline and momentary demands; we are
dealing with the soul of things, with the spirit of man, with the mood and
temper of the heart. Granted that all is right in this direction, then turn to
the laws, and you will take them up as a very little thing, understanding the
sweet music of him who came to "fulfil the law." "My yoke is easy, and my
burden is light,"—a most heavy yoke and a burden grievous beyond all other
weight, if we come to it without a prepared spirit; but having filled the heart
with preparedness, and filled the mouth with a song of adoration and a
hymn of loyalty, then let the tables of stone come to us: the stones shall
have no hardness, and the law shall no longer be arbitrary, but part of the
happy music and sacred necessity which characterise the whole order and
intent of God.

Here is the explanation of the Divine preferences which have distressed so


many hearts under the cruel name of sovereignty and election. There need
be no torture in using those words. If we feel distressed by them, it is
because we have come upon them along the wrong path. They are beautiful
and noble words when set in their places according to the Divine intent.
"Then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." Is that
partiality in any exclusive sense? Not at all; it is really meant to be inclusive.
God elects humanity. "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom." In what sense?
In the ordinary sense—namely, a great aggregate of subjects ruled by one
arbitrary and despotic king? In no such sense. The literal meaning is, ye
shall all be kings. Now you see the meaning of that great name, "King of
kings"—not king of an individual monarch here and there, as in Britain, or
Russia, or China, but of all believers. All obedient souls are lifted up unto
kinghood. We are royal equals if we obey Heaven's will, and God is King of
kings,—King of all. We are a royal generation. All this language is typical.
Beautiful is the historical line when seized and wisely applied. Let us attempt
such seizure and application. The firstborn were chosen, and the firstborn
were to be priests. In what sense are the firstborn chosen? Not as relegating
the afterborn to positions subordinate and inferior; but in the sense of being
their pledge and seal. God has the eldest son, and therefore—that is the
sacred logic—he has all the other children. Then the laws regarding the
priesthood underwent a change, and the family of Aaron was called. We
proceed from an individual, namely, the firstborn, to a family, namely, the
Aaronic stock. But why were they chosen? That all the children of Aaron
might also be priests, in the truly spiritual and eternal sense, though not in
official and formal name and status. Then the family was deposed and a
tribe is chosen—the tribe of Levi. Mark how the history accumulates and
grows up into a prophecy and an argument! First the individual, then the
family, then the tribe, then the Son of man,—absorbing all the past,
gathering up into its true and official meaning all priesthood, all intercession.
There is one Advocate with the Father, the Man Christ Jesus.

A new light thus begins to dawn upon the cloud. There is nothing arbitrary in
the movement of God when we can penetrate its infinite philosophy. Will
God have the firstfruits of the harvest field? He claims all such. Why will he
claim the firstfruits? That in having the firstfruits he might have all the field.
He will not take the whole wheat acreage of the world into his heavens and
devour our poor loaf of bread; but he will take the first ear of corn that we
can find in all the fields, and, having taken that, he says: "In giving me this
you have given me all." He is not to be charged with arbitrariness and
severity because he takes one little ear of corn, or one poor little sheep, and
says, "This is mine." He is to be charged with a nobler grace than our fancy
had dreamed, for he takes a visit to the poor prisoner as a visit paid to
himself, bread given to the poor as bread given to the Triune God. The lifting
up of one sheaf of wheat and waving it before him is not the result of an
arbitrary sovereignty, but is sign, symbol, and type that we have given him
all—that "the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." The Lord said to
the man whom he constituted the new head of the race: "In thee shall all
the families of the earth be blessed." Think of that noble inclusion when you
speak of elective sovereignty and reprobating judgment.

This also throws light upon the vexed question of inspiration, We ask, "Why
were some inspired?" You say Moses and David, Isaiah and Daniel, and John
and Paul—they were inspired that we might all be inspired. They are the
firstborn; they are the leaders and prototypes. Because Paul was inspired, it
does not follow that the Holy Ghost is withheld from us. The Spirit is the
abiding Comforter; he is the possession of the whole redeemed and
regenerated Church. He will never leave us. Know ye not that ye are the
temples of the Holy Ghost? Do not dwarf the mighty argument by asking
shallow questions about the relative degrees of inspiration. We cannot
discuss an inquiry which lies beyond the evidence at our command. Enough
it is to know that the Holy Ghost is Christ's gift to the whole believing
Church. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to
them that ask him!" So the whole idea of priestism is destroyed, and the
whole conception of arbitrary and despotic sovereignty goes down, and must
be branded as an unspeakable blasphemy. We are all kings and priests unto
God and the Father; we are all royal, chosen, elect, precious. This
conception alone fits the character of him who is symbolised by the
firmament, and who gives good things to the unthankful and to the evil, as
well as to the grateful and the good.

Here is God's conception of "an holy nation." A holy nation in the Divine view
is an obedient nation, a nation living in the spirit of obedience. Let the spirit
of obedience be right, and the letter of obedience will soon become right
also. First must come the spirit, then the literal obedience. So in all things.
Our Christian character in its integrity and massiveness is destroyed by our
foolish attention in the wrong place to detailed precepts and instances. It is
notably so in the matter of Christian liberality. There are but few who
understand the philosophy of joyous consecration in this department. What
is wanting? The total gift. If it were a question of detail as to whether this or
that sum should be given, or the whole appeal be shirked, then a series of
vexations would torment the conscience and the judgment. There is no such
law. We give the all, and therefore it becomes quite easy to give the little
particular. But until we have given the all we cannot give the other. It may
be extorted from our hands by a complaining conscience, but it is no
acceptable oblation on the altar of the Church. It is notably so in the matter
of time. How do we come to give one day in seven to Christ's worship? We
do so, when we do it at all properly, because we have first given all the
seven days. It is easy to give one in particular when we have consecrated
the whole. The one day is the wheat-sheaf taken up from the harvest of
time, and God says, receiving it, "You have given me all the days in giving
me this, the queenliest of the seven." This is the meaning of still being under
the law and not under grace, namely, that we are striving to do little things,
and separate laws, and keep particular commandments with which we have
no business, until the soul is adjusted by the meridian of the eternal
sovereignty, and the whole spirit goes out only anxious to obey.

Read the commandments in the light of this explanation, and how easy they
are. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The soul is amazed—as if
the conception of having any other God could have dawned upon such
glowing love. "Honour thy father and thy mother." The spirit springs up, and
says, "Nothing can be easier, more delightful, or in accord with my wish."
"Thou shalt not steal." The heart is, as it were, momentarily and subtly
affronted—as if such a commandment could be needed, where the sacrifice
of the body is so complete. Was the human obedience first pledged? So was
the Divine promise. The way of the Lord is equal. Did he who asked for the
obedience lay down the ground of his claim? He did, saying, "Ye have seen
what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and
brought you unto myself." First the history, then the obedience, then the
promise, then the detailed law; and the detailed law coming after the
promise becomes an easy burden, and a yoke so light as to be like a necklet
of jewels.

Exodus 19:1-25
The Commandments

Exodus 19-20

We cannot get rid of Sinai in human education. If we persuade ourselves by


some false reasoning that the things recorded in these chapters did not
literally happen, we are playing the fool with ourselves. God could only come
to us at the first by the letter. He touches us by infinite accommodations of
his own nature and by a gracious study of our own. This is the plague of the
imperfect reason, that it will quibble about the incident, the wrappage, and
decoration of things. It seems to be unable to penetrate to inmost thoughts,
essences, qualities, and meanings. Sinai is in every life. Let us part with as
much as we can of the merely external, and still there remains the fact that
in our lives are lightnings, and thunderings, and great trumpetings of power,
as well as solemn claims and urgent appeals to every quality and force in
our nature. Who has not been in stony places in the carrying out of his
education,—great, black, inhospitable localities, well called wildernesses;
wild and howling deserts; mountains of stone; embodiments of difficulty;
types of arduous discipline and inexorable demand? Why play the fool? Why
miss the wine of God's grace and wisdom by asking narrow or foolish
questions about the vessel which contains it, when within the whole mystery
of life there stands the barren mountain—the inhospitable sand stretches
mile on mile on every hand and nothing speaks to us in all the terrific scene
but law, claim, and obligation—the tremendous demand of an unyielding
creditor, who has come to arrest and imprison us until the uttermost farthing
be paid? Our spiritual experience makes the letter quite small. There are still
those who are asking questions about the local Sinai, the narrow and
comparatively trivial incident, and are missing all the poetry of the occasion,
not hearing the Divine and solemn voice, and not answering the sublime
demand for more perfect purification, completer refinement, and profounder
obedience. Why not start our inquiries from the other side?—What is this
voice of law? What is this standard of discipline which forces itself upon our
moral attention? What is this claim that is pressed upon us by every variety
of expression which follows us, now affrontingly, now pleading, according to
the moral phase which we exhibit towards it? Did we begin our inquiry at
that end, and so come along the line of revelation, Sinai, the local mountain,
and the desert, and all trumpetings, thunderings, lightnings, tempests, all
upheavals, and earthquakes, and terrible scenes, would fall into their right
proportion and relation, and the one sovereign thought would be,—Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do?

Instead of looking at the commandments one by one, and thus running the
risk of missing their whole meaning, let us look at the commandments in
their totality and call them One Commandment with many different phases,
and aspects, and bearings upon human life.

What is the teaching of that great law pronounced from heaven? Is there
any grace in it? Is there any touch of love? Is there any trembling of pathos?
Is it all hard iron? Is it all tremendous exaction, pitiless, tyrannous claim?
Have we always read the commandments aright? and have we been just to
their innermost meaning when we have characterised them as hard? I think
not. What do these commandments urge upon us?—A right view of God.
That is the first injunction. We are called to right theology—not of a formal
and technical, but of a moral and spiritual kind. The great movement of the
heart must first of all be Godward. We cannot work until the soul is brought
into the right mood and proper quality by a full perception of the sovereignty
and righteous claim and tender grace of God. We cannot break in upon the
commandments where we please, and obey the law in parts and parcels.
There is a temptation to think we can do so. We are sometimes tempted to
think that we can keep the eighth commandment, but not the fifth; the
fourth, but not the ninth; the tenth, but not the first, and so on. That is
impossible. To keep one commandment is to keep all; to offend in one
commandment is to break all. This may not seem to be so on the surface;
but a complete analysis of the occasion and circumstances will result in the
finding that the commandments are one law, complete, indivisible, only set
forth in points and aspects for the convenience of learners, and as an
accommodation to the infirmity or incompleteness of children. First of all,
then, we are called to a right view of God. We cannot move one step in a
right direction until something like this view has been realised. Every
succeeding commandment will be dumb to us, if we have not entered into
the mystery of the first. What is God to us? What are his claims upon us?
What is there in us that responds to his presence, and that, so to say,
reveals him before he comes with any obvious manifestation of his
personality upon us? Are we akin? Are we his children? Is there any sound in
the ear or the heart which, being interpreted, means,—"In the beginning
God made man in his own image and likeness"? That is our first study. We
shall be mere moralists if we begin at the second commandment. That is so-
called legalism and morality,—the pedantry which snaps off the
commandments from the great central stem and treats them as separate
particles, as isolated possibilities of virtue. We must come from the Divine
point, from the spiritual communion of the soul with God, and then the
commandments will come upon our souls as appeals to our power, and as
sweet necessities, not as arbitrary impositions and tyrannies.

What next have we in this consolidated commandment? Having a right view


of God, we have a right view, in the next place, of labour. God condescends
to take notice of our working ways, of our allotments and appointments of a
temporal kind. The voice of mercy is in this injunction regarding labour. In
effect, God says to us, "You must not always toil; your heads must not be
bent down in continual proneness to the earth; you may labour six days, but
the seventh part of your time should be devoted to spiritual communion, to
the culture of the upper and better nature, to the promotion of your higher
and nobler education." This is the gracious law; but, say, is this law without
tears? Is this commandment without grace? Is there no mercy here? Is there
not a subtle allusion to an earlier charter in which God made man to
commune with himself? If you are doomed to seven days' work, it is against
God's mind. If any have to work seven days for the mouthful of bread they
need, it is the doing of an enemy; it is not the claim of God. I ask you to
praise him for this defence of feeble human nature and this plea for a higher
human education. Do not fritter away the blessing by technical inquiry and
pedantic analysis of meaning. The sublime, infinite purpose is this: that man
is more than a labourer; he is a worshipper; he is a kinsman of God; he has
belongings in the sky. A religion that thus comes to me and takes me away
from my toil, and bids me rest awhile and think of the larger quantities, and
the more ample time, and the heavenly kingdoms, is a religion I cannot
afford to do without. It is a religion of grace; it is a religion which knows my
necessities, pities my infirmities, spares my wasting strength. The Sabbath,
in its spiritual aspect and meaning, is one of the strongest defences of the
inspiration of the Bible and the Divinity of the religion which it reveals. It is
man's day and God's day; more thoroughly man's day because completely
God's day. It is their united time,—time of fellowship, hour of communion,
opportunity for deeper reading, larger prayer, and Diviner consecration.

Having a right view of God and a right view of labour, we have also a right
view of physiology. The Bible takes care of man's body. Thou shalt not waste
it; thou shalt not poison it; thou shalt not degrade the inner nature by a
prostitution of the outer constitution. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." A
commandment which so speaks to us is associated with a religion that is no
merely spiritual phantasy. This is a practical monitor. It enters every room,
remains in the house night and day, tarries as a guest seven days a week,
goes out with us to the marketplace, takes care of our bodily ablution and
cleansing, and regards the sanctity of the body with a Divine care. Who are
they that tell us that the Bible religion is a superstition, an affair of fancy,
something having in it bright points here and there, and to be treated with
proportionate respect? The Bible searches us, tries us, and finds if there is
any wicked way in us, and is as careful about the body in its degree as about
the soul in its higher plane, because nobler quantity. No man ill-treats his
body with the permission of the Bible; no soul quenches its thirst at
forbidden wells with the sanction of the Book which we believe to be God's.
The Bible would keep society sweet, would watch over our life with ineffable
tenderness, would have us right in tone, wholesome, good at every point. A
book so graciously exacting, charged with so Divine a spirit of discipline, is a
book which will survive every assault made upon it, and return to the
confidence of man after many an act of apostacy and ingratitude on his part.

A right view of God, a right view of labour, a right view of physiology, and
then a right view of society. Not only is God interested in the individual man,
he is also interested in the social, imperial, national world—humanity. What
says he?—"Thou shalt not kill,"—however hot thy blood, thou shalt not kill;
however apparently just thine anger, restrain thyself, lift not the hand to
strike, have no weapon in thy fist,—"Thou shalt not kill." Woe betide society
when it holds human life lightly, when it regards human existence as a mere
trifle in an infinite aggregate of circumstances and events! Blessed be that
society which numbers the hairs of its children, in which a sparrow is not lost
without knowledge, and in which a gracious economy will gather up the
fragments that nothing be lost! This is Christian society which will not allow
one chair to be vacant. Seeing that vacant chair, Christian solicitude
becomes akin to Divine agony; a parental yearning makes the heart sore
because one little child is absent, one wanderer is not at home, one man is
missing.

"Thou shalt not steal." It is not enough to be less than a murderer, we must
be honest,—not superficially honest, not having hands merely untainted with
overt crime, and theft, and felony; but thoroughly honest, sweet in the soul,
really, superbly, almost Divinely honest in thought, in speech, in feeling, and
in all the relations of life. Where is there an honest man, except in the
common and superficial sense of a man who is not a thief? Honesty is not a
negative virtue; honesty is a positive excellence. It renders to every man his
due; it steals no man's reputation; it trifles with the property of no heart; it
is more anxious to give than to take away. "Thou shalt not covet." We are
becoming more spiritual still. "Thou shalt not kill,"—to that we assented
readily; "Thou shalt not steal,"—to that we also assented with large
concession; "Thou shalt not covet,"—who knows when he covets? We can
covet in secret; we can covet, and never speak about the covetousness.
Desire need not commit itself to audible terms. We can desire what another
man has and yet can look the embodiment of innocence. The law is now
becoming sharper, keener, more like a two-edged sword piercing to the
dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. We cannot keep company with
this law in its inner and deeper meanings without finding that its intention is
to divide us asunder, and search us, and try us, and never leave us until we
become like the Lawgiver himself. Can we wonder that Jesus Christ said he
had not come to destroy but to fulfil?—that is, to interpret the law and give
it its fullest and deepest meaning. When asked what the law was, he said,
'All the law is fulfilled in one word—love." But we read the commandments
and found no love in them,—because we misread every tone in the ancient
and solemn music. You could not have the commandment but for the love
which makes it law. Outwardly it looks iron-like, stern, rigorous, exacting,
pitiless; but within its heart is large as the heart of God.

Mark the elevation of the commandments,—of what god are they unworthy?
Their Divinity must have impressed us. Point out one weak word; lay the
critical finger upon one line that is wanting in intellectual dignity or in moral
splendour. By the nature of the laws themselves their inspiration may be
vindicated. A bold task it was for any mere poet or dreamer to attempt to
invent a commandment which would be worthy of God; but the task was
realised. Great opening lines have been expressed in the very finest terms,
in the most delicate and exquisite exactions and compulsions. Nowhere does
this Decalogue fray away into pointlessness, vagueness, intellectual
meanness, moral declension. From first to last the level is one, and the level
is worthy of God. To find fault with the commandments is to injure
ourselves; to trifle with the commandments is to jeopardise society. They
are not repeated formally in the New Testament, but they are fulfilled in that
holy covenant. We are now in Christ Jesus, if we are living up to Gospel
privileges and opportunities; and, being in him, we breathe the
commandments, rather than execute them as with arduous effort. They
become part of our very life; they belong to us as the fragrance belongs to
the odorous flower. They are no longer burdens grievous to be borne. We
love them because we have experienced their love. Away with moral
legerdemain! Away with the gymnastics which attempt to climb to heaven by
their own moral cleverness! We must go the right road, from God to man,
from the law to the neighbour, from the heavenly image to the social
obligation; and if the Church would, in the spirit of Christ, without one taint
of legalism or servility, keep the commandments, we should have a right
view of God, a right view of labour, a right view of the body, and a right
view of society. The life would be consolidated upon love and law, and lifting
itself up with infinite strength, would be crowned with beauty, and on the
top of the pillar would be lilywork; RIGHTEOUSNESS and GRACE would form
one noble, sublime, everlasting figure.

Note

"The promulgation of the law, including the construction of the tabernacle,


occupied nearly twelve months—from Whitsuntide to Whitsuntide—as we
should say. Throughout this period the people were encamped in the wide
plain at the foot of the 'Mount of God.' The whole region seems to be called
'Horeb'; the mount is called 'Sinai.' Travellers seem now disposed to identify
it with an isolated mountain which rises so abruptly from the great plain at
its foot, that its northern cliff might be said to be touched by one standing in
the plain. The northern peak is called Ras-Susâfeh; the southern, Jebel-
Mûsa. It rises to a height of 2,000 feet above the plain, and about 7,000
above the sea level."—Bible Educator.

"A spacious plain (Er Rahah) confronts a precipitous cliff 2,000 feet in
height, which forms the north-western boundary of that great mountain
block called Jebel-Mûsa, which tradition and the opinion of travellers and
authors of eminence alike point to as the mountain of the law. The plain is of
a level character—as flat as the palm (rahah) of the open hand. It is large
enough, if needs be, to encamp all the hosts of the Israelites. There are fully
400 acres of the plain proper, exactly facing the mount, with a wide lateral
valley, which extends right and left from the base of the cliffs. Besides this,
there is a considerable further open space extending northwestward from
the watershed or crest of the plain, but still in sight of the mount—the very
spot, it may be, to which the trembling Israelites 'removed and stood afar
off' when they feared to come nigh by reason of the cloud and thick
darkness."—Captain Palmer.

Exodus 3:1-12
Moses At Horeb

Exo_3:1

So ends the romance of the young hero! We have often seen brilliant
beginnings turn to cloudy endings. A man has come out very sensationally
for a day or two, and then has subsided into commonplace and obscurity.
But what would Moses have been had he pursued the line upon which he so
vigorously commenced? Suppose that from day to day he had gone abroad
smiting men, where would the story of his life have ended? It was but a poor
way, after all, of attacking the moral confusion of society. It is not much in
the way of reform and progress that any man can do with his mere fist. On
the whole, therefore, we are glad that a pause has come in the destructive
though chivalrous career of this young smiter. It was not amiss, perhaps, for
him to knock down one or two men, and to frighten away from the well a
number of cowardly shepherds; but as a life course it was morally shallow
and politically self-defeating. We must have something more fundamental
than we have yet seen, or Moses will be provoking reprisals which no
individual arm can resist. It is then not a subsidence into commonplace that
we find in this verse; it is going into the severest and most useful of
schools—the school of loneliness, meditation, self-measurement, and
fellowship with God. Fiery natures must be attempered by exile and
desertion. They must be taught that the end of merely manual or military
reform is unsatisfactory. Men can be held by the throat only so long as they
are unable to take revenge; but they may be held by the heart evermore. All
true reforms and all beneficent masteries are essentially moral. We must
exchange rough and romantic chivalry for the deep, calm, vital revelation
which emancipates and purifies the spiritual nature of mankind. This is no
anticlimax in the history of Moses! Moses has been looking upon the outside
of things; now he must be trained to estimate spiritual forces and values.

"And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame


of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and,
behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not
consumed" (Exo_3:2).

A beautiful conjunction of the natural and supernatural. A bush burned into a


sanctuary! Though the heavens cannot contain the Great One, yet he hides
himself under every flower, and makes the broken heart of man his chosen
dwelling-place. So great, yet so condescending; infinite in glory, yet infinite
in gentleness. Wherever we are, there are gates through nature into the
Divine. Every bush will teach the reverent student something of God. The
lilies are teachers, so are the stars, so are all things great and small in this
wondrous museum, the universe! In this case it was not the whole mountain
that burned with fire; such a spectacle we should have considered worthy of
the majesty of God; it was only the bush that burned: so condescendingly
does God accommodate himself to the weakness of man. The whole
mountain burning would have dismayed the lonely shepherd; he who might
have been overwhelmed by a blazing mountain was attracted by a burning
bush.

"And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this
great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the
Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto
him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses,
Moses. And he said, Here am I" (Exo_3:3-4).

Many a man has been led through the gate of curiosity into the sanctuary of
reverence. Moses purposed but to see a wonderful sight in nature, little
dreaming that he was standing as it were face to face with God. Blessed are
they who have an eye for the startling, the sublime, and the beautiful in
nature, for they shall see many sights which will fill them with glad
amazement. Every sight of God is a "great sight"; the sights become little to
us because we view them without feeling or holy expectation. It was when
the Lord saw that Moses turned aside to see that he called unto him and
mentioned him by name. This is indeed a great law. If men would turn aside
to see, God would surely speak to them. But we do not do this. We pass by
all the great sights of nature with comparative indifference, certainly, as a
general rule, without reverence. The sea wants to speak to us, but we listen
not to its sounding voice; the stars are calling to us, but we shut them out;
the seasons come round to tell their tale, but we are pre-occupied with
trifling engagements. We must bring so much with us if we would put
ourselves into healthful communion with nature: we must bring the seeing
eye, the hearing ear, and the understanding heart: we must, at all events,
be disposed to see and hear, and God will honour the disposition with more
than expected blessing.

"And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes
from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is
holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy
father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the
God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid
to look upon God" (Exo_3:5-6).

Curiosity must not become familiarity. The difference between the creature
and the Creator must always be infinite. Is not all ground holy? Is not God
everywhere? Certainly so; yet it hath pleased God to mark special lines and
special places as peculiarly holy. We are not to treat all places alike. Every
successful appeal to man's reverence redeems him from vulgarity. When a
man loses his sense of religious awe, he has exhausted the supreme
fountain of spiritual joy. He then measures everything by himself: he is to
himself as God, and from the point of self-idolatry he will speedily sink to the
point of self-despair. It is only the good man who can be satisfied from
himself, and this is only because goodness has its very root in God.

In what a tender manner God reveals himself to the lonely shepherd! He


does not say, I am the God of majesty, of eternity, whose habitation is
unapproachable, and whose power is infinite. He says, "I am the God of thy
father." Could any designation have been more tender? Was it not precisely
the best way to arrest the attention and conciliate the confidence of Moses?
"I am the God of thy father,"—the God of thy home, the God of thy fireside,
the God around whose name cluster the tenderest and purest associations of
life. Who can stoop so condescendingly as God? Again and again in this
conference with Moses, God declared himself to be the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is thus the God of generations, the
God of individuals, and also the God of the whole human family. There is
something inexpressibly beautiful in the idea that God is the God of the
father, and of the son, and of all their descendants; thus the one God makes
humanity into one family; we live in different zones, and acknowledge the
sovereignty of different political kings, yet all nations are one, in so far as
they worship and serve the same living God.

"Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel


is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression
wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now
therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou
mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out
of Egypt" (Exo_3:9-10).

In the eighth verse God says, "I am come down to deliver them out of the
hand of the Egyptians," and in the tenth verse he says, "I will send thee
unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people." Is there not a
discrepancy here? If God himself came down to do a work, why did he not
go and do it personally? One word from him would surely have done more
for the cause which he had espoused than all the words which the most
gifted of his creatures could have used. Looking at this episode as standing
entirely alone, it does undoubtedly appear most remarkable that God did not
personally execute what he had personally conceived. The thinking was his,
so was the love; all the spiritual side of the case belonged exclusively to
God; yet he calls a shepherd, a lonely and unfriended man, to work out with
painful elaboration, and through a series of most bewildering and
discouraging disappointments, the purpose which it seems he himself might
have accomplished by a word. We find, however, that the instance is by no
means an isolated one. Throughout the whole scheme of the Divine
government of the human family, we find the principle of mediation. God
speaks to man through man: he did so throughout the history of the Old
Testament, and he does so to-day in the gospel of his Son. Undoubtedly this
is most mysterious. To our imperfect understanding, it would seem that the
direct personal revelation of his presence and glory would instantly secure
the results which are so desirable, and yet so doubtful. It is here that Faith
must lead, because Reason cannot see the advantages which—to ourselves
as men, when employed as ministers of God to each other, to our
intellectual progress, and to our moral nature—are obvious and inestimable.
God educates and glorifies us by making us his servants. We learn the
highest wisdom and the highest music by repronouncing the words which we
have received from the lips of God. Moreover, this principle of individual
selection in the matter of all great ministries is in keeping with the principle
which embodies in a single germ the greatest forests. It is enough that God
gives the one acorn; man must plant it and develop its productiveness. It is
enough that God gives the one idea; man must receive it into the good soil
of his love and hope, and encourage it to tell all the mystery of its purpose.
So God calls to himself, in holy solitude, one man, and puts into the heart of
that man his own gracious purpose, and commissions him to expound this
purpose to his fellow-men. God never works from the many to the one; he
works from one to the many.

"And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go


unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children
of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exo_3:11).

No wonder that he so inquired. The message seemed to be so much greater


than the messenger. Moses herein disclosed the right spirit in which the
communications of Heaven are to be received. It is under such
circumstances that weakness is strength. When a man can set himself in
imagination upon an equality with God, and receive the messages of God as
if they were but common words, he is no longer fit to be a minister of light
and hope to nations groaning in sorrow, and perishing under oppression. If
Moses had not seen the greatness of the proposed ministry, he would not
have felt his own inability to discharge it. The idea was too much for him.
The proposition blinded him like a sudden and intolerable light Men are the
better for this humiliation of their self-esteem. Moses was fully equal to the
humble duty which he had undertaken under Jethro his father-in-law, but to
go forth as the emancipator of an oppressed nation seemed to overweigh
and mock his powers. He works best who magnifies his office. Preachers,
teachers, emancipators, and all ministers of good, should see their work to
be infinitely greater than themselves, if they would work at the highest point
of energy. Let a man suppose his work to be easy, to be beneath him, to be
unworthy of his talents, and he will work flippantly, without taxing his
strength or making any drain upon the life of his heart. He will not be a
worker; at best he will be but a fussy idler in the great field overgrown with
the weeds and tares sown by the power of evil.

"And he said, Certainly I will be with thee" (Exo_3:12).

God thus puts himself apparently into a secondary position. Moses is to


stand at the front, and, so far as publicity is concerned, to incur the whole
responsibility of the proposed movement It was easy for Moses to say that
he was prompted of God to make certain representations to Israel and
Pharaoh, but how were they to be convinced that Moses was servant and not
master? This is the difficulty of all the highest service of life, namely, that
the spiritual is invisible, and yet omnipotent; public attention is fixed upon
the human agent, and professions of spiritual inspiration and impulse are
treated with distrust, if not with contempt, by the most of mankind. It is the
invisible Christ who is with the Church. Were he present manifestly, it is
supposed that greater results would accrue from Christian service; but the
supposition must be mistaken, inasmuch as he to whom such service is
infinitely dearer than it ever can be to ourselves has determined the manner
of Christian evangelisation. What, then, is the great duty and privilege of the
Church? It is to realise the presence and influence of the Invisible. The
Church is actually to see the Unseen. There is another vision beside the
vision of the body; faith itself is sight; and where faith is complete, there is a
consciousness of God's presence throughout our life and service which
amounts to a distinct vision of God's personal presence and government.

This incident has brought very closely before me the mystery of what may
be termed the Spirit of Destiny. Moses has been, as it were, audibly and
visibly called to service and invested with authority. A keen pleasure would
seem to attach to experiences of that kind. Surely it was a blessed thing to
speak face to face with God, and to go straight away from the communing to
do the work which had been prescribed. The directness of the interview, the
absence of all second causes and instrumentalities has about it a solemnity
which profoundly affects the heart. But is my destiny less Divine because it
has been revealed to me under conditions which seem to separate widely
between the Creator and the creature? Has God only one method of working
in revealing to a man what that man's work in life is intended to be? We do
not always see the fountain; sometimes we have to be content to drink at
the stream. The danger is lest we imagine the stream created itself,
forgetting in our irreligion and folly that the stream is impossible apart from
the fountain. A man is sometimes awakened to his destiny by his fellow-
men. In other cases a man's destiny seems to be determined by what he
calls his circumstances or his environment. But why this wide and circuitous
way of putting the case to the mind? We do not depose God by mistaking
the origin of our action; we do but show the poorness of our own judgment,
or the want of justice which impoverishes our lives of their best qualities.
Every man should put to himself the question—What is my destiny? What
does God mean me to be and to do in the world? This inquiry should shape
itself into a tender and continual prayer which will not cease its intercession
until a gracious answer gives assurance to the heart that the will of Heaven
has been made clear. It is a most pitiful thing that a man should read of
Moses being Divinely called to certain service, and forget that he himself is
also a subject of the Divine government. If God called any one man to
special work, we are entitled to reason upon the basis of that fact that God
has a special work for every man to do. It is in our power to turn such
miracles into gracious commonplaces by seeking for their repetition in our
own lives. It is impossible that God has called us into existence without
having some purpose for us to work at within the limit of time. To be here at
all is to be in possession of a destiny. It is, indeed, an awful power with
which we are endowed, that we can shut our eyes to destiny which is
beckoning us to duty, and can, indeed, so pervert and misinterpret
circumstances as to press them into a justification of self-will and apostasy.
To know that my life may be called to a unique vocation excites me with
very tender and anxious emotion. What if I have mistaken the Divine will?
What if I am pursuing the wrong road? What if I have been judging by
appearances and neglecting the teaching of reality? Has self-interest
determined my action? Has self-indulgence wrought its unholy spell upon my
energies and affections? Have I been earnestly listening to hear the voice
which teaches men the way of duty and the path of sacrifice? Spirit of the
Living God, reveal my destiny to me, though it mean pain and loss, continual
discipline of fear, or the blessed experience of daily joy. If I may but know
thy purpose, such knowledge shall itself be inspiration and defence.
Exodus 3:1-6

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exo_3:1-6

MAN IN RELATION TO MYSTERY

I. That sometimes men meet with mystery in the pursuit of their


daily calling. “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro.” Very often, in the
pursuit of daily work are good and heroic men—who are in the path of
Providence—called upon to witness great sights, such as are not permitted
to weak, restless, and unthinking souls. The daily avocation of a good man
may lead into mystery—or break into heavenly vision at any point—which
shall conduct him into a higher sphere of toil. The calling may be humble, it
may not be that of preacher—student—philanthropist, but simply that of
shepherd; yet, if prosecuted in quietude—in prayerful spirit—with an outlook
toward God—it is not far from the mystery of the burning bush. God always
rewards diligent and faithful men—gives them great sights—of truth—of
hope—calls them to a higher service—renders them conscious of a Divine
companionship—holds converse with them.

1. This vision was unexpected. There was nothing to indicate its


advent—the desert was silent—unbroken by the sound of heavenly
messenger—the bush casually attracted the attention of Moses. As a
rule, the Divine Being does not warn men of vision and mystery—else
they would make unusual preparation to welcome it. The design of
mystery is to test—appeal—to the normal condition of our manhood,
hence the need of always having our moral nature in the calm, quiet
exercise of its power, ever ready for communion with the spirit-world.

2. This vision was educational. It taught Moses the solemnity of life—


the crisis of his nation’s suffering—the solution of his own past
history—the destiny of his prior training—in the palace and in the
desert—it gave him a glimpze into his great future—it showed him that
his life was deeply allied to that of his brethren—to the divine
administration of Heaven. The symbolism of the vision was most
impressive—it would awe his soul—he was in personal contact with
God which is always educational to man. He is made conscious of a
Divine commission to his future work—this a source of strength—
comfort—inspiration to him. This communion with the mystery of the
burning bush was most important—gave a new impetus to his being—
awakened new thoughts—emotions—prayers—which never died away
from the great temple of his soul. The vision was educational to him in
the very truest sense of the word.

II. That sometimes mystery is associated with things of a very


ordinary character. “Out of the midst of a bush.” Here it is associated with
a bush of the desert. The flame did not descend and rush along the great
mountains, near the lonely shepherd, lighting up the desert with a grandeur
altogether magnificent: this might have been more tragic—more wild—
imposing—but it would not have been so divinely educational as this
unconsumed bush—Moses would have been startled—would have fled—the
turbulent energies of his soul would have been awakened. Whereas this
vision was calm—it made him peaceful—it was full of the heavenly—it
elevated his spirit to sublimity—it was progressive—the bush burning—then
the voice directing him how to approach—and lastly the revelation of its
indwelling Divinity. Thus, the instruction in this case would be more
gradual—effective. God knows the best methods of communication with
human souls. And so it is now. The smallest—the most trivial—the
apparently-unmeaning—things—events of life—are full of mystery—contain a
heavenly presence—a divine voice—will teach a reflective spirit—will become
an impulse to a higher life—avocation. The bushes of life are full of mystery.
The world is a great secret—is vocal with messages of freedom to listening
souls.

III. That mystery should be investigated with the utmost devotion


of soul. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet.”

1. There must be devotion in opposition to levity.

2. There must be devotion in opposition to curiosity. Why this


devotion:—

(1) Because mystery is holy. It is holy ground—the Divine indwelling in


the bush consecrates it—it leads to moral elevation—must therefore
command reverence.

(2.) Because mystery is authoritative. It commands us to take off our


shoes. Its authority is Divine—will be recognised by true manhood.

IV. That sometimes good men are favoured with a grand


unfolding of mystery. “I am the God.” &c.
1. God observes the conduct of men in relation to mystery. “And the
Lord saw that he turned aside to see.” What a subduing—inspiring
thought—that God knows all the efforts of our souls in their
investigation of mystery.

2. God speaks to men who are anxious to investigate mystery. “God


called to him out of the midst of the bush.” God speaks—allows us to
investigate. It would have been a poor modesty on the part of Moses
had he not tried to understand the meaning of the sight before him—
so we may look into mystery—and the longer we gaze—the more we
shall see and hear of it—Heaven will direct our thinkings and inquiries.
Mystery has a definite bearing upon individual life. “Moses.”

3. God reveals Himself as the great solution of all mystery. “I am the


God of thy fathers.” God is the explanation of all mystery. He teaches
listening—humble—devout souls the secrets of life’s burning bushes.

THE BURNING BUSH UNCONSUMED

I. Make some remarks on the Burning Bush, by way of


Illustration. A Shepherd’s life friendly to contemplation. Why this
appearance?—To give Moses the most sublime conception of the glory and
majesty of the Supreme Being, and to fit him for his future mission. Nothing
could be more conducive to this, than the fire in the bush. Among the
Hebrews, and ancient nations, fire was considered a very significant emblem
of Deity—in this instance it would represent the majesty—purity—power of
God—it would show that He was going to bring terror—destruction upon His
enemies, and light—comfort—salvation to His people. The burning bush an
emblem:—

1. Of the state of the Israelites in their distress. Consider their trials—


persecutions—severe—likely to consume them—yet Israel was not
diminished—the burning bush a fit emblem of them.

2. Of the state of the Church in the wilderness of the world—by the


Church we mean all true Christians, independent of sect This world a
wilderness—nothing in it to suit the taste of a spiritual mind—the
Church must pass through the wilderness to reach Canaan—has many
enemies. It has passed through the fires of persecution—has never
been consumed in numbers—or piety.
3. Of the state of every true Christian. What is true of the Church is
true of the individual—trials not so general—tempted by the powers of
darkness—fire of affliction—yet is unconsumed.

II. Consider why the bush was not consumed! The reason obvious
Jehovah was in the midst of it. This true in the emblematical signification of
the bush:—

1. Jehovah was present with Israel.

2. With the Church in all ages.

3. With Christian life in all its grief. Learn:—

1. Religion does not exempt from suffering.

2. The certainty of Divine protection in trial [Lay Preacher].

MOSES AND THE BURNING BUSH; A PICTURE OF A TRUE STUDENT AND THE
BIBLE

The circumstances connected with this incident suggest four general


facts.

1. That God’s purposes are punctual in their accomplishment. God


declared to Abraham that his seed should go into a strange land—that
they should be slaves there—and come out with great substance. The
clock of time had now struck the 400 years, and God began to redeem
His pledge.

2. That God’s purposes, in relation to our world, are generally


accomplished by the agency of man. The Almighty could have
emancipated the Jews by His own immediate volition, or he might
have selected other instrumentality than human; but He elected man
for the work. This is God’s plan of raising humanity—wise—loving.

3. That the men whom God employs for the carrying out of His
purposes, He qualifies by a special revelation. The work to which
Moses was now called required dauntless heroism—self-sacrifice—
power—he was to confront Egypt’s proud king. Whence was he to
derive the power? This power of the human mind depends upon the
thoughts and ideas it receives from the Divine, as the vitality and
power of the branch depends upon its connection with the root: all
moral mind is powerless without ideas from God. Hence this special
Revelation

4. That this special revelation, which he vouchsafes, is frequently


symbolical in its character. Frequently made thus to the Jews. All
nature is a symbol. Truth in symbol is palpable—attractive—
impressive. It symbolised God’s presence. Observe the Student:—

I. Directing His earnest attention to the Divine Revelation. “And


Moses said I will turn aside,” &c.,

1. Moses directs his attention to it, under an impression of its


greatness. A marvellous object—a bush burning, away from the
habitation of men—bursting into flame at once—ignited by no visible
hand—unconsumed. This is but a faint shadow of the marvellousness
of the Bible—the fact of its existence—its contents.

2. Moses directs his attention to it in order to ascertain its import.


“Why the bush is not burnt.” So the student of the Bible must not be
satisfied with a mere acquaintance with the forms and circumstances
of the Bible, he will enquire into their import.

II. Holding intercourse with God through the Divine Revelation.


“God called to him.” &c.

1. God’s communications depended upon his attention. The Bible is the


great organ of Divine intercourse; but it is the devout student only
who looks and inquires—that hears in it the voice of God. God’s
communications were consciously personal to him. “Moses.” There are
few in these days who hear the voice of God to them in the Bible,

3. God’s communications were directive and elevating. “Draw not


high.”

III. Realising the profoundest impressions through the Divine


Revelation. “And Moses hid his face.”

1. These impressions are peculiarly becoming in sinful intelligencies.

2. These impressions are necessary to qualify men for God’s work.

3. These impressions are consonant with the highest dignity and


enjoyment [Homilist].
THE ANGEL IN THE BURNING BUSH

Here we see:—

I. An old man called to go out on the great errand of his life. The
education of Moses lasted 80 years. Egypt—Midian. When the brightness of
his life was gone, and the hopes of his youth were dead; when his fiery spirit
was tamed into patience, and his turbulent passion stilled into repose, at last
he came out of school. Man in haste—God never; the former looks to
results—the latter to preparations.

II. The Burning Bush from which that call was sounded.

1. It was a sign to indicate the peculiar presence of God.

2. God’s people.

III. The angel who uttered this call.

IV. The covenant under which the angel gave him his commission.

V. The angel’s name. “I am that I am.” He asserts His seal existence—


His underived existence—His independent existence—His eternity—
unchangeableness—ineffability.

VI. The effect to be wrought by the remembrance of His name.

1. Profoundest reverence.

2. It reveals the infinite sufficiency of a Christian’s portion.

3. It gives encouragement to evangelical enterprise [Symbols of


Christ].

I. The employment in which Moses was engaged. “Kept the flock.”

II. The sight which he witnessed. “And the Angel of the Lord.”

III. The resolution he made. “I will now turn aside.”

IV. The prohibition he received. “Draw not nigh,” &c.

V. The announcement he heard. “I am the God of thy father”


[Expository Outlines].
I. The Learned Shepherd.

1. Humility.

2. Patience.

3. Fidelity.

II. The Great Sight.

1. Where.

2. When.

3. Wherefore it appeared.

III. The Present God:—

1. With them is trouble.

2. Sustains them is trouble.

3. A source of Instruction [Class and the Desk].

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Exo_3:1. Moses:—A faithful Song of Solomon

2. A diligent worker.

3. A true worshipper.

Solitude:—

1. Needful for toil.

2. Useful for moral preparation.

3. Favourable for heavenly visions.

The desert:—

1. The sheepfold of a Priest.

2. The School of Providence.


3. The Temple of the Eternal.

It is not a subsidence into commonplace that we find in this verse; it is


going into the severest and most useful of schools—the school of lowliness,
meditation, self-measurement, and fellowship with God. Fiery natures must
be attempered by exile and desertion.… We must exchange rough and
romantic chivalry for the deep, calm, vital revelation which emancipates and
purges the spiritual nature of mankind [City Temple].

God’s determination to deliver His Church and people is soon followed by


the execution thereof.

God’s instruments of deliverance are not altogether laid aside, although


they are long in preparation.

It is God’s use to take shepherds of flocks to make them shepherds of


men.

God’s great instruments may be servant-shepherds, not masters of their


own flock.

Church deliverers, God orders to be nurtured, sometimes under priests,


amongst strangers.

The Divine Being leads good men to places the most favourable to
heavenly visions.

Shepherds seeking pasture for their flock, may find better for themselves.

Places are rightly called by God’s name, wheresoever He appears.

Deserts are sometimes ordered for saints to meet God in.

Those who descend from riches to poverty, from the palace to the desert,
should be patient in their temper and toil.

“Came to the mountain of God.” It was here:—

1. That God appeared to Moses in the bush.

2. That He manifested His glory at the delivery of the Law.

That Moses brought water out of the rock.


4. That, by lifting up his hands, he made Joshua to prevail against
Amelek.

5. That he fasted twice forty days and forty nights.

6. That from thence he brought the tables of the Law.

7. That Elijah was vouchsafed a glorious vision.

“Even to Horeb.” We know not the precise place. Tradition, reaching back
to the sixth century of the Christian era, fixes it in the same deep seclusion
as that to which, in all probability, he (Moses) afterwards led the Israelites.
The convent of Justinian is built over what was supposed to be the exact
spot where the shepherd was bid to draw his sandals from off his feet. The
valley in which the convent stands is called by the Arabian name of Jethro.
But, whether this or the other great centre of the peninsula, Mount Serbal,
be regarded as the scene of the event, the appropriateness would be almost
equal. Each has at different times been regarded as the sanctuary of the
desert. Each presents that singular majesty which, as Joseph us tells us, and
as the sacred narrative implies, had already invested “the Mountain of God”
with an awful reverence in the eyes of the Arabian tribes, as though a Divine
Presence rested on its solemn heights. Around each, on the rocky ledges of
the hill-side, or in the retired basins, withdrawn within the deep recesses of
the adjoining mountains, or beside the springs which water the adjacent
valleys, would be found pasture or herbage, or of aromatic shrubs for the
flocks of Jethro. On each, in that early age, though now found only on Mount
Serbal, must have grown the wild acacia, the shaggy thornbush of the
Seneh, the most characteristic tree of the whole range. So natural, so
thoroughly in accordance with the scene, were the signs in which the call of
Moses made itself heard and seen; not in any outward form, human or
celestial, such as the priests of Heliopolis were wont to figure to themselves
as the representatives of Deity; but out of the midst of the spreading thorn,
the outgrowth of the desert wastes, did “the Lord appear unto Moses” [The
Jewish Church, by Dean Stanley].

Exo_3:2. The burning bush:—

1. As an emblem it instructs.

2. As a miracle it astonishes.

3. As a magnet it attracts.
4. As a monitor it warns. When a workman is busily engaged in his
work, we say he is in the midst of it. For the same reasons, God,
whose workmanship the Church is, is said to be in the midst of the
Church.

A beautiful conjunction of the natural and the supernatural. A bush turned


into a sanctuary. Though the heavens cannot contain the Great One, yet he
hides Himself under every flower, and makes the broken heart of man his
chosen dwelling-place. Wherever we are, there are gates through nature into
the divine. Every bush will teach the reverent student something of God. The
lilies are teachers, so are the stars, so are all things great and little in this
wondrous museum, the universe [City Temple].

The burning bush gave light in the wilderness, and so ought the Church to
do in the world.

This “Angel of the Lord” is afterwards called Jehovah and God (ch.
Exo_4:6). The shekinah, or luminous glory, was not only Jehovah Himself,
but was the Angel-Jehovah. The very word “Angel,” signifies messenger, or
one sent; and though it generally designates a personal being, yet as a term
of office it may be applied to any medium by which God makes
communications to man. This Angel was—

1. Eternal.

2. Omnipotent.

3. Self-existent.

4. Commanded the moral activities of men.

This Angel in the bush a prophecy of the Saviour’s incarnation.

After long-expected deliverances, God appears at length to help.

God sometimes mercifully appears to men, and comes to their


deliverance, as in a flame of fire.

God’s sweet appearances are usually in desert conditions.… God’s visions


of old have had real demonstrations by eye-witnesses.

God’s bush habitation is in order to show good will unto His Church.
God can interdict the power of fire to consume (Daniel 3.)

God works miracles upon lower creatures, in order to show the Church
His power.

The preserving and sustaining influence of true religion.

Exo_3:3. Many a man has been led through the pale of curiosity into the
sanctuary of reverence. Moses purposed but to see a wonderful sight in
nature, little dreaming that he was standing, as it were, face to face with
God. Blessed are they who have an eye for the startling, the sublime, and
the beautiful in nature, for they shall see many sights which shall fill them
with glad amazement. Every sight of God is a “great sight;” the sights
become little to us because we view them without feeling, or holy
expectation [City Temple].

St. Austin, who came to Ambrose to have his ears tickled, had his heart
touched. It is good to hear, howsoever. Come, said Latimer, to the public
meeting, though thou comest to sleep; it may be, God will take thee
napping. Absence is without hope. What a deal lost Thomas by being but
once absent [Trapp].

A great sight:—

1. Occasioned by a Divine agency.

2. Illumined by a Divine Presence.

3. Given for a Divine purpose.

Great sights:—

1. Desired by the world.

2. Sought by the pleasure-seeker.

3. Found only by the Christian.

4. The inspiration of a good life.

The moral preparation, and condition necessary for the beholding of


heavenly visions—

1. We must turn aside from the gaiety of the world.


2. From the futility of merely human reasonings.

3. From the commission of moral evil in daily life.

4. From following the instruction of incompetent teachers.

5. They are largely dependent upon our personal willingness of soul.…


God speaks to all man who reverently turn aside to hear Him.

Unusual apparitions of God may well put the best men upon self-
reasoning.

Observing hearts are inclined more to turn into the inquiry of God’s
discoveries than from them.

All revelations from God should be carefully looked into.

Exo_3:4. God sees our first desire to investigate the truth, and our
earliest effort towards a religious life.

God calls truth-seekers by name—“Moses,”—Nathaniel.

1. To indicate His delight in them.

2. His favour toward them.

3. His hope of them.

4. To prepare them for further revelations.

The name of a good man vocal on the lips of God—

1. An honour.

2. A destiny.

3. A prophecy.

4. A vocation.

The truth-seeker’s response:—

1. His personality.

2. His place.
3. His willingness. We should always respond to the calls of heaven.

The soul’s turning aside to see often leads to visions of God.

1. In His Book.

2. In His works.

3. In His Providences.

4. In His Church and sanctuary.

Such visions:—

1. Obtained by prayer.

2. Refreshing to the soul.

3. Strengthening to manhood.

4. Related to human suffering.

God looks to them who turn into His discoveries, with a purpose to show
them more.

God gives to His servants not only a vision, but a voice for them to know
His mind.

God doubly calleth where he doubly loveth, and stirreth into double duty.

Those who are truly called by God, ought to be willing to offer themselves
either to do, or suffer His pleasure.

Exo_3:5. All places are holy, but some are especially so:—

1. Because they are hallowed by the supreme residence of God.

2. By happy memories.

3. By holy friendships.

4. By moral conquest.

There must be an occasional pause in the investigation of truth, and in


the devotion of our religious life.
Curiosity must not merge into familiarity.

Put off thy shoes of sensuality, and other sins. Affections are the feet of
the soul; keep them unclogged [Trapp].

The putting off the sandals is a very ancient practice in worship;


Pythagoras enjoins it. The rabbis say that the priests perform their service
with bare feet, in token of purity and reverence. Among the Greeks, no
person was admitted to the Temple of Diana, in Crete, with shoes on. All
Mohammedans, Brahmins, and Parsees worship barefooted to the present
day [Dr. Nevin].

May we all learn to tread Jehovah’s court with unshod feet.

We must come to God; we must not come too near Him. When we
meditate on the great mysteries of His word, we come to Him; we come too
near Him when we search into His counsels. The sun and the fire say of
themselves, “Come not too near;” how much more the light which none can
attain to. We have all our limits set us. The Gentiles might come into some
outer courts, not into the innermost; the Jews might come into the inner
court, not into the temple; the priests and Levites into the temple, not into
the holy of holies; Moses to the hill, not to the bush. The waves of the sea
had not more need of bounds than man’s presumption. Moses must not
come close to the bush at all; and where he may stand, he may not stand
with his shoes on [Bishop Hall].

The access of honest hearts to the place of God’s appearance may be


rash.

Such hasty and unadvised access God forbids unto His servants.

Due preparation must be made by those who wish access to God.

Exo_3:6. The Divine Being here reveals Himself as:—

1. The God of individual men.

2. The God of Families.

3. The God of the immortal good.


There is something inexpressibly beautiful in the idea that God is the God
of the father, and of the son, and of all their descendants; thus the one God
makes humanity into one family [City Temple].

God does not say, “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but “I
am.” The Patriarchs still live so many years after their dissolution. No length
of time can separate the souls of the just from their Maker [Henry and
Scott].

Let a man but see God, and his plumes will soon fall [Trapp].

God’s gracious discoveries may prove terrible to those who are not
acquainted with them.

Consciousness of self-guilt is enough to make creatures hide from God.


Like instances:—1Ki_19:13, Isa_6:2.

Men fear to look upon God:—

1. Because of the greatness of His Majesty.

2. Because of the awfulness of His revelations.

3. Because He is the Arbiter of their destinies.

ILLUSTRATIONS

Exo_3:1. No vessels that God delights so much to fill as broken vessels,


contrite spirits. “He resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
Jas_4:6. The silver dews flow down from the mountains to the lowest
valleys. A humble soul that lies low, oh, what sights of God has he! what
glories does he behold, when the proud soul sees nothing. He that is in the
low pits and caves of the earth sees the stars of the firmament, when they
who are upon the tops of the mountains discern them not [T. Brooks].

Exo_3:2. The Church has been subject to much persecution. The first was
under the Emperor Nero, thirty-one years after our Lord’s ascension.
Multitudes were apprehended; they were covered by the skins of wild
beasts, torn to pieces by devouring dogs; fastened to crosses, wrapt up in
combustible garments, that, when the daylight failed, they might, like
torches, serve to dispel the gloom of night. For this tragical scene Nero lent
his own gardens; and thus the shrieks of women burning to ashes supplied
music and diversion for their circus. The second was under Domitian, in the
year 95, and forty thousand are supposed to have perished. The third began
in the third year of Trajan in the year 100. The fourth under Antonius. The
fifth began in the year 127, under Severus, when great cruelties were
committed. The sixth began in the reign of Maximus, in 235–7. The seventh,
which was the most dreadful ever known, began in 250, under the Emperor
Decius. The eighth began in 257, under Valerian. The ninth was under
Aurelian in 274. The tenth began in the nineteenth year of Diocletian, in
303. In this dreadful persecution, which lasted ten years, houses filled with
Christians were set on fire, and whole droves were twisted together with
ropes and cast into the sea. It is related that seventeen thousand were slain
in one month, In this fiery persecution it is believed that not fewer than one
hundred and forty-four thousand Christians died by violence, besides seven
hundred thousand that died through the banishments, or the public works to
which they were condemned [Beaumont].

Persecutions are beneficial to the righteous. They are a hail of precious


stones, which, it is true rob the vine of her leaves, but give her possessor a
more precious treasure instead [Aron].

The Church has sometimes been brought to so low and obscure a point
that, if you will follow her in history, it is by the track of her blood; and, if
you would see her, it is by the light of those fires in which her martyrs have
been burnt. Yet hath she still come through, and survived all that wrath, and
still shall till she be made perfectly triumphant [Leighton].

A Roman Catholic king, who was bitter in his opposition to the Protestant
cause, had been speaking of its downfall, and how it would be brought about
A celebrated Protestant replied, “Sire, it assuredly behoves the Church of
God, in whose name I speak, to endure blows and not to strike them; but
may it please you also to remember that it is an anvil that has worn out
many hammers.”

As the flowers of water betony, with the leaves and sprigs, though they
die often, and yearly; yet the root is aye-lasting from which they come and
to which they belong: so though discipline and the outward beauty of the
Church change and often die, yet the Church is aye-lasting and of all
continuance.

Like as when trees are hewn down, much more imps (offshoots) do
spring up than the boughs wore that were cut off; so now, after the
slaughter of many godly men, more did run into the Gospel, and that day by
day, than ever did; yea, and the blood of the slain bodies was a certain
watering of the now plants springing up in the Church; so that a martyr in
suffering doth not suffer for himself alone, but also for every man. For
himself, he suffereth to be crowned; for all men he suffereth, to give them
an example; for himself to his rest; for every man to his welfare.

As the fiery bush that Moses saw in the Mount Horeb, which bush, for all
that it was on a flaming fire, yet did it not consume; or as the shining worm,
that being cast into the fire, doth not perish nor consume, but contrariwise,
is thereby purged of filth and more beautiful than if it were washed with all
the waters of the world; even so such Christians as are cast into the fire of
affliction are not consumed, but purged, tried, and purified.

“Far seen across the sandy wild,

Where, like a solitary child,

He thoughtless roam’d and free,

One towering thorn was wrapt in flame—

Bright without blaze it went and came,

Who would not turn and see?” [Keble].

Exo_3:3-5. It is recorded of one Sir William Champney, in the reign of


King Henry III., that, living in Tower-street, London, he was the first man
that ever builded a turret on the top of his house, that he might the better
overlook all his neighbours: but it so happened that not long after, he was
struck blind, so that he who would see more than others, saw just nothing at
all. A sad judgment! And thus it is just with God, when men of towering,
high thoughts must needs be prying into those arcana Dei (the hidden
secrets of God), that they should be struck blind on the place, and come
tumbling down in the midst of their so serious inquiry. At the ascension of
Christ, it is said that he was taken up in a cloud; being entered into His
presence chamber, a curtain, as it were, was drawn to hinder His disciples
gazing and our further peeping; yet, for all that, a man may be pius
pulsator, though not temerarius scrutator—he may modestly knock at the
door of God’s secrets, but, if he enter further, he may assure himself to be
more bold than welcome.
Exodus 19:1-6

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Exo_19:1. The Wilderness of Sinai.]—Sinai is the “proper name of the


granite mountain in the Arabian Veninsula, rendered famous by the Mosaic
legislation. It consists of three large summits, of which the north-eastern is
called Horeb, the south-western that of St. Catherine. ‘The Wilderness of
Sinai’ is the wilderness about Sinai, and particularly the plain of Sebayeh,
south of Gibel Mûsa.” (Fürst.)—

Exo_19:3. Thus shalt thou say.]—There is something peculiarly


beautiful in this message to Israel. (a) Its poetical form strikes the ear as
well as the eye if printed, as it ought to be, in parallel lines. (b) The
graciousness of its tenor goes straight to the heart: “Ye have seen what I did
… now therefore.” Benefits already bestowed are urged as a motive to
consecration. (c) Its position at the commencement of the Divine
announcement is an introductory proposal to Israel, eliciting Israel’s first
response—being, as we may term it, “the first time of asking,” prior to the
ratification of the covenant (ch. Exo_24:3; Exo_24:7). (d) Its lofty aim,
namely, that of securing a holy, obedient “people,” and consecrating them
as “a kingdom of priests” on behalf of all the earth, for which Jehovah thus
shows His care. Note especially, how much light is here thrown upon the
meaning of the Hebrew berith in its loftiest application, as truly signifying
COVENANT; and, further, the grace of Jehovah, in that, even here, where He
appears in terror as Lawgiver, He makes way for His sovereignty by the
most exquisite tenderness and love.

Exo_19:5. Peculiar treasure. “Heb., çeghullah = property, possessim,


i.e., that which one embraces, encloses. (Fürst.) The Sept. has periousios =
“abundant, opulent; peculiar, eminent.” The language is that of one who has
many valuables, but brings out one as his special delight. For all the earth
is mine.]—The point of this clause is apt to be lost, until, with the proper
emphasis laid on the pronoun “mine,” the contrast is carried forward by the
adversative conjunction “but,” which in this case is required.

“For MINE is all the earth;

But YE shall become mine as a kingdom of priests,” &c.


The specialty of pure Hebraism and the narrowness of Pharisaic Judaism are
utterly opposed to each other. Jehovah’s care for all nations is ever and
anon gleaming out in the Hebrew Scriptures. Even here in Israel’s betrothal
it is not forgotten.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exo_19:1-6

GOD’S PROMISE TO THE JEWS

I. The recital of His works. The works recited are these:—What He did
to the Egyptians for the sake of Israel, His people; how He bore His Church
on eagles’ wings; how He bought His people to Himself. Every Christian can
understand this: I defy any one else to do it. There is a spiritual import in all
these expressions which none but the converted can understand. The child
of God can enter into all this. God hath borne him on eagles’ wings,
delivering him from worse than Egyptian bondage. “Who hath delivered us
from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His
dear Son; in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the
forgiveness of sins.”

II. The proposals of His love. The two things that God Almighty, by His
servant Moses, urges upon the people, are these. First, “If ye will obey My
voice indeed:” do not mistake the matter, every word has its meaning:—“If
ye will obey My voice indeed.” They were to follow God at all risks, heedless
of consequences: determined to obey Him, though all the world should
frown, or hiss, or should persecute. Israel was also to keep the covenant of
God. “If ye will keep My covenant.” It may be said that it was a national
covenant; and I admit that to a great extent it was a national covenant. All
must admit that who examine the matter; but I must affirm that it was
something more than this. Yes, it had respect to a Saviour, to an approach
to God which now, through infinite mercy, is offered to you and to me. There
are two grand characteristics of a Christian wherever you meet with him,
that by God’s help he is willing to follow God’s voice at all risks; and that he
shall lay hold on the cross as the only means whereby sinful man can
approach God.

III. The promises of His grace. Now this promise contained in the text
is the most remarkable in the Bible, “Then ye shall be a peculiar treasure
unto Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” Oh, what a bold word to
utter! If the word had come out of other lips, it had been the greatest
blasphemy ever uttered; but coming from God, it is the language of truth
and soberness. “All the earth is Mine.” O Christian! do not be afraid! The
very world in which you live, with all its treasure, with all upon its surface,
with all beneath its surface, belongs to God. Now, though all the earth be
His, He says, “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people.” The
Israelites were never great as a commercial people; they were never great
as a maritime people; they were never great in war, except, indeed, in the
early stage of their history, when, in fact, God fought for the people, and
they had little to do but to take possession of what God had given them. But
they were a peculiar treasure to God; and still that people have mercies in
store for them. The Bible teems with promises of the restoration of the Jews.
The poorest saint is a treasure to the Lord. We do not know how to set a
value upon moral excellence, upon spiritual greatness, but God does: “They
shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My
jewels.”

1. What actually became the state of the Jews? How far was this
promise fulfilled? The Jews were, to a certain degree, for a long time,
a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. While all other nations, the whole
world around them, was in a state of pagan darkness, the lamp of life
and truth shone forth in Israel. A succession of patriarchs, and then of
prophets, and then of priests, was vouchsafed; and God’s truth was
perpetuated among the people, and they were, to a great degree, a
kingdom of priests, and a holy people.

2. What was it that caused it to come to pass that this promise was
never completely fulfilled, that it never has yet been completely
fulfilled to the Jews? Because the people left off to hear God’s voice,
and left off to keep God’s covenant. They went after dumb idols. They
left the God of all their mercies. Hence the promise has never been
fully realised.

3. How far this promise, together with these proposals, may be


considered as fairly bearing upon the state and upon the future
prospects of the Christian Church. With all our improvements in
science, we are a degenerate people as to the service of God. We must
be more regular in the worship of God, in private devotion, in family
prayer. Let us make the most of our exalted privileges.—Rev. T.
Mortimer in The Pulpit.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES


Exo_19:1-6. Months and days from Egyptian bondage are fit to be
recorded.

Days are set by God for the progress and rest of the Church.

From Rephidim to Sinai, or from trials to rest, God removes His Church.

The camp of the Church and the Word of God are sweetly joined together.

In covenant making with God there is need of a mediator.

God’s call alone can qualify or authorise a mediator between Him and
sinners.

It is incumbent on the mediator to declare fully God’s mind to His people.

A due recognition of God’s gracious acts for souls against enemies is a


good preparation to receive His law.

God’s securing providence as well as selecting a people to Himself


prepares them to hear His covenant.

God’s covenanted people are His peculiar treasure in the world.

Royalty, near communion with God, and sanctity, are the privileges of
God’s peculiar ones.

The needs of duty and privilege must be spoken and made known to the
Church.

We would remark that as soon as God had erected the framework of this
body politic, He gave His subjects laws—His own laws. He did not allow any
man to lay down a rule for His own conduct or for His own worship. He did
not allow these people to think they could be independent of Him, but He
brought them to this wilderness where they had evidence in abundance that
their God was the God of Providence and the God of power; and now He was
about to teach them another lesson, that He was the God to whom they
were amenable. “I said it was interesting to mark the order in which these
events occurred. It is false doctrine, though almost universally received, that
it is God’s method to bring the sinner under subjection by moulding his heart
into obedience by some repenting process as it were, and afterwards, when
the man becomes worthy, then to bestow upon him His choicest gifts. There
never was more unsound teaching, brethren. God takes the sinner just as he
is; and according to the riches and sovereignty of His own grace, makes him
a recipient of mercy; and after He has brought him into His fold—alter He
has taken him under the shelter of His own wing, He writes His law upon the
fleshly tables of that sinner’s heart.”

—W. H. Krause, M.A.

“You will observe, in the first place, that every man is thus taught his
accountability to God. Do what you will, you cannot escape that
accountability. It seemed as if God brought the people of Israel into the
solitude of that wilderness that each man might, in the nakedness of his own
soul, stand before God and hear His law. It has been said with much
solemnity by a good man, that in the present time men hide themselves in
the crowd, but in the day of judgment every man must stand alone, as if he
saw or knew no one and nothing but himself and his own transgressions.

Exo_19:5. “For all the earth is Mine.”

I. God’s assertion of universal possession in the earth.

1. Nations.

2. Lands.

3. The animal and vegetable kingdoms.

II. God’s assertion excludes every other being from universal


possession.

1. It is not man’s earth.

2. It is not the devil’s.

3. It does not belong to any created intelligence.

III. God’s assertion should awaken confidence in His saints and


terror in sinners.

1. All forces are under His control.

2. Everything that is not of Him must fail.

3. His possession of the earth will be fully manifest in the end.


ILLUSTRATIONS

BY

THE REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON

Divine Motive! Exo_19:1-5. Exotic flowers or foreign plants, if seeded on


the mountainside, or inserted in the meadow amongst the promiscuous
herbage growing there, soon become choked and disappear. Those who wish
to preserve the flaming glories of the Cape, or the rich fruits of the tropic,
must provide a garden enclosed—must keep out the weeds and ruffian
weather. And so God, anxious to preserve “His Holy Law,” fenced in the
Hebrew nationality. He secluded them, and walled them in, and made them,
as it were, His own conservatory—a conservatory where Divine truth should
survive uninjured until Messiah should come.

“We are a garden walled around,

Chosen and made peculiar ground;

A little spot enclosed by grace

Out of the world’s wide wilderness.”

Divine-Presence! Exo_19:3. Greenland says that hunters once went out


and found a revolving mountain, and that, attempting to cross the chasm
between it and the firm land, some of these men were crushed as the
mountain revolved. But they finally noticed that the gnarled, wheeling mass,
had a red side and a white side. They waited till the white side came
opposite them; and then, ascending the mountain, found that a king lived on
its summit—made themselves loyal to him, surrendered themselves to him
affectionately and irreversibly, and afterwards found themselves happy in his
presence. There was but one way of approach to the “Mount of Awe,” and by
that path Moses entered into Jehovah’s presence without fear. Along that
“new living way” Gentile sinners pass to God. It is the King’s highway, for
through Christ, who is our peace, both Jew and Gentile have access by one
Spirit unto the Father. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man
cometh unto the Father but by ME.”

“Thou art the Way, the Truth, the life;

Grant us that Way to know,


That Truth to keep, that Life to win,

Whose joys eternal flow.”

—Donne.

Mountain-Eagles! Exo_19:4. Arabia is a region of mountains and


magnificent bluffs; bare of verdure and destitute of streams of living water.
Amid these granite cliffs the eagles make their nest; and high above their
frowning peaks these noble birds wheel in majestic flight. So that this figure,
“borne on eagles’ wings,” must have been full of deepest significance.
M‘Cheyne, when visiting a synagogue in Tarnopol—one of the finest towns of
Austrian Poland—witnessed a procession of the law, in which he observed a
standard embroidered with the Austrian eagle, and bearing these words, “I
bear you on eagles’ wings.” During the eagle-like career of Alexander the
Great, he had occasion to attack the Sogdians. These people dwelt amid
huge mountain rocks and refused to surrender. When threatened by the
Macedonian conqueror, they replied that they feared not his soldiers until
they were “borne up on eagles’ wings.” The eagle soars the highest, and is
the most majestic in its aerial courses. God, as it were, bears up His people
on these mighty wings, so that they are above all obstacles and hindrances.
As no bird can rise higher than the eagle, so none can get above God’s
children when He thus enables them to mount up with wings as eagles
(Isa_40:31).

“While on this vantage-ground the Christian stands,

His quickened eye a boundless view commands;

Discovers fair abodes not made with hands—

Abodes of peace.”

—Elliott.

Divine Republics! Exo_19:5-9. When the freed negroes arrived on the


West Coast of Africa, as the Republic of Liberia, they received certain laws
and regulations. These were established amid the firing of cannon, the
flaunting of flags, and the flashing of firearms. But when Jehovah constituted
the legislation of Israel’s Divine Republic, the eye was arrested by darkness
that defied the gaze, and by lightning and tempest that played about the
summit of Sinai, while the ear was thrilled by the trumpet-blast, and
appalled by the thunder. The great mountain rocked to and fro, and burned
like a furnace. Then, piercing through cloud and camp, was heard the
trumpet-blast pealing out above the thunder, that “the laws of the Divine
Republic were about to be promulgated.” Glorious was this Divine legislation
ceremony! The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them.
From His right hand went a fiery law for them: Deu_33:2.

“The terrors of that awful day, though past,

Have on the tide of time some glory cast.”

—Baillie.
THE CALL AND MISSION OF MOSES.
Vers. 1-22. THE MISSION OF MOSES. After forty years of monotonous pastoral life, affording
abundant opportunity for meditation, and for spiritual communion with God, and when he had attained to
the great age of eighty years, and the hot blood of youth had given place to the calm serenity of
advanced life, God at last revealed Himself to Moses "called him" (ver. 4), and gave him a definite
mission. The present chapter is" intimately connected with the next. Together, they contain an account of
that extraordinary and indeed miraculous interchange of thought.and speech between Moses and God
himself, by which the son of Amram was induced to undertake the difficult and dangerous task of freeing
his people, delivering them from their bondage in Egypt, and conducting them through the wilderness to
that "land flowing with milk and honey," which had been promised to the seed of Abraham more than six
centuries previously. (Gen_15:18) Whatever hopes he had entertained of being his people"s deliverer in
youth and middle life, they had long been abandoned; and, humanly speaking, nothing was more
improbable than that the aged shepherd, grown "slow of speech and of a slow tongue" (Exo_4:10) his
manners rusticised his practical faculties rusted by disuse his physical powers weakened should come
forth from a retirement of forty years" duration to be a leader and king of men. Nothing less than direct
supernatural interposition could one may well believe have sufficed to overcome the natural vis inertiae
of Moses" present character and position. Hence, after an absolute cessation of miracle for more than
four hundred years, miracle is once more made use of by the Ruler of the Universe to work out his ends..
A dignus vindice nodus has arisen; and the ordinary laws of that Nature which is but one of his
instruments are suspended by the Lord of All, who sees what mode of action the occasion requires, and
acts accordingly.
Moses kept the flock. The Hebrew expresses that this was his regular occupation. Understand by "flock"
either sheep or goats, or the two intermixed. Both anciently and at the present day the Sinaitic pastures
support these animals, and not horned cattle. Of Jethro, his father-in-law. The word translated "father-in-
law" is of much wider application, being used of almost any relation by marriage. Zipporah uses it of
Moses in Exo_4:25, Exo_4:26; in Gen_19:12, Gen_19:14, it is applied to Lot"s "sons-in-law;" in other
places it is used of "brothers-in-law." Its application to Jethro does not prove him to be the same person
as Reuel, which the difference of name renders improbable. He was no doubt the head of the tribe at this
period, having succeeded to that dignity, and to the priesthood, when Reuel died. He may have been
either Reuel"s son or his nephew. The backside of the desert, i.e. "behind" or "beyond the desert," across
the strip of sandy plain which separates the coast of the Elanitic Gulf from the mountains, to the grassy
regions beyond. He came to the mountain of God, even Horeb. Rather, "the mountain of God, Horeb-
way," or "towards Horeb." By "the mountain of God" Sinai seems to be meant. It may be so named either
by anticipation (as "the land of Rameses" in Gen_47:11) or because there was already a sanctuary there
to the true God, whom Reuel and Jethro worshipped. (Exo_18:12)
Vers. 1, 2. The Burning Bush.
All nations have seen in fire something emblematic of the Divine nature. The Vedic Indians made Agni
(fire) an actual god, and sang hymns to him with more fervour than to almost any other deity. The
Persians maintained perpetual fires on their fire-altars, and supposed them to have a divine character.
Hephaistos in the Greek and Vulcan in the Roman mythology were fire-gods; and Baal, Chemosh, Moloch,
Tahiti, Orotal, etc., represented more or less the same idea. Fire is in itself pure and purifying; in its
effects mighty and terrible, or life-giving, and comforting. Viewed as light its ordinary though not
universal concomitant it is bright, glorious, dazzling, illuminative, soul-cheering. God under the Old
Covenant revealed himself in fire, not only upon this occasion, but at Sinai, (Exo_19:18 Exo_24:17) to
Manoah, (Jud_1:13:20) to Solomon, (2Ch_7:1-3) to Ezekiel, (Eze_1:4-28) to Daniel; (Dan_7:9,
Dan_7:10) under the New Covenant, he is declared to be "a consuming fire", (Heb_12:29) "the Light of
the world", (Joh_8:12) "the True Light", (Joh_1:9) "the Sun of Righteousness." Of all material things
nothing is so suitable to represent God as this wonderful creation of his, so bright, so pure, so terrible, so
comforting, To Moses God reveals himself not merely in fire, but in a "burning bush." In this respect the
revelation is abnormal nay, unique, without a parallel. Surely this was done, not merely to rouse his
curiosity, but to teach him some lesson or other. It is well to consider what lesson or lessons may have
been intended by it. First, Moses would see that "the ways of God were not as man"s ways;" that,
instead of coming with as much, he came with as little, display as possible; instead of showing all his
glory and lighting up all Sinai with unendurable radiance, he condescended to appear in a small
circumscribed flame, and to rest upon so mean, so poor, so despised an object as a thorn-hush. God
"chooseth the weak things of the world to confound the strong;" anything is sufficient for his purpose. He
creates worlds with a word, destroys kingdoms with a breath, cures diseases with clay and spittle or the
hem of a garment, revolutionises the earth by a group of fishermen. Secondly, he would see the
spirituality of God. Even when showing himself in the form of fire, he was not fire. Material fire would
have burnt up the bush, have withered its fair boughs and blasted its green leaves in a moment of time;
this fire did not scathe a single twig, did not injure even the most delicate just-opening bud. Thirdly, he
might be led on to recognise God"s tenderness. God"s mercy is "over all his works," he will not hurt one
of them unnecessarily, or without an object. He "careth for cattle", (Jon_4:11) clothes the lilies with
glory, (Mat_6:28-30) wilt not let a sparrow fall to the ground needlessly. (ib. Mat_10:29) Lastly, he might
learn that the presence of God is "consuming" only of what is evil. Of all else it is preservative. God was
present with his people in Egypt, and his presence preserved them in that furnace of affliction. God was
present in each devout and humble heart of his true followers, and his presence kept them from the fiery
darts of the Wicked One. God would be present through all time with his Church and with his individual
worshippers, not as a destroying, but as a sustaining, preserving, glorifying influence. His spiritual fire
would rest upon them, envelop them, encircle them, yet would neither injure nor absorb their life, but
support it, maintain it, strengthen it.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Vers. 1-5. Moses at the bush.
We do not now see burning bushes, or hear voices calling to us from their midst. The reason is, that we
do not need them, The series of historical revelations is complete. Revelation in the sense of the
communication of new truth of truth beyond the range of our natural faculties, or not capable of being
derived, under the guidance of God"s Spirit, from revelations already given is not to be expected. The
Bible is the sum of God"s authoritative revelations to the race. This bush, e.g. , still burns for us in
Scripture, where at any time we can visit it, and hear God"s voice speaking out of it. But in another
sense, revelation is not obsolete. It is not a tradition of the past, but a living reality. It has its objective
side in the continuous (non-miraculous) revelation going on in nature (Psa_19:1; Rom_1:19, Rom_1:20)
and history; (Act_17:26, Act_17:27) and in the tokens of a supernatural presence and working in the
Church. (Mat_28:20; 1Th_1:3-10; Rev_2:1) And it has its subjective side in the revelation (mediate) of
Divine things to the soul by the Holy Spirit, (Eph_1:17) and in the manifestation of God to the heart in
private spiritual experience. (Joh_14:21, Joh_14:23; Rom_5:5 Rom_8:16) The veil between the soul and
the spiritual world is at all times a thin one. The avenues by which God can reach devout minds are
innumerable. The Word, sacraments, and prayer are special media, the Divine Spirit taking of the things
of Christ, and showing them to the soul, illuminating, (Joh_16:15) interpreting, applying, confirming. But,
in truth, God is "not far from every one of us"; (Act_17:27) and by events of providence, in workings of
conscience, through our moral and spiritual intuitions, enlightened and purified as these are by the Word,
by numberless facts of nature and life, he can still draw near to those who tarry for him; meets them in
ways as unexpected and surprising as at the burning bush; awes them by his wonders; flashes to them
the messages of his grace. Viewing this revelation at the bush as a chapter in spiritual history, consider
I THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF IT. The revelation came to Moses
(1) unexpectedly;
(2) while in the way of duty he "kept the flock;
(3) in a solemn place of God," a natural oratory and place of sacred repute and probably while revolving
solemn thoughts;
(4) from a most unlooked-for quarter a common bush; and at first
(5) impersonally. The bush burning had no apparent relation to Moses more than to another. It was
there for him to look at, to inquire into, if he chose. It invited, but did not compel, or even ask for, his
attention. All which circumstances are significant.
1. The Divinity is ever nearer to us than we think. So Jacob, as well as Moses, found it. "Surely God is in
this place, and I knew it not". (Gen_28:16)
2. Revelations are not to be expected, save in the way of duty.
3. God may be met with anywhere, (Joh_4:24) but some places are more favourable for communion with
God than others the closet, (Mat_6:6) the sanctuary, (Psa_73:16, Psa_73:17) natural solitudes.
(Mat_16:23) And revelations have usually a relation to the state of mind of those who receive them
answering questions, resolving perplexities, affording guidance, adapting themselves to psychological
conditions. (cf. Job_2:12, Job_2:13; Dan_2:29 Dan_9:20, 21 10:2-6; Act_10:3, Act_10:10; 1Co_12:9;
Rev_1:10) It is in every way likely that Moses" thoughts were at that moment deeply occupied about
Israel"s future.
1. God"s discoveries of himself are marked by great condescension. Lowliness of situation is no bar to the
visits of the King of Heaven, while humility of heart is indispensable to our receiving them. He who dwelt
in the bush will not refuse the dwelling place of the contrite heart. (Isa_57:15) God"s most wonderful
discoveries of himself have been made through "base things of the world, and things which are
despised". (1Co_2:2-8) The highest example of this is Christ himself, of whose incarnation the angel in
the bush may be regarded as a prophecy. "He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root
out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness," etc.. (Isa_53:2)
2. God"s revelations act as a moral test. This applies to the objective revelation to the tokens of the
supernatural strewn everywhere around us in life and history, as well as to Nature and the Bible. We may
pass them unheeded, or we may draw nearer to inquire. The Bible invites attention by the supernatural
in its history, as well as by its teachings. It is only when we draw nearer to it that the Word becomes
personal, and seizes on the conscience with spiritual power. Attention on man"s part is rewarded by
further self-discovery on God"s.
II ITS INTEREST FOR MOSES. We may connect his turning aside to see (ver. 4)
1. With an appeal to his faculty of wonder. This is one function of miracle to arrest attention, and awaken
in the witness of it a powerfulconsciousness of the Divine presence.
2. With a general habit of devout inquiry. It may be true that "many a man has been led through the
pale of curiosity into the sanctuary of reverence" (Parker); but it is also true that to a merely curious
disposition God usually reveals little, and to an irreverent one nothing. The habit of inquiry is as valuable,
if one"s ultimate aim is in all things to become acquainted with God and his will, as in science and
philosophy, or any other form of the pursuit of knowledge; but let inquiry be devout. "Search the
Scriptures". (Joh_5:39) Ponder thoughtfully events of providence and facts of history. Study Nature with
an eye to spiritual suggestions to underlying spiritual analogies. Give to whatever you read or hear, which
seems to have truth or value in it, the attention it deserves. Inquiry throws the mind into the attitude
most favourable for receiving Divine revelations. Moses was not called by name till he "turned aside to
see.
3. With the perception that in this circumstance God was specially calling him to inquire. As Moses gazed,
he would be prompted to ask about this bush What means it? What invisible power is here manifesting
itself? Why is it burning at this place, and at this time? What mystery is contained in it? Has it a message
for me? And he would not be long in perceiving that it must be burning there with the special view of
attracting his attention. And is it not thus that the Divine usually draws near to us? Attention is arrested
by something a little aside from the course of ordinary experience, and the impression it makes upon us
produces the conviction that it is not unintended; that it is, as we say, "sent;" that it has a meaning and
message to us we do well to look into. Every man, at some point or another in his history, has felt
himself thus appealed to by the supernatural. The impression may be made by a book we feel drawn to
read, or by something we read in it; through a sermon, through some event of life, by a sickness, at a
deathbed, by the sayings and doings of fellow-men, or in hours of solitude, when even Nature seems
peopled with strange voices, and begins to speak to us in parables. But, originate as it may, there is
plainly in it, as in all special dealings of God with us, a call to inquire, to question ourselves, to ask
whether, from the midst of the mystery, God may not have some further message for our souls.
III THE SIGHT ITSELF. The bush that burned (ver. 2) was
1. A token of the Divine Presence. Moses would soon feel that he was standing in presence of the Unseen
Holy.
2. A significant emblem. It represented the Israelites in their state of affliction, yet miraculously surviving.
Possibly, in the questionings of his spirit, Moses had not before sufficiently considered the "token for
good" implied in this astonishing preservation of the nation, and needed to have his attention directed to
it. It was a clear proof that the Lord had not cast off his people. If Israel was preserved, it could only be
for one reason. The continued vitality, growth, and vigour of the nation was the infallible pledge of the
fulfilment of the promise.
3. An answer to prayer. For what could be the meaning of this portent, but that the long, weary silence
was at length broken; that the prayer, "O Lord, how long?" was at last to receive its answer? Faith can
see great results wrapped up in small beginnings. For nothing in God"s procedure is isolated. Beginnings
with God mean endings too.
IV THE PERSONAL CALL. As Moses wondered
1. The revelation became personal. He heard himself addressed by name, "Moses, Moses" (ver. 4).
Solemnised, yet with that presence of mind which could only arise from long habituation to the idea of an
invisible spiritual world, he answered, "Here am I" This was to place himself unreservedly at God"s
disposal. Mark the order
(1) God revealing (ver. 1);
(2) man attending (ver. 2);
(3) the revelation becoming Personal (ver. 3).
Then followed the direction (ver. 5), "Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes," etc. Thus Moses was
instructed:
2. As to the right attitude towards God"s revelations.
(1) Self-surrender;
(2) reverence;
(3) obedience.
Moses doubtless obeyed the injunction he received. These qualities meet in all true religion: humility in
hearing what God has to say; submission of mind and heart to it when said; readiness to obey. Glance
for a moment at the requirement of reverence. One can understand how in the tumult of his feelings at
the moment in the very eagerness of his spirit to hear what further God had to say to him Moses should
be in danger of neglecting the outward tokens of the reverence which no doubt he felt; but it is
instructive to observe that God recalls his attention to them. We are thus taught that reverence becomes
us, not only in relation to God himself, but in relation to whatever is even outwardly connected with his
presence, worship, or revelation. e.g. , in our dealing with Scripture, in the use of Divine names and
titles, in the ritual of Divine service. The attitude of the spirit is doubtless the main thing; but a reverent
spirit will seek for itself suitable forms of expression; and respect for the forms is itself a duty, and an aid
in the education of the sentiment. Those are greatly to be censured who, presuming on a supposed
special intimacy with God not granted to others, venture to take liberties, and allow themselves in a
demeanour and in a style of expression to the Almighty at the least irreverently familiar, and not
unfrequently bordering on profanity. Raptures of piety, however sincere, do not justify us in forgetting
that in communion with God we stand on "holy ground. J.O.
Vers. 1-5. The bush and its suggestions.
Glean here a few of the general suggestions of the passage:
I REVELATION. The appearance at the bush suggestive
1. Of the supernatural in Nature. Bushes are aglow all around us, if only we had eyes to see them.
Christ"s teaching an illustration of the spiritual suggestiveness of Nature. "Consider the lilies". (Mat_6:28)
The parables.
2. Of the supernatural in common life. "Moses kept the flock of Jethro." The Higher Presence may be with
us in the humblest occupations.
3. Of the supernatural in the Church
1. As a whole;
2. Individual believers.
The bush, burning but not consumed, an emblem of Israel of the Church enduring in tribulation.
4. Of the higher supernatural of positive revelation. Authoritative revelation is suspended, but the sum of
its results is given in Scripture. The Bible is the Bush of revelation, to which the student of Divine things
will do well to direct his attention.
II PREPAREDNESS. Cultivate with Moses
1. A spirit of duty (ver. 1).
2. A spirit of devout inquiry (ver. 3).
3. A spirit of humility and reverence (vers. 5, 6).
To such a spirit, God
1. Reveals himself.
2. Addresses calls to his service (ver. 4).
3. Gives work to do.
4. Honours in its work. J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG Vers. 1-5. The burning bush.
I OBSERVE THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH GOD FINDS MOSES. He is still with Jethro, although forty
years have passed since their first acquaintance. Though a fugitive, he had not become a mere
wanderer.
1. He continues, however, in a comparatively humble position. His marriage to Jethro"s daughter and his
long stay in the country do not seem to have brought him much external prosperity.. He has not reached
even the modest point of success in the eyes of a Midianite shepherd, viz. to have a flock of his own. But
this very humility of position doubtless had its advantages and its place in the providence of God with
respect to him. With all the lowliness of his state, it was better to be a living man in Midian than to have
been Main as the son of Pharaoh"s daughter. God had brought him out of a king"s house, so that he
might be freed from all the temptations of soft raiment, and also to make manifest that, although among
courtiers, he was, not of them. But if during his stay in Midian he had increased in pastoral wealth, and
become a second Job (, Then, (Job_1:3) like Job, he might have had to go into humiliation because of his
wealth. It was well for him that while he had the care of property, he had not the cares of it. (Jam_1:10,
Jam_1:11)
2. God finds him engaged in faithful service, leading his flock far into the desert that they might find
suitable pasture. God comes to those who are diligently occupied in some useful work, even if it be as
humble and obscure as that of Moses. He does not come with his revelations to daydreamers; they are
left to build their castles in the air. They who despise common and daily work, on the pretext that they
are fitted for something much better, will at last be thrown into the corner among the refuse. "Let those
that think themselves buried alive be content to shine like lamps in sepulchres, and wait till God"s time
comes for setting them in a candlestick". (Mat_4:18-22, Mat_9:9; Luk_2:8)
II GOD APPROACHES MOSES WITH A SUDDEN TEST. "The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame
of fire, out of the midst of a bush" i.e. the flame of fire became a messenger of God to Moses. We are
told inPsalm 104. that God is he who makes the clouds his chariot, walks upon the wings of the wind,
makes the winds his messengers, and flaming fire into his ministers. (Heb_1:7) And so here God sends
this flame of fire, encompassing and attacking the bush, in order to discover what sort of man Moses is.
Certain features of his character, viz. his patriotism, his hatred of oppression, his prompt action to serve
the weak, have hitherto been exhibited rather than tested. He had shown what sort of man he was in the
ordinary experiences of life, such experiences as might come to any of us. But now he is face to face with
an extraordinary experience, a sudden and unexpected test. The burning bush was to Moses what both
miracles and parables were to those who came into contact with Jesus. To some the miracles were mere
wonders; to others they revealed an open door of communication with God. To some the parables were
only aimless narratives, mere story-telling. To others the Divine Teacher was able to say, "It is given unto
you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven". (Mat_13:11) And, in a similar way, when Moses
came suddenly upon the burning bush, there was also a sudden revelation of the state of his heart. He
did not treat the phenomenon as a delusion; did not begin to suspect his own sanity; did not seek his
kindred, that they might come and gape at this new wonder. It was impressed upon his mind exactly as
it was meant to be impressed. He asked the very question that above all others needed to be asked why
this bush was not consumed. For observe that it was something which in ordinary circumstances would
be easily and quickly consumed. (Exo_22:6; Ecc_7:6; Mat_6:30) It was not some metal well used to the
fire, but a bush actually burning yet not burning away. And as this burning bush was thus a test to
Moses, so the record of it is also a test to us. Let us suppose the question put all round, "What would you
have done if you had been there?" We know well the answer that would come from one class of minds:
"There was no such thing; it was all Moses" own imagination." Thus the test comes in. As God tested
Moses in exhibiting the burning bush as his messenger, so he tests us by the record of this and all other
unusual occurrences with which the Scriptures are crowded. If we say at once concerning the burning
bush and all that is supernatural that it is but delusion, then God"s way to our hearts and our salvation is
blocked at once. We must be loyal to fact wherever we find it. The very evidence of our own senses, and
the accumulated testimony of honest and competent witnesses, are not to be sacrificed to so-called first
principles of rational inquiry. The right spirit is that shown by Peter and his companion in the house of
Cornelius. They saw with their own eyes that the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household; and
Peter made his inferences and his action to depend on this indisputable fact. (Act_10:44 Act_11:18)
When Moses turned aside to see the great sight his eye was single; he did not quibble and despise; and
therefore his whole body was filled with light.
III GOD MEETS A PROPER INQUIRY WITH PROPER TREATMENT. Moses is approaching the burning
bush to investigate the difficulty by his natural faculties, when God at once arrests him, making known
his own presence, and enjoining such outward marks of reverence as became the place and the occasion.
And Moses, as we might expect, is immediately obedient. Those who have in them the spirit that seeks
for truth, the spirit of faith and right inquiry, will also show a spirit ready at once.to respond to the
presence of God. Moses must have had those principles in his life which pointed on to perfect purity of
heart. That purity he had in its beginnings, or he would not have gained such a sense of God"s presence
as was here bestowed on him. Note next, that God does not proceed to answer the inquiry of Moses.
There was really no occasion to answer it. When Moses knew that the presence of God had to do with
the miracle, he knew enough. To know exactly how God had done it was beyond him. Even God cannot
explain the inexplicable. The secrets of creation cannot be penetrated by those who lack creative power.
Man can make machines; therefore the man who makes a machine can explain the purpose and the parts
of it to another man. Human beings are the parents of human beings; but as they have no power to
make intelligently any living thing, so they cannot understand either how living things are brought into
existence or sustained in it. God calls Moses now, not to explain why. the bush is burning, but to subdue
his mind into appropriate reverence and expectation. The search for truth must not degenerate into
curiosity, nor be pursued into presumption.
IV THOUGH GOD LEAVES THE INQUIRY FORMALLY UNANSWERED, YET THE BURNING BUSH DOES
SERVE SOME FURTHER PURPOSE AS AN INSTRUMENT OF INSTRUCTION. There was much teaching in
this burning bush. If the aim had been merely to arrest the attention of Moses, then any wonder would
have served the purpose. But the wonders of God not only test; they also teach. They must be something
unusual, or they would not test sufficiently; they must be something more than merely unusual, else they
would not teach. The bush was Israel in the flame of Egypt. That bush had been burning now a century,
more or less, yet it was riot consumed. All that was essential to its nature, its growth, and its fruitfulness
still remained. What was permanent in Israel was no more affected than the tree is by the fading and
falling of its leaves in autumn. The leaves die, but the tree remains. Its roots are still in the soil and the
sap still in the trunk. Thus, by this exhibition of the burning bush, God brought before Moses the great
truth that, however natural forces may be gathered against his people, and however they may be
intensified in their attack, there is nevertheless a power from on high which can resist them all a secret,
countervailing power in which we may ever put our trust. And this power is not only for preservation in
the midst of affliction, but for ultimate deliverance from it. The power by which God can keep the bush
from being consumed, is a power by which he can take it out of the fire altogether. Believe in this power,
and trust it more and more, and God will lead you into sublime conclusions, and endow you with most
precious privileges. Y.
HOMILIES BY G. A. GOODHART
Vers. 1-6. Forty years since, Moses (Exo_2:11) had "turned aside" from court life in Egypt to see how
his brethren the children of Israel fared amid the furnace of trial. The old life seems like a dream, so long
ago; the old lance (Exo_4:10) grown unfamiliar. The annual routine; flocks to be driven to distant-
pasturage at the approach of summer. God"s hour at hand just when least expected.
I THE PROPHETIC VISION. When God calls to the prophetic office, there is usually some vision or
appearance, through which the call is emphasised and its significance suggested. Cf. Isa_6:1-7; Jer_1:11-
13; Eze_1:4; Mat_3:16 to Mat_4:11; Act_9:3-6. So here:
1. The vision. A dry acacia bush on fire, not very singular. What is singular is that the bush seems to
flourish amidst the flame! The mystery explained, vers. 2, 4. The bush is in the midst of the flame, but
the angel of Jehovah is in the midst of the hush.
2. Its significance. Israel "a root out of a dry ground." In the furnace of affliction, yet flourishing amid the
furnace (cf. Exo_1:12) When Moses had "turned aside to see" forty years before, he had supposed that
his brethren would have recognised in him their deliverer; had not sufficiently recognised himself that it
was God"s angel in their midst who was really preserving them. Trouble, sorrow, persecution may
consume and practically annihilate; whole peoples have been killed off and left hardly a trace in history.
Though "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," yet there is no specially conservative power
in suffering; it is only when God is with men that they can "walk through the fire and yet not be burned"
(cf. Isa_43:2)
II THE DIVINE REVELATION.
1. Preliminary condition: ver. 4. "Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see.
(1) Revelations are not for the unobservant. God will give us eye-guidance if we will have it, (Psa_32:8)
but we must be alert to catch his glance.
(2) Revelations are not for the cowardly; where one turned aside to see, nine might have turned aside in
sheer terror to escape seeing. He that would hear God"s voice must fight with and overcome his fears,
otherwise he is likely to be classed with the unbelieving and the abominable. (Rev_21:7, Rev_21:8)
1. The call heard and answered. To the man ready to receive it the call comes. God is going to reread his
own name to Moses, but calls Moses first by his name. The conviction that God knows us is the best
preparation for learning more about him. Moses is on the alert; eager to listen, ready to obey.
2. Reverence secured: ver. 5. Interviews with God need preparation. Even when God calls, man cannot
hear his voice aright save in the hush of utter reverence. To attain this for those who are in the body,
material aids must not be despised; so long as men possess senses there must be a sensuous form for
even the most spiritual worship.
3. God declares himself: ver. 6. Cf. Mat_22:32. God in the midst of the nation, as in the midst of the
bush, was preserving it in its entirety.
Not like a bundle of green twigs, the relics of a perished stem. Stem and twigs, the ancestral stock no
less than the offspring, all alike preserved kept by him who can say, "I am their God." Application: Has
God ever declared himself to us? If not, whose the fault? Have we been on the outlook to catch his
signs? Have we used due reverence in listening for his voice? Have we been ready to obey even the
lightest indication of his will? Attention, reverence, obedience all needed if we would hear God speak. We
must be as Moses was self stifled, the world silenced, a-hush to hear the Divine voice. G.
HOMILIES BY H. T. ROBJOHNS Vers. 1-10. The Burning Bush.
"Behold the bush," etc. Exo_3:2. A very astonishing event; yet amply evidenced to us by those
voluminous arguments which now more than ever establish the authenticity of Exodus; but in addition to
this, we have here the special endorsement of the Truth Incarnate. See Mar_12:26. Examine this passage
critically, and consider how full and valid theendorsement is! No mere acceptance of received legend.
I THE TIME. A solemn undertone in ver. 1. A great soul wandering under the starlight of a partial
revelation.
1. In the life of the Church. A time of trial; Israel like leaves in autumn, like the foam of the sea, and that
for long. Of deepening trial, see Exodus
1. Deliverance apparently impossible. The government of the new Pharaohnow firm and strong. For
evidence of depression see Exo_6:9.
2. In the life of Moses. Eighty years of age. Act_7:23, Act_7:30. Yet hardly any history of the man. In fact
we have no continuous history. Died at 120. First forty years? Blank. So with second and third. A history
of four crises! Birth; decision; entrance on service; death.
Learn:
(1) Crises in all lives. Divergent roads Crises fix what we are to be and do. Illustrate from life. Watch for
them. Pass them on your knees. "Hold up my goings," etc.
(2) God determines them. This came on Moses unexpectedly. Where? On the line of common duty. "He
led the flock," etc. "So, rest in the Lord," etc.
(3) Leave life to God.
II THE SCENE. The following should be carefully observed, with the view of vivifying and realising this
story of Divine manifestation. The scene was laid
1. In the desert. See Stanley"s "Sinai and Palestine," pp. 12-14, for the general characteristics of the
desert.
2. In the Midian section of the desert. For exact definition of this, see "Midian," in Smith"s "Bibl. Dict."
356a.
3. In the Horeb range. Horeb designates the range of mountains about Sinai; Sinai the solitary grandeur
of Jebel Mdsa. "Desert of the Exodus," p. 118.
4. At Sinai. Probably in Er Rahah, the wide wady north of Sinai, with the mighty pile of Ras Sufsafeh
towering on the south.
5. Generally amid mountains: where oft, as on the sea at night, Godseems so near. His face towards the
sun, Sinai in grand altitude of shade before him, Moses saw the brightness and heard the word of the
Loges, the manifested God.
III THE VISION. Observe here two elements:
1. The subjective. Moses" state of mind. This would be determined by the known circumstances of Israel,
and by his own: he was away from his people, seemingly out of the covenant, the Divine promise
forgotten.
2. The objective. A lowly plant; not a tree. Fire. No consuming; no smoke, no ashes, no waste. In the Fire
(ver. 4) the Angel-God of the Old Testament. Symbol of the Church of all time. Isa_43:2, Isa_43:3.
IV THE FIRST EFFECT. Intellectual curiosity. "I will now why the bush," etc. This attention was better
than indifference, but was probably nothing more than an intelligent curiosity. Still, this was not enough.
V THE CHECK: vers. 4, 5. The attitude of the mind should be that of reverent attention, face to face with
Divine manifestations. "The word of the Lord always went along with the glory of the Lord, for every
Divine vision was designed for Divine revelation." This the more necessary because over every revelation
there is a veil." Hab_3:4. Distance becomes us. "Draw not nigh hither) So in Science, Psychology, History,
the revelation of the Christ. The aim not to satisfy the curiosity, but to enlighten and empower the
conscience, and direct the life.
VI THE DRAWING into covenantal relations, notwithstanding the momentary check. This by making
known
1. The Divine Name: ver. 6. The God of thy father; of the immortal dead too; therefore thy God. The
effect of this tender revelation: "Moses hid his face," etc.
2. The Divine sympathy. "I know." Sense of the Divine Omniscience alone is an awful pressure from
above on the soul; but there is a restoration to equilibrium, by a pressure from beneath supporting, i.e.
by a sense of Divine sympathy sorrows." See Maurice, "Patriarchs and Lawgivers," p. 162.
3. A Divine salvation. "I am come down to deliver.
4. Possibility of Divine service. "Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh:" ver. 10. R.

ISRAEL AT SINAI, PREPARATIONS FOR THE GIVING OF THE LAND.


Vers. 1-2. THE JOURNEY TO MOUNT SINAI. From Rephidim in the Wady Feiran, where they had
discomfited Amalek, (Exo_17:8-13) the Israelites moved towards Sinai, probably by the two passes
known as Wady Solar and Wady-esh-Sheikh, which gradually converge and meet at the entrance to the
plain of Er-Rahah. This plain is generally allowed to be "the Desert of Sinai." It is "two miles long, and
half-a-mile broad" (Our Work in Palestine , p. 268), nearly flat, and dotted with tamarisk bushes. The
mountains which enclose it have for the most part sloping sides, and form a sort of natural amphitheatre.
The plain abuts at its south-eastern extremity on abrupt cliffs of granite rock rising from it nearly
perpendicularly, and known as the Ras Sufsafeh. "That such a plain should exist at all in front of such a
cliff is," as Dean Stanley well remarks, "so remarkable a coincidence with the sacred narrative, as to
furnish a strong internal argument, not merely of its identity with the scene, but of the scene itself having
been described by an eye-witness" (Sinai and Palestine, pp. 42-3). All the surroundings are such as
exactly suit the narrative. "The awful and lengthened approach, as to some natural sanctuary, would
have been the fittest preparation for the coming scene. The low line of alluvial mounds at the foot of the
cliff exactly answers to the "bounds" which were to keep the people off front "touching the mount." The
plain itself is not broken and uneven and narrowly shut in, like almost all others in the range, but
presents a long retiring sweep, against which the people could "remove and stand afar off" The cliff,
rising like a huge altar, in front of the whole congregation, and visible against the sky in lonely grandeur
from end to end of the whole plain, is the very image of the mount that might be touched, and from
which the voice of God might be heard far and wide over the plain below, widened at that point to its
utmost extent by the confluence of all the contiguous valleys. Here, beyond all other parts of the
peninsula, is the adytum, withdrawn as if in the end "of the world," from all the stir and confusion of
earthly things" (ib, p. 43). As an eminent engineer has observed spot in the world can be pointed out
which combines in a more remarkable manner the conditions of a commanding height and of a plain in
every part of which the sights and sounds described in Exodus would reach an assembled multitude of
more than two million souls." Here then, we may well say, in the words used by the most recent of
scientific explorers, "was the scene of the giving of the law. From Ras Sufsafeh the law was proclaimed to
the children of Israel, assembled in the plains of Er Rahah" (Our Work in Palestine, p. 208).
In the third month. The month Sivan, corresponding nearly with our June. When the children of
Israel were gone forth. Rather, "after the children of Israel had gone forth," or "after the departure of
the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt." Compare Exo_16:1, where the expression used is the
same. The same day. Literally, "on that day which can only mean "on the day that the month began on
the 1st of Sivan. The wilderness of Sinai. The plain Er-Rahah; as is now generally allowed, since the
true character of the Wady Sebaiyeh has been shown by Dean Stanley ( Sinai and Palestine, p. 76) and
others.
Vers. 1-2. Localities shaped to suit God"s moral purposes.
It is scarcely possible to read the descriptions of the Sinaitic localities by modern travellers, who pointedly
note their exact adaptation to the scenes transacted among them, without the feeling stealing upon us,
that God, in the countless ages during which he was shaping and ordering the earth to be a fitting
habitation for man was also arranging it in such sort as would best conduce to the exhibition upon it of
those supernatural occurrences, which in his counsels were to constitute turning-points in the moral
history of man. Take for instance Jerusalem: are we to suppose that the valleys were furrowed and the
rocky platform upraised by the elements acting mechanically, as chance might direct, or not rather that
God lovingly shaped, age after age, the mountain where he was about to set his name, and which was to
be "the joy of the whole earth"? (Psa_48:2) Rome again, with its seven hills: was not this remarkable
formation brought into existence to constitute the site for that capital which was to be, first and last, the
pivot of the world"s secular history; for five hundred years the seat of an almost universal empire; for a
thousand the western ecclesiastical centre; and having in the future possibilities which the wisest forecast
can only dimly indicate, but which transcend those of any other existing city. And, if in these cases
Providence contrived and shaped the geographic features with a view to the future history, must it not
have been the same at Sinai? Must not that vast granite cluster have been upreared in the place it holds
by a series of throes which shook all the regions of the east, in order that from it the law might be given
in such a way as to impress men deeply? Must not the plain Er-Rahah have been washed by floods into
its present level surface to furnish a convenient place from which the multitudinous host of Israel might
at once see and hear? Must not the entire Sinaitic region have been so modelled, that here should be the
adytum here and here alone in the entire district, should be the natural "inmost sanctuary penetrale of
holies the centre of attraction the fit spot for supernatural events, on which the future of mankind was to
hinge for fourteen centuries? To us it seems, that God did not so much select for his supernatural
communications with man the fittest of existing localities, as design the localities themselves with a view
to the communications, shaping them to suit his moral purposes.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR Vers. 1, 2. Arrival and encampment at Sinai. We come now to the consideration
of what, next to the exodus, is thegreatest event in Israel"s history the ratification at Sinai of the nation"s
covenant with God, preceded by the giving of the law. We cannot attach too great importance to these
Divine acts. The covenant at Sinai placed Israel in a totally unique relation to Jehovah. It conferred on
that people an honour the like of which no nation on earth ever had, or ever has since, enjoyed. It gave
rise to an economy, the express design of which was to prepare the way for Christ to shut men up under
a conviction of the hopelessness of attaining righteousness by the law, to the faith that should afterwards
be revealed. (Gal_3:23) This covenant, as befitted the majesty of God, dealing with a sinful people, was
to be ordained "in the hand of a mediator". (Gal_3:19) Moses, accordingly, is seen in these verses
entering on his mediatorial functions. Once, a second, and a third time, in the course of this single
chapter, he is seen ascending the mount, to meet with God (vers. 3, 8, 20); and once, a second, and a
third time, he is sent back from its awful recesses with a message to the people. Vers. 1, 2 relate the
arrival at Sinai.
I THE NOTE OF TIME. the third month," etc. (ver. 1). That is, about six weeks forty or fifty days after
leaving Egypt. This was close on the date of Pentecost, afterwards traditionally observed as the
anniversary of the giving of the law. It was probably with allusion to this fact that, in the new economy,
the day of Pentecost was chosen for the gift of the Spirit to the Church. (Ac 2) Thus was fulfilled the
prophecy the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and
with the house of Judah I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts". (Jer_31:31-
33) "Sinai, then, was the Pentecost of the old dispensation. And, conversely, Pentecost is the Sinai of the
new." (Gibson.)
II THE PLACE OF ENCAMPMENT. wilderness of Sinai before the mount" (vers. 1, 2). A fitter theatre for
the awful revelation about to be given could scarcely be imagined. The heart of the desert, it was
1. A place of absolute solitude. The people were absolutely alone with God withdrawn from everything
which could distract their thoughts from him and from his message. Owen observes God deals with men
by the law, he will let them see nothing but himself and their own consciences For the most part, when
the law is preached to sinners, they have innumerable diversions and reliefs at hand to shield them from
its terror and efficacy. They have other things to do than to attend to the voice of the law; at least, it is
not yet necessary that they should so do. But when God will bring them to the mount, as he will here or
hereafter, all these pretexts will vanish and disappear". (on Heb_12:18) For the thorough awakening of
conscience, we must get a man alone must, in some way or other, sever him from his ordinary
surroundings.
2. A place of great sublimity. Travellers dwell with awe on its bare, desolate grandeur on "the lengthened
approach" to the mount, "as to some natural sanctuary." The mind, amidst such grandeur, is irresistibly
drawn upwards. It is brought into the condition most fit for the reception of thoughts of the everlasting
and sublime. How suitable was such a place for the promulgation of that moral law which Kant said
affected him with such indescribable awe every time he thought of it! Every circumstance was present
which could lend body, vastness, volume, impressiveness, and reduplicated sublimity to the terrors of the
revelation. The "sound of the trumpet and the voice of words" would reverberate with strange power
amid those rocky heights, and along the echoing valleys. The sternness of the environment was itself a
commentary on the law"s sanctities.
3. A place of barrenness. "It was a barren and fruitless desert, where there was little water or food, and,
answerably thereunto, the law in a state of sin, would bring forth no fruit, nothing acceptable to God, nor
useful to the souls of men." (Owen.) So entirely has the spirit of this scene of this awful desert solitude
passed into the revelation connected with it, that the two can no longer be dissociated. Sinai,
unconsciously to ourselves, acts upon us to this hour, in every contact of our minds with the truths of the
law.
III THE DESIGN OF THE STAY. Israel abode at Sinai for eleven months. During this period the nation
enjoyed a season of rest, received the law, ratified its covenant with God, constructed a sanctuary, and
was otherwise equipped and organised. It was a time of repose, of retired communion with God, of
receptivity. Such times are very needful in the spiritual life.
1. Needful for all. The Christian toiler needs seasons of rest. (Mar_6:31) His truest rest will be found in
communion with God and study of his will. By-and-by the call will come, summoning him to renewed
activity have dwelt long enough in this mount," etc.. (Deu_1:6)
2. Specially needful in the stage of spiritual history immediately succeeding conversion . Young converts
will do well to ponder the example of Paul, who, after God had revealed his Son in him, and before
entering on his work as an apostle, "went into Arabia," perhaps revisiting this very. (Gal_1:17) They are
all the better for some such season of solitary communion with God as is represented by Israel"s stay at
Sinai. They need repose of mind. Like the Israelites, they have a covenant to ratify with God. Like the
Israelites, they stand greatly in need of instruction. They need time for lengthened study of the Divine
will. They need equipment and preparation for the trials they are afterwards to encounter. Their coming,
it is true, is rather figured as a coming to Mount Sion, than as a coming to Mount Sinai; (Heb_12:22) but
none the less has Sinai important lessons which it will be for their interest not to overlook. The Christian
who does not frequently in spirit visit Sinai will not readily understand his privileges at Sion. The following
words of Dr. Candlish express important truth: by a separate process in each mind, a distinct spiritual
change in every soul, God effects the rescue of his people. There cannot, therefore, be any general
gathering together, in a literal sense, such as there was at Sinai. But practically, in a real though spiritual
sense, every converted soul has to pass through an analogous spiritual crisis. It is a momentous crisis, as
regards both the exodus and the pilgrimage; the escape he has made and the way he has to go. It is, in
fact, the settlement, once for all, of the terms upon which he is henceforth to be with his God as his
Sovereign Lord. It is his being confronted and brought face to face with God, in a new state and
character, as redeemed by his grace, and ready for his work." ("Fatherhood of God.") J.O.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART Vers. 1-6. The Lord and his people.
I WHO THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE.
1. The children of the promise, "the house of Jacob," etc., the household offaith.
2. They who have experienced deliverance and known God"s love: "Yehave seen what I did," etc. The
law the picture of the Gospel: those only can enter into the covenant of obedience who have known that
God has chosen and blessed them. "We love him because he first loved us.
II WHAT THE LORD ASKS OF THEM.
1. True obedience: not a profession, but a life.
2. To keep his covenant: to understand his will, and make that will theirlaw. The whole end of both taw
and gospel is missed if the life is not laid hold of, if the man is not brought to wear again the image of
him who created him.
III THE GLORY GOD WILL GIVE THEM IN THE EARTH.
1. They will be God"s best beloved a peculiar treasure unto him "aboveall people." Note the true position
of God"s people. It is not that God cares for them only. He cares for all: "all the earth is mine." They are
the choicest of his earthly treasures.
2. They are to be "a kingdom of priests." They will minister to the nationsin the things of God leading
them into his presence, teaching them his will.
3. They will be "a holy nation," a consecrated people. The Spirit"sanointing will rest upon them.
4. This threefold glory the portion of God"s people to-day: the knowledgethat God has chosen us; our
priestly service among our brethren; the unction from on high. U.
HOMILIES BY H. T. ROBJOHNS Vers. 1-15. Covenant before law.
therefore, if ye will obey," etc. Exo_19:5, Exo_19:6. This subject might well be introduced by:
1. Showing how exactly the topography of Sinai (i.e., the plain of Er Rahah, Ras Sufsafeh, and Jebel
Musa) agrees with the sacred history. For material of description see "The Desert of the Exodus.
2. How suitable mountains were to constitute the scenery of Divinemanifestation.
1. An analysis of this section
1. God and Moses;
2. Moses with the people;
3. God and Moses again;
4. Once more Moses with the people.
In this preparation for the law, we shall see the Gospel. The Gospel antedated law. (see Ga 3) Here we
have several evangelical principles:
I NO COVENANT, NO LIVING OBEDIENCE. Here may be discussed and illustrated the whole question
whether God"s grace precedes our obedient living unto him, or vice versa.
II NO OVERTURE FROM GOD, NO COVENANT. The initiative is ever with God (vers. 3, 4). To illustrate:
Suppose the words had run this way: "Ye know what ye did in Egypt, how ye sought me, if haply ye
might find me; how all the way through the desert ye have followed hard after me, if peradventure ye
might see my face, and hear lay voice in this mountain." Not one word would have been true. God ever
first seeks man, not nigh God.
III NO REDEMPTIVE ACTION, NO OVERTURE POSSIBLE. God"s appeal is ever strengthened by his
deeds. In the case of Israel, there had been the paschal lamb, the passing over, the passage of the Red
Sea, and the constitution of a Church. Thereafter covenant, and anon law! Show the analogies in
Christian times the atonement, pardon, adoption, inclusion in the Church, the establishment of
covenantal relations, the coming under the Christian rule of life.
IV NO CONCURRENCE, NO RESULT (ver. 5). If," etc.
1. In all God"s dealing with us he has respect to our liberty.
2. The condition here is a believing obedience. The Hebrew word for "obey" seems to carry pregnantly
within it all these meanings hearing, listening, heeding, trusting, acting according to what we hear and
believe. It might be welt to show that practically in Christian life the believing man is the obedient, and
vice versa.
3. And keeping the covenant. Bring out the sentinel idea in the "keeping," and then show that we keep
the covenant:
(1) By complying with the conditions on our side.
(2) By jealously guarding the conditions on God"s side against the tamperings of error.
V WITH CONCURRENCE, THE MOST BLESSED RESULTS. They who believe and keep the covenant
become:
1. The private and peculiar treasure of the King of kings. Amongst earthly potentates there is a distinction
between the treasures which they hold in their public capacity and those which are their own private
property. When a king abdicates, he leaves behind him the public treasure, but carries with him his own.
In an analogous sense we become the priceless jewels of the King of kings, though "all the earth is his".
(same Hebrew word in Mal_3:17)
2. A kingly priesthood (ver. 6). "A royalty of priests," i.e. , every king a priest, and every priest a king.
Here we have
(1) The royalty of religion. Religion the most powerful factor in life. Illustrate the monarchy of
religione.g. , St. Paul on board the ship.
(2) The priesthood of religion. Priestcraft is vile; priesthood a benediction. The priest receives from God
for man; offers for man to God, e.g. , the priesthood Aaronic, that of the Lord Jesus, that of Israel for the
nations, that of the Christian believer.
3. Separate. Negatively, from the world, but also positively unto God. "A holy nation. R.

Exodus 3:1-22

ISRAEL’S BONDAGE. MOSES AND THE EXODUS

Exo_1:1 to Exo_15:21.

DR. J. M. Gray’s five rules for Bible reading: “Read the Book”, “Read the
Book Continuously”, “Read the Book Repeatedly”, “Read the Book
Independently”, “Read the Book Prayerfully”, are all excellent; but the one
upon which I would lay emphasis in this study of Exodus is the second of
those rules, or, “Read the Book Continuously”. It is doubtful if there is any
Book in the Bible which comes so nearly containing an outline, at least, of all
revelation, as does the Book of Exodus. There is scarcely a doctrine in the
New Testament, or a truth in the Old, which may not be traced in fair
delineation in these forty chapters.

God speaks in this Book out of the burning bush. Sin, with its baneful
effects, has a prominent place in its pages; and Salvation, for all them that
trust in Him, with judgment for their opposers, is a conspicuous doctrine in
this Old Testament document. God, Sin, Salvation, and Judgment—these are
great words! The Book that reveals each of them in fair outline is a great
Book indeed, and its study will well repay the man of serious mind.

Exodus is a Book of bold outlines also! Its author, like a certain school of
modern painters, draws his picture quickly and with but few strokes, and yet
the product of his work approaches perfection. How much of time and
history is put into these three verses:

“And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were
seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already. And Joseph
died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the
Children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and
multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was
filled with them” (Exo_1:5-7).

These three verses contain 215 years of time, and all the events that
crowded into that period would, if they were recorded, fill volumes without
end. And, while there are instances of delineation in detail in the Book of
Exodus, the greater part of the volume is given to the bolder outlines which
sweep much history into single sentences.

In looking into these fifteen chapters, I have been engaged with the
question of such arrangement as would best meet the demands of memory,
and thereby make the lesson of this hour a permanent article in our mental
furniture. Possibly, to do that, we must seize upon a few of the greater
subjects that characterize these chapters, and so phrase them as to provide
mental promontories from which to survey the field of our present study.
Surely, The Bondage of Israel, The Rise of Moses, and the Exodus from
Egypt, are such fundamentals.

THE BONDAGE OF ISRAEL.

The bondage of Israel, like her growth, requires but a few sentences for its
expression.
“Now, there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not
Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the
Children of Israel are more and mightier than we; Come on,
let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to
pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto
our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of
the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to
afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh
treasure cities, Pit horn and Raamses. But the more they
afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they
were grieved because of the Children of Israel. And the
Egyptians made the Children of Israel to serve with rigour:
And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar,
and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their
service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour”
(Exo_1:8-22).

There are several features in Egypt’s conduct in effecting the bondage of


Israel which characterize the conduct of all imperial nations.

The bondage began with injustice. Israel was in Egypt by invitation. When
they came, Pharaoh welcomed them, and set apart for their use the fat of
the land. The record is,

“Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a
possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the
land of Raamses, as Pharaoh had commanded” (Gen_47:11).

There they flourished until a king arose which knew not Joseph. Then a tax
was laid upon them; eventually taskmasters were set over them, and those
who came in response to Pharaoh’s invitation, “Come unto me and I will give
you the good of the, land of Egypt, and ye shall eat of the fat of the land”,
were compelled by his successors to take the place of slaves. It seems as
difficult for a nation as it is for an individual to refrain from the abuse of
power. A writer says, “Revolution is caused by seeking to substitute
expediency for justice,” and that is exactly what the King of Egypt and his
confederates attempted in the instance of these Israelites. It would seem
that the result of that endeavor ought to be a lesson to the times in which
we live, and to the nations entrusted with power. Injustice toward a
supposedly weaker people is one of those offences against God which do not
go unpunished, and its very practice always provokes a rebellion which
converts a profitable people into powerful enemies.

It ought never to be forgotten either that injustice easily leads to


oppression. We may suppose the tax at first imposed upon this people was
comparatively slight, and honorable Egyptians found for it a satisfactory
excuse, hardly expecting that the time would ever come when the Israelites
should be regarded “chattel-slaves”. But “he that is unjust in the least is
unjust also in much”. It is doubtful if there is any wrong in man’s moral
relations which blinds him so quickly and so effectually as the exercise of
power against weakness.

Joseph Parker, in speaking of the combat between Moses and the Egyptian,
says, “Every honorable-minded man is a trustee of social justice and
common fair play. We have nothing to do with the petty quarrels that fret
society, but we certainly have to do with every controversy—social, imperial,
or international—which violates human right and impairs the claims of Divine
honor. We must all fight for the right. We feel safer by so much if we know
there are amongst us men who will not be silent in the presence of wrong,
and will lift up a testimony in the name of righteousness, though there be
none to cheer them with one word of encouragement.”

It is only a step from enslaving to slaughter. That step was speedily


taken, for “Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye
shall cast into the river” (Exo_1:22). Unquestionably there is a two-fold
thought in this fact. Primarily this, whom the tyrant cannot control to his
profit, he will slay to his pleasure; and then, in its deeper and more spiritual
significance, it is Satan’s effort to bring an end to the people of God. The
same serpent that effected the downfall of Adam and Eve whispered into
Cain’s ear, “Murder Abel”; and into the ears of the Patriarchs, “Put Joseph
out of the way”; and to Herod, “Throttle all the male children of the land”;
and to the Pharisee and Roman soldier, “Crucify Jesus of Nazareth”. It
remains for us of more modern times to learn that the slaughter of the weak
may be accomplished in other ways than by the knife, the Nile, or the Cross.
It was no worse to send a sword against a feeble people, than, for the sake
of filthy lucre, to plant among them the accursed saloon. Benjamin Harrison,
in a notable address before the Ecumenical Missionary Conference held in
the City of New York years ago, said, “The men who, like Paul, have gone to
heathen lands with the message, ‘We seek not yours but you,’ have been
hindered by those who, coming after, have reversed the message. Rum and
other corrupting agencies come in with our boasted civilization, and the
feeble races wither before the breath of the white man’s vices.”
Egypt sought to take away from Israel the physical life which Egypt feared;
but God has forewarned us against a greater enemy when He said, “Be not
afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can
do. * * Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell;
yea, I say unto you, Fear Him”. If in this hour of almost universal
disturbance the sword cannot be sheathed, let us praise God that our
Congress and Senate have removed the saloon—a slaughter-house from the
midst of our soldiers, and our amended Constitution has swept it from the
land.

THE RISE OF MOSES.

I do not know whether you have ever been impressed in studying this Book
of Exodus with what is so evidently a Divine ordering of events. It is when
the slaughter is on that we expect the Saviour to come. And that God who
sits beside the dying sparrow never overlooks the affliction of His people.
When an edict goes forth against them, then it is that He brings their
deliverer to the birth; hence we read, “And there went a man of the house of
Levi and took to wife a daughter of the house of Levi, and the woman
conceived and bare a son” (Exo_2:1-2),

That is Moses; that is God’s man! It is no chance element that brings him to
the kingdom at such a time as this. It is no mere happening that he is bred
in Pharaoh’s house, and instructed by Jochebed. It is no accident that he is
taught in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. It is all in perfect consequence of
the fact that God is looking upon the Children of Israel, and is having respect
unto them.

Against Pharaoh’s injustice He sets Moses’ keen sense of right. When


Moses sees an Egyptian slay an oppressed Israelite, he cannot withhold his
hand. And, when after forty years in the wilderness he comes back to behold
afresh the affliction of his people, he “chooses to suffer with them rather
than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” God never does a better thing
for a nation than when He raises up in it such a man. We have heard a great
deal of Socrates’ wisdom, but it is not in the science of philosophy alone that
that ancient shines; for when Athens was governed by thirty tyrants, who
one day summoned him to the Senate House, and ordered him to go with
others named to seize Leon, a man of rank and fortune, whose life was to be
sacrificed that these rulers might enjoy his estate, the great philosopher
flatly refused, saying, “I will not willingly assist in an unjust act.” Thereupon
Chericles sharply asked, “Dost thou think, Socrates, to talk in this high tone
and not to suffer?” “Far from it,” replied the philosopher, “I expect to suffer
a thousand ills, but none so great as to do unjustly.” That day Socrates was
a statesman of the very sort that would have saved Athens had his ideas of
righteousness obtained.

Against Pharaoh’s oppression He sets Moses’ Divine appointment.


There were many times when Moses was tempted to falter, but God’s
commission constrained his service. When Moses said, “Who am I that I
should go unto Pharaoh?” God answered, “Surely I will be with thee”. When
Moses feared his own people who would not believe in his commission, God
answered, “Thus shalt thou say unto the Children of Israel, I AM hath sent
you”. When Moses feared that the Israelites would doubt his Divine
appointment, God turned the rod in his hand into a worker of wonders. And,
when Moses excused himself on the ground of “no eloquence”, God replied,
“Go, and I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say”. With
any man, a conviction of Divine appointment is a power, but for him who
would be a saviour of his fellows, it is an absolute essential.

Pastor Stalker, speaking to the subject of a Divine call to the service of soul-
winning, said, “Enthusiasm for humanity is a noble passion and sheds a
beautiful glow over the first efforts of an unselfish life, but it is hardly stern
enough for the uses of the world. There come hours of despair when men
seem hardly worth our devotion. * * Worse still is the sickening
consciousness that we have but little to give; perhaps we have mistaken our
vocation; it is a world out of joint, but were we born to put it right? This is
where a sterner motive is needed than love for men. Our retreating zeal
requires to be rallied by the command of God. It is His work; these souls are
His; He has committed them to our care, and at the judgment-seat He will
demand an account of them. All Prophets and Apostles who have dealt with
men for God have been driven on by this impulse which has recovered them
in hours of weakness and enabled them to face the opposition of the world.
* * This command came to Moses in the wilderness and drove him into
public life in spite of strong resistance; and it bore him through the
unparalleled trials of his subsequent career.” How many times he would have
surrendered the battle and left his fellows to suffer under Pharaoh’s heels,
but for the sound of that voice which Joan of Arc heard, saying to him as it
said to her, “Go on! Go on!”

Against Pharaoh’s slaughter God set up Moses as a Saviour. History


has recorded the salvation of his people to many a man, who, either by his
counsels in the time of peace or his valor in the time of war, has brought
abiding victory. But where in annals, secular or sacred, can you find a
philosopher who had such grave difficulties to deal with as Moses met in
lifting his people from chattel slaves to a ruling nation? And where so many
enemies to be fought as Moses faced in his journey from the place of the
Pyramids to Pisgah’s Heights?

Titus Flaminius freed the Grecians from the bondage with which they had
long been oppressed. When the herald proclaimed the Articles of Peace, and
the Greeks understood perfectly what Flaminius had accomplished for them,
they cried out for joy, “A Saviour! a Saviour!” till the Heavens rang with their
acclamations.

But Moses was worthy of greater honor because his was a more difficult
deed. I don’t know, but I suppose one reason why Moses’ name is coupled
with that of the Lamb in the Oratorio of the Heavens, is because he saved
Israel out of a bondage which was a mighty symbol of Satan’s power, and
led them by a journey, which is the best type of the pilgrim’s wanderings in
this world, and brought them at last to the borders of Canaan, which has
always been regarded as representative of “the rest that remaineth for the
people of God”.

THE EXODUS FROM EGYPT

involves some items of the deepest interest.

The ten plagues prepare for it. The river is turned into blood; frogs
literally cover the land; the dust is changed to lice; flies swarm until all the
houses are filled; the beasts are smitten with murrain; boils and blains, hail,
locusts and darkness do their worst, and the death of the first-born furnishes
the climax of Egyptian affliction, and compels the haughty Pharaoh to bow in
humility and grief before the will of the Most High God (chaps. 7-12).

There is one feature of these plagues that ought never to be forgotten.


Without exception, they spake in thunder tones against Egyptian idolatry.
The Nile River had long been an object of their adoration. In a long poem
dedicated to the Nile, these lines are found:

“Oh, Nile, hymns are sung to thee on the harp,


Offerings are made to thee: oxen are slain to thee;
Great festivals are kept for thee;
Fowls are sacrificed to thee.”
But when the waters of that river were turned to blood, the Egyptians
supposed Typhon, the God of Evil, with whom blood had always been
associated, had conquered over their bountiful and beautiful Osiris—the
name under which the Nile was worshiped.

The second plague was no less a stroke at their hope of a resurrection, for a
frog had long symbolized to them the subject of life coming out of death.
The soil also they had worshiped, and now to see the dust of it turned
suddenly into living pests, was to suffer under the very power from which
they had hoped to receive greatest success. The flies that came in clouds
were not all of one kind, but their countless myriads, according to the
Hebrew word used, included winged pests of every sort, even the
scarabaeus, or sacred beetle. Heretofore, it had been to them the emblem of
the creative principle; but now God makes it the instrument of destruction
instead. When the murrain came upon the beasts, the sacred cow and the
sacred ox-Apis were humbled. And ~when the ashes from the furnace smote
the skin of the Egyptians, they could not forget that they had often sprinkled
ashes toward Heaven, believing that thus to throw the ashes of their
sacrifices into the wind would be to avert evil from every part of the land
whither they were blown. Geikie says that the seventh plague brought these
devout worshipers of false gods to see “that the waters, the earth and the
air, the growth of the fields, the cattle, and even their own persons, all
under the care of a host of divinities, were yet in succession smitten by a
power against which these protectors were impotent. When the clouds of
locusts had devoured the land, there remained another stroke to their
idolatry more severe still, and that was to see the Sun, the supreme god of
Egypt, veil his face and leave his worshipers in total darkness. It is no
wonder that Pharaoh then called to Moses and said, “Go ye, serve the Lord”;
but it is an amazing thing that even yet his greed of gain goads him on to
claim their flocks and their herds as an indemnity against the exodus of the
people. There remained nothing, therefore, for God to do but lift His hand
again, and lo, death succeeded darkness, and Pharaoh himself became the
subject of suffering, and the greatest idol of the nation was humbled to the
dust, for the king was the supreme object of worship.

He is a foolish man who sets himself up to oppose the Almighty God. And
that is a foolish people who think to afflict God’s faithful ones without feeling
the mighty hand of that Father who never forgets His own.

One day I was talking with a woman whose husband formerly followed the
habit of gambling. By this means he had amassed considerable wealth, and
when she was converted and desired to unite with the church, he employed
every power to prevent it, and even denied her the privilege of church
attendance. One morning he awoke to find that he was a defeated man; his
money had fled in the night, and in the humiliation of his losses, he begged
his wife’s pardon for ever having opposed her spirit of devotion. Since that
time, though living in comparative poverty, she has been privileged to serve
God as she pleased; and, as she said to me, finds in that service a daily joy
such as she at one time feared she would never feel again. God’s plagues
are always preparing the way for an exodus on the part of God’s oppressed.

The Passover interpreted this exodus. That greatest of all Jewish feasts
stands as a memorial of Israel’s flight from Egypt as a symbol of God’s
salvation for His own, and as an illustration of the saving power of the Blood
of the Lamb.

The opponents of the exodus perished. Our study concludes with Israel’s
Song of Deliverance, beginning, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He
has become my salvation”, and concluding in the words of Miriam, “Sing ye
to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath
He thrown into the sea”. See Exo_15:1-21. Such will ever be the end of
those who oppress God’s people and oppose the Divine will.

When one studies the symbolism in all of this, and sees how Israel typifies
God’s present-day people, and Moses, their deliverer, Jesus our Saviour, and
defeated Pharaoh, the enemy of our souls, destined to be overthrown, he
feels like joining in the same song of deliverance, changing the words only
so far as to ascribe the greater praise to Him who gave His life a deliverance
for all men; and with James Montgomery sing:

“Hail to the Lord’s Anointed


Great David’s greater Son
Who, in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun.
He comes to break oppression,
To set the captive free,
To take away transgression,
And rule in equity.

“He comes, with succor speedy,


To those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy,
And bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing,
Their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying.
Were precious in His sight.”

Exodus 3:1-22

Exo_3:1-14
This narrative is a chain of glorious wonders. We see here—

I. An old man called to go out on the great errand of his life. The education
of Moses for the great mission of his life lasted eighty years. God never
sends forth fruit until the season is fitted for the fruit, and the fruit for the
season; when the hour was ready for the man, and the man for the hour,
then God sent forth Moses.

II. The burning bush from which that call was sounded. (1) This was a sign
to indicate the peculiar presence of God. (2) It was also a symbol of His
people, eminently adapted to encourage the prophet in undertaking their
cause.

III. The angel who uttered this call. We see at the first glance that He is
Divine; we next learn that He is an angel; we further find, from a chain of
Scripture proofs, that He is Christ.

IV. The covenant under which the Angel gave him his commission. It was
the same covenant that had been given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

V. The Angel's name. That name asserts (1) His real existence, (2) His
underived existence, (3) His independent existence, (4) His eternity.

VI. The effect to be wrought by the remembrance of His name. (1) It was
intended to inspire profoundest reverence for the Being to whom it belongs.
(2) It reveals the infinite sufficiency of a Christian's portion. (3) It gives
encouragement to Evangelical enterprise.
C. Stanford, Symbols of Christ, p. 61.

References: Exo_3:1-14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 57. Exo_3:1-15.—


A. M. Fairbairn, The City of God, p. 107. Exo_3:1-22.—Clergyman's
Magazine, vol. iv., p. 141. Exo_3:2—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred
Sermon Sketches, p. 20; J. Edmunds, Sermons in a Village Church, p.
79; J. Hamilton, Works, vol. v., p. 185; The Weekly Pulpit, vol. i., p.
312; D. J. Vaughan, The Days of the Son of Man, p. 209; H. Varley,
Penny Pulpit, No. 369; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 145; J. Jackson
Wray, Light from the Old Lamp, p. 231.

Exo_3:2-6
I. The vision. (1) The vision was miraculous. (2) Moses had this vision when
he was in solitude. (3) It was symbolic (a) of Israel in Egypt; (b) of the
Church in the world; (c) of the truth of the Gospel; (d) of ourselves who
have the religious life within us.

II. The voice. (1) It revealed the majesty and grandeur of God. (2) The voice
revealed the special providence of the great God—the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. (3) The voice proclaimed the faithfulness of God. (4) The
voice demanded reverence.

T. Jones, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 220.

Reference: Exo_3:2-6.—S. Leathes, Truth and Life, p. 70.

Exo_3:3
I. The story of Moses is the story, at first, of failure. Two great streams of
influences moulded his life, the one drawn from the Egyptian surroundings of
his early days, the other drunk in with his mother's milk and his mother's
teaching. On the one side he had the speechless-eyed deities of Egypt
looking for ever into his face, on the other he had a belief in the governing
providence of God. He expected to find amongst his own people aspirations
after better things, and responsiveness to his own spirit, but he met with
chilliness, coldness, and refusal to follow. Then came his exile in Midian, an
exile from all his early dreams and hopes, from the position he had in Egypt,
from the future which flowed before him.

II. The vision was the revelation that restored him to faith and energy. The
revelation was threefold. It was a revelation (1) of permanence, (2) of
purity, (3) of personal power. A revelation of permanence, for the bush was
not consumed; it held its own life amidst the devouring flame. A revelation
of purity, for before he could enter into the deep meaning of that vision, a
voice had bidden him "put his shoes from off his feet, for the place on which
he stood was holy." A revelation of personal power and love, for out of the
distance, out of the background of the vision, giving it its heart and life,
came the voice of Him who proclaimed Himself through all the changes and
vicissitudes of the life of Israel, as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of
Jacob.

III. The revelation was not for Moses alone. There is in every common bush
the light of God, and only those see it who draw off their shoes. We forget to
turn aside to see the great sights about us. If we give our hearts leisure to
meet with God, God will meet with us.

Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 91.

References: Exo_3:3.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 308. Exo_3:4.—H. Allon,


Congregationalist, vol. viii., p. 469.

Exo_3:5
I. The essence of reverence lies in our forming a true estimate of our place
amongst the powers around us, and so understanding aright and habitually
feeling what is our relation to them. Now, to do this, (1) we must apprehend
something of the mystery of life in ourselves and in others; (2) we must
recognise the distinction of the different grades of being in those in whom
life is, and seek to find and to keep our own due place in that mighty and
marvellous scale of existences.

II. We must bow down before Him who is the fountain of all life, the life of
all who live. This adoration of the soul before Him is the central point of the
grace of reverence, and its influence pervades and adjusts all our other
relations, both towards Himself and towards the other creature of His hand.

III. It is a question of the deepest moment to us all how, in an age one


special temptation of which is clearly to lose its reverence, the gift can be
kept quick and living in ourselves. (1) The first step must be the keeping
guard against whatever tends to irreverence. All that professedly robs life of
its mystery does this. So, even more directly, does all that robs revelation of
its awfulness. Receiving God's word as God's word, striving to do it, striving
to overcome temptations to doubt, not by crushing them out, but by turning
them into occasions of prayer and of adoration, these efforts, and such as
these, will keep us in an irreverent age from the great loss of irreverence.
(2) Above all, we must pray for reverence as the gift of God; for such prayer
not only draws down a certain answer, but even by its own action tends to
put our spirits in the frame of reverence.

S. Wilberforce, University Sermons, p. 335.

References: Exo_3:5.—C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of Life and Godliness, p. 114;


W. J. Butler, Sermons to Working Men, p. 259; G. Litting, Thirty
Children's Sermons, p. 189. Exo_3:6.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p.
214; J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, Lent to Passiontide, p.
336; Old Testament Outlines, p. 25; Congregationalist, vol. vi., p. 428.

Exo_3:7
Quite apart from its religious significance, there is no other historical
phenomenon that is to be compared for a moment in interest with this ever-
growing wonder of the Jewish race. The light falls clearly and steadily on its
history from first to last. The whole connected story lies before us like a
mighty river, which from some high mountain summit you can trace from its
fountain to the ocean.

I. The history of this people is thus the history of mankind in its central seats
of power. It brings with it living reminiscences of the remotest past. In order
to understand how strange a phenomenon is this indomitable vitality of the
race, a race without a home or a country, compare their history with that of
the numberless tribes of other races who have been either migratory or
settled. Excepting the Arabs, also Abraham's descendants, all the other
settled contemporary races around Palestine have either died out
completely, as the ancient people of Tyre, Edom, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt;
or, if migratory, they have been lost and absorbed after a few centuries. The
bond that has held the Jews apart from other nations, and yet together, has
been their common religion, their common historical glory. When all Eastern
Asia held evil to be incurable, and eternal, and Divine, the race of Abraham
held that evil was "but for a moment," and that God's goodness and justice
alone were eternal; and it is they who have taught this lesson to the nations
of the modern world.

II. Notice next the tragic side of this wonderful national history. The honour
of being the intellectual and spiritual leaders of the world for four thousand
years, has been paid for by four thousand years of national martyrdom and
humiliation. The terrific penalties announced at the beginning for failure in
their national vocation amidst the great nations of the ancient world, have
been exacted to the letter. The so-called Christian nations have made their
lives for nearly fifteen hundred years one prolonged Egyptian bondage. New
Testament Christianity has at last taught us English, at least, to love the
nation to whom we owe such priceless blessings. We believe that the time is
hastening on when Christ will return to avenge the quarrel of Israel, and to
end "the times of the Gentiles" by the restoration of the scattered nation to
its old central position in a renovated world.

E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 65.

References: Exo_3:7.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 229. Exo_3:7,


Exo_3:8.—M. G. Pearse, Thoughts on Holiness, p. 230. Exo_3:8.—J. W.
Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 32.

Exo_3:10
(with Heb_11:27)

I. How was the earlier history of Moses an education for the great work of
his life? In order to free his people from their bondage, Moses needed
sympathy and faith; and the Bible gives us three phases of his life,
wonderfully adapted to educate him in these qualities: (1) his education in
the Egyptian court; (2) his attempt to convince the people of their
brotherhood; (3) his flight into the wilderness.

II. How did this vision explain to Moses the work of his life? (1) The vision of
God prepared him for the work of his life. It showed him the everlastingness
of God, and his own unworthiness to do God's work. But the voice upheld
him amid the overwhelming sense of his nothingness, and made him feel his
vocation. The everlasting sympathy was with his people in their sorrows, and
that thought upholding his sinking weakness, became a clear, strong call to
action, and summoned him with the voice of the Eternal to his calling. (2)
The vision of God gave endurance in fulfilling that work. "Moses endured as
seeing Him who is invisible." He had received the grand revelation of the
name of God, which was to abide with him until his work was done: "I Am
that I Am." This revelation of the name of God made him feel the glory of
the vision as an ever-present power. Under that consciousness the sense of
his own insignificance faded, his terror of Pharaoh passed away. Even
though his work should seem to fail, that mighty vision had given him a
grasp on eternity which would keep him strong and true.

E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 81.

References: Exo_3:12.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 308; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi.,


p. 17; J. Hiles Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 40.

Exo_3:13
I. Moses on entering upon a great mission naturally inquires the conditions
upon which he proceeds. Before going on any of life's great errands we
should know (1) Who has sent us, and (2) What is the business on which we
proceed.

II. In the revelation made to Moses, "I AM hath sent me unto you," we have
being distinguished from manifestation. "I AM" is the summary of Being.

III. The answer which Moses received from Almighty God was an immutable
authority for the greatest of missions. Only let us be sure that we are doing
God's errand, and Pharaoh and Caesar and all names of material power will
fall before us, never again to rise.

Parker, Wednesday Evenings at Cavendish Chapel, p. 105.

References: Exo_3:13.—A. Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 213.

Exo_3:14-15
In the long bondage of Israel the God of their fathers had become to the
most a name, a faint echo, an image ever growing dimmer. They were in a
country where countless gods were worshipped, where the forces and
products of nature in all their changes were adored. The very conception of
Deity was polluted and degraded by being associated with creeping things
and monstrous shapes. How wise then that God should be presented to
them as "I AM." "I AM THAT I AM,"—the Being who is, as essential life,
inscrutable and unchangeable, and who was also the God of their fathers.
God is thus set very high and yet He is brought very near, near in a way to
appeal to the heart. To us the two aspects of God possess the same
importance and interest. Let us look at them in several different lights.
I. God is the Incomprehensible One, and yet is revealed in His intercourse
with men. The conviction of God's unsearchableness lies at the root of all
reverence and awe. Before the "I AM THAT I AM" our spirits lie in deepest
adoration and rise into loftiest aspiration. But we need equally the other
side. We need a God revealed in the essential features of His character, and
it is in His dealings with men who feared and loved Him that He has made
Himself known.

II. God is the Independent and Absolute One, and yet He enters into
covenant and most definite relationship with men. He is the God of
Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. The great sea of His love has its channel
and tides. His infinite love and mercy have their regular fixed ways not less
than the sunshine.

III. God is the Eternal One, and yet the God of dying men. Every moment
that we have of fellowship with the Eternal God assures us that for us there
is no death. The thought of death only makes us cleave the more to the
Eternal God.

IV. God is the Unchangeable One, yet the God of men of all different types
and temperaments. He is the same Lord over all. Take these three
patriarchs, so closely related in blood.

How different they were. Yet God was the God of all the three, for they all
agreed in being seekers of God.

J. Leckie, Sermons Preached at Ibrox, p. 35.

References: Exo_3:14.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 156; Expositor, 2nd


series, vol. i., p. 12, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 81; C. Kingsley, Gospel of the
Pentateuch, p. 132; J. Travers Sherlock, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx.,
p. 44; R. Heber, Sermons Preached in England, pp. 102, 124. Exo_3:14,
Exo_3:15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 61. Exo_3:19, Exo_3:20.—
Bishop Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 239. 3—Parker, vol. ii., p. 31.
Exodus 3:1-22
C.—The call of Moses. His refusal and obedience. His association with
Aaron and their first mission to the people of Israel

Exodus 3, 4

1Now Moses kept [was pasturing] the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the
priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the back side of [behind] the desert,
and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. 2And the angel of Jehovah
appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a [the] bush; and he
looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not
consumed. 3And Moses said, I will now turn aside [Let me turn aside] and
see this great sight, why the bush Isaiah 4 not burnt. And when Jehovah
saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the
bush, and said, Moses, Moses! And he said, Here am I. 5And he said, Draw
not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off [from] thy feet, 6for the place
whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover [And] he said, I am the
God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of
7Jacob. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. And
Jehovah said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which [who] are
in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of1 their taskmasters; for I
know their sorrows; 8And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand
of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land,
and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey, unto the place of the
Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the 9Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the
Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore behold, the cry of the children of
Israel is come unto me, and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the
Egyptians oppress them. 10Come now therefore and I will send thee unto
Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth [and bring thou forth] my people, the
children of Israel, out of Egypt, 11And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that
I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel
out of Egypt? 12And he said, Certainly I will be with thee, and this shall be a
[the] token unto thee that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought
[bringest] forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this
mountain. 13And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the
children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath
sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I
say unto them? 14And God said unto Moses, I am that I am. And he said,
Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you.
15And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children
of Israel, Jehovah, God [the God] of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name
forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations [lit. to generation16 of
generation]. Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them,
Jehovah, God [the God] of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and
of Jacob hath appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited [looked upon]
you, and seen that [and that] which is done to you in Egypt. 17And I have
said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt, unto the land of the
Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the
Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. 18And
they shall [will] hearken to thy voice; and thou shalt come, thou and the
elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, Jehovah,
God [the God] of the Hebrews, hath met2 with us, and now let us go, we
beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice
to Jehovah our God. 19And I am sure [know] that the king of Egypt will not
let you go, no [even] not3 by a mighty hand. 20And I will stretch out my
hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in he midst
thereof; and after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favor
in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall come to pass that, when ye go, ye
shall not 22go empty. But [And] every woman shall borrow [ask] of her
neighbor and of her that sojourneth in her house jewels [articles] of silver
and jewels [articles] of gold and raiment [garments]; and ye shall put them
upon your sons and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[Exo_3:7. ‫ִִפנִ ִִי‬


ְּ ‫ מ‬may be rendered more literally “from before,” the people being
represented as followed up in their work by the taskmasters.—Tr.].

[Exo_3:18. ‫נִִק ָרה‬ ְּ is taken by Rosenmüller, after same of the older versions, as =
‫ נִִ ְּק ָרא‬vocatur super nos. But, as Winer remarks, ita tamen intolerabilis tautologia inest in
verbis ‫הִָ ִע ְּב ִרים אִֹלהֵ י‬.” The LXX. translate προσκέκληται ἡμᾶς—which makes better
sense, but is grammatically still more inadmissible, as ‫ נִִ ְּק ָרה‬is thus made =
‫ק ָרא‬
ִָ .—Tr.].
[Exo_3:19. ‫ ְּוִל ֹא‬is rendered by the LXX., Vulg., Luther, and others, “unless.” But this is
incorrect. The more obvious translation may indeed seem to be inconsistent
with the statement in the next verse, “after that he will let you go.” But the
difficulty is not serious. We need only to supply in thought “at first” in this
verse.—Tr.].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Exo_3:1. “Jethro’s residence therefore was separated from Horeb by a


wilderness, and is to be sought not north-east, but south-east of it. For only
by this assumption can we easily account for the two-fold fact that (1)
Moses, in his return from Midian to Egypt, again touches Horeb, where
Aaron, coming from Egypt, meets him (Exo_4:27), and that (2) the
Israelites, in their journey through the wilderness, nowhere come upon
Midianites, and in leaving Sinai the ways of Israel and of the Midianite Hobab
separate” (Keil). Horeb here is used in the wider sense, embracing the whole
range, including Sinai, so that the two names are often identical, although
Horeb, strictly so called, lay further north.—Mountain of God.—According
to Knobel, it was a sacred place even before the call of Moses; according to
Keil, not till afterwards, and is here named according to its later importance.
But there must have been something which led the shepherd Moses to drive
his flock so far as to this mountain, and afterwards to select Sinai as the
place from which to give the law. The more general ground for the special
regard in which this majestic mountain-range is held is without doubt the
reverence felt for the mountains of God in general. The word ‫ הִ ִמ ְּדבָ ר‬might be
taken as = pasture, and the passage understood to mean that Moses, in profound
meditation, forgetting himself as shepherd, drove the flock far out beyond the ordinary
pasture-ground. Yet Rosenmüller observes: “On this highest region of the
peninsula are to be found the most fruitful valleys, in which also fruit trees
grow. Water in abundance is found in this district, and therefore it is the
refuge of all the Bedouins, when the lower regions are dried up.” Tradition
fixes upon the Monastery of Sinai as the place of the thorn-bush and the
calling of Moses.

Exo_3:2. The Angel of Jehovah.—According to Exo_3:4, it is Jehovah


Himself, or even God Himself, Elohim.9—The Bush.—Representing the poor
Israelites in their low estate in contrast with the people that resemble lofty
trees, Jdg_9:15. According to Kurtz, the flame of fire is a symbol of the
holiness of God; according to Keil, who observes that God’s holiness is
denoted by light (e.g. Isa_10:17), the fire is rather, in its capacity of burning
and consuming, a symbol of purifying affliction and annihilating punishment,
or of the chastening and punitive justice of God. But this is certainly not the
signification of the sacrificial fire on the altar of burnt-offering, the “holy”
fire, or of the fiery chariot of Elijah, or of the tongues of fire over the heads
of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Fire, as an emblem of the divine life,
of the life which through death destroys death, of God’s jealous love and
authority, has two opposite sides: it is a fire of the jealous love which visits,
brings home, purifies, and rejuvenates, as well as a fire of consuming wrath
and judgment. This double signification of fire manifests itself especially also
in the northern mythology. That light has the priority over fire, Keil justly
observes. While then the fire here may symbolize the Egyptian affliction in
which Israel is burning, yet the presence of Jehovah in the fire signifies not
something contrasted with it, meaning that he controls the fire, so that it
purifies, without consuming, the Israelites; but rather the fire represents
Jehovah himself in His government, and so the oppression of the Egyptians
is lifted up into the light of the divine government. This holds also
prophetically of all the future afflictions of the theocracy and of the Christian
Church itself. The Church of God is to appear at the end of the world as the
last burning thorn-bush which yet is not consumed.

“The ‫ קִנָא אִֵל‬is ‫( אִֹכְּ לָ ה אִֵׁש‬Deu_4:24) in the midst of Israel (Deu_6:15).” Keil.

Exo_3:3-5. Turn aside.—Comp. Gen_19:2.—Moses, Moses.—Comp.


Gen_22:11. An expression of the most earnest warning and of the deepest
sense of the sacredness and danger of the moment. The address involves a
two-fold element. First, Moses must not approach any nearer to Jehovah;
and, secondly, he must regard the place itself on which he is standing as
holy ground, on which he must not stand in his dusty shoes. The putting off
of the shoes must in general have the same character as the washing of the
feet, and is therefore not only a general expression of reverence for the
sacred place and for the presence of God, like the taking off of the hat with
us, but also a reminder of the moral dust which through one’s walk in life
clings to the shoes or feet, i.e. of the venial sins on account of which one
must humble himself in the sacred moment. On the custom of taking off the
shoes in the East upon entering pagodas, mosques, etc., see Keil, p. 439.

Exo_3:6. Of thy father.—The singular doubtless comprehends the three


patriarchs as first existing in Abraham.10 Moses, in his religion of the second
revelation, everywhere refers to the first revelation, which begins with
Abraham; and thus the name of Jehovah first acquires its new specific
meaning. The revelation of the law presupposes the revelation of promise
(Romans 4; Galatians 3).—And Moses covered his face.—In addition to
the two commands: draw not nigh, put off thy shoes, comes this act, as a
voluntary expression of the heart. Vid. 1Ki_19:13. “Sinful man cannot
endure the sight of the holy God” (Keil). Also the eye of sense is overcome
by the splendor of the manifestation which is inwardly seen, somewhat as by
the splendor of the sun. Vid. Revelation 1.

Exo_3:8. I am come down.—Comp. Gen_11:5. A good land, i.e. a fruitful.


A large land, i.e. not hemmed in like the Nile Valley. Flowing, i.e.
overflowing with milk and honey; rich, therefore, in flowers and flowery
pastures. On the fruitfulness of Canaan, comp. the geographical works.—
Into the place.—More particular description of the land. Vid. Gen_10:19;
Gen_15:18.

Exo_3:11. And Moses said unto God.—He who once would, when as yet
he ought not, now will no longer, when he ought. Both faults, the rashness
and the subsequent slowness, correspond to each other. Moses has indeed
“learned humility in the school of Midian” [Keil]; but this humility cannot be
conceived as without a mixture of dejection, since humility of itself does not
stand in the way of a bold faith, but is rather the source of it. After being
forty years an unknown shepherd, he has, as he thinks, given up, with his
rancor, also his hope. Moreover, he feels, no doubt, otherwise than formerly
about the momentous deed which seems to have done his people no good,
and himself only mischief, and which in Egypt is probably not forgotten. As
in the Egyptian bondage, the old guilt, of Joseph’s brethren manifested itself
even up to the third and fourth generation, so a shadow of that former
rashness seems to manifest itself in the embarrassment of his spirit.

Exo_3:12. The promise that God will go with him and give success to his
mission is to be sealed by his delivering the Israelites, bringing them to
Sinai, and there engaging with them in divine service, i.e., as the expression
in its fullness probably means, entering formally into the relation of
worshipper of Jehovah. The central point of this worship consisted, it is true,
afterwards in the sacrificial offerings, particularly the burnt offering, which
sealed the covenant. This first and greatest sign involves all that follow, and
is designed for Moses himself; with it God gives his pledge of the successful
issue of the whole. It must not be overlooked that this great promise stands
in close relation to the great hope which is reviving in his soul.
Exo_3:13. It is very significant, that Moses, first of all, desires, in behalf of
his mission, and, we may say, in behalf of his whole future religious system,
to know definitely the name of God. The name, God, even in the form of El
Shaddai, was too general for the new relation into which the Israelites were
to enter, as a people alongside of the other nations which all had their own
deities. Though he was the only God, yet it was necessary for him to have a
name of specific significance for Israel; and though the name Jehovah was
already known by them, still it had not yet its unique significance, as the
paternal name of God first acquired its meaning in the New Testament, and
the word “justification,” at the Reformation. Moses, therefore, implies that
he can liberate the people only in the name of God; that he must bring to
them the religion of their fathers in a new phase. ‫ ׁשִֵם‬expresses not solely “the
objective manifestation of the divine essence” [Keil], but rather the human
apprehension of it. The objective manifestation cannot in itself be
desecrated, as the name of God can be.

Exo_3:14. Can it be that ‫ אהיה אשר אהיה‬means only “I am He who I am?” that
it designates only the absoluteness of God, or God as the Eternal One? We
suppose that the two ‫’אהיה‬s do not denote an identical form of existence, but
the same existence in two different future times. From future to future I will
be the same—the same in visiting and delivering the people of God, the
faithful covenant-God, and, as such, radically different from the constant
variation in the representations of God among the heathen. This his
consciousness is the immediate form of his name; transposed to the third
person, it is Jehovah. Hence also the expression: “the God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” is equivalent in meaning. When the
repetition of this name in Exodus 6 is taken for another account of the same
fact, it is overlooked that in that case the point was to get an assurance that
the name “Jehovah” would surpass that of “Almighty God”—an assurance of
which Moses, momentarily discouraged, was just then in need.11

Exo_3:15. My name forever.—Forward into all the future, and backward


into all the past (‫)זִכר‬.

Exo_3:16-18. Moses is to execute his commission to Pharaoh not only in the name of
Jehovah, but also in connection with the elders of Israel, in the name of the people. The
expression “elders” denotes, it is true, primarily the heads of tribes and
families, but also a simple, patriarchal, legal organization based upon that
system.—Now let us go three days’ journey. The phrase ‫ ִֵנ ְּלכָה־נָא‬. is
diplomatically exactly suited to the situation. Strictly, they have a perfect right to go; but it
is conditioned on Pharaoh’s consent. Knobel says: “The delegates, therefore,
were to practice deception on the king.” This is a rather clumsy judgment of
the psychological process. If Pharaoh granted the request, he would be seen
to be in a benevolent mood, and they might gradually ask for more. If he
denied it, it would be well for them not at once, by an open proposal of
emancipation, to have exposed themselves to ruin, and introduced the
contest with his hardness of heart, which the guiding thought of Jehovah
already foresaw. Moses knew better how to deal with a despot. Accordingly
he soon increases his demand, till he demands emancipation, Exo_6:10;
Exo_7:16; Exo_8:25; Exo_9:1; Exo_9:13; Exo_10:3. From the outset it
must, moreover, have greatly impressed the king, that the people should
wish to go out to engage in an act of divine service; still more, that they
should, in making their offering, desire to avoid offending the Egyptians,
Exo_8:26. But gradually Jehovah, as the legitimate king of the people of
Israel, comes out in opposition to the usurper of His rights, Exo_9:1 sq.
Moses, to be sure, even during the hardening process, does not let his whole
purpose distinctly appear; but he nevertheless gives intimations of it, when,
after Pharaoh concedes to them the privilege of making an offering in the
country, he stipulates for a three days’ journey, and, in an obscure
additional remark, hints that he then will still wait for Jehovah to give further
directions.

Exo_3:19. Even not by a mighty hand.—Although God really frees Israel


by a mighty hand. Pharaoh does not, even after the ten plagues,
permanently submit to Jehovah; therefore he perishes in the Red Sea.

Exo_3:20. Announcement of the miracles by which Jehovah will glorify


Himself.

Exo_3:21. Announcement of the terror of the Egyptians, in which they will


give to the Israelites, upon a modest request for a loan, the most costly
vessels (Keil: “jewels”). The announcement becomes a command in
Exo_11:2 sq. On the ancient misunderstanding of this fact, vid. Keil, p. 445
sq., and the references to Hengstenberg, Kurtz, Reinke; also Commentary
on Genesis, p. 29. “Egypt had robbed Israel by the unwarranted and unjust
exactions imposed upon him; now Israel carries off the prey of Egypt. A
prelude of the victory which the people of God will always gain in the contest
with the powers of the world. Comp. Zec_14:14” (Keil).12
Footnotes:

[1][Exo_3:7. ‫ִִפנִ ִִי‬


ְּ ‫ מ‬may be rendered more literally “from before,” the people being
represented as followed up in their work by the taskmasters.—Tr.].

[2][Exo_3:18. ‫נִִק ָרה‬ ְּ is taken by Rosenmüller, after same of the older versions, as
= ‫ נִִ ְּק ָרא‬vocatur super nos. But, as Winer remarks, ita tamen intolerabilis tautologia inest in
verbis ‫הִָ ִע ְּב ִרים אִֹלהֵ י‬.” The LXX. translate προσκέκληται ἡμᾶς—which makes better
sense, but is grammatically still more inadmissible, as ‫ נִִ ְּק ָרה‬is thus made =
‫ק ָרא‬
ִָ .—Tr.].

[3][Exo_3:19. ‫ ְּוִל ֹא‬is rendered by the LXX., Vulg., Luther, and others, “unless.” But
this is incorrect. The more obvious translation may indeed seem to be
inconsistent with the statement in the next verse, “after that he will let you
go.” But the difficulty is not serious. We need only to supply in thought “at
first” in this verse.—Tr.].

[Footnotes 4-8 are incorporated in Exodus 4]

[9][See a full discussion on the Angel of Jehovah in the Commentary on


Genesis, p. 386 sqq., where the view is maintained that this Angel is Christ
himself. This is perhaps the current opinion among Protestants. But the
arguments for it, plausible as they are, are insufficient to establish it. The
one fatal objection to it is that the New Testament nowhere endorses it.
When we consider how the New Testament writers seem almost to go to an
extreme in finding traces of Christ in the Old Testament writings and history,
it is marvellous (if the theory in question is correct) that this striking feature
of the self-manifestation of God in the Angel of Jehovah should not once
have been used in this way. Hengstenberg indeed quotes Joh_12:41, where
Isaiah is said to have seen Christ. But the reference is to Isa_6:1, where not
the Angel of Jehovah, but Jehovah himself, is said to have been seen. But,
what is still more significant, when Stephen (Act_7:30) refers to this very
appearance of the angel in the bush, he not only does not insinuate that the
angel was Christ, but calls him simply “an angel of the Lord.” Moreover, just
afterwards he quotes Deu_18:15 as Moses’ prophecy of Christ, showing that
he was disposed to find Christ in the Mosaic history. Other objections to the
identification of the Angel of Jehovah with Christ might be urged; but they
are superfluous, so long as this one remains unanswered.—Tr.]
[10][More naturally, Moses’ own father, or his ancestors in general. So Keil,
Knobel, Murphy, Kalisch.—Tr.]

[11][Comp. Introduction to Genesis, p. 111 sqq. From so bald a term as “He


is” or “He will be” (the exact translation of ‫ ְּיִהוָה‬, or rather of ‫)יִ ְּהוה‬, one can hardly
be expected to gather the precise notion intended to be conveyed. We doubt, however,
whether, if we are to confine the conception to any one of those which are suggested by
the sentence: “I am He who I am,” we should be right in understanding, with
Lange, immutability as the one. This requires the second verb to refer to a
different time from the first, for which there is no warrant in the Hebrew.
Quite as little ground is there for singling out the notion of eternity as the
distinctive one belonging to the name. Self-existence might seem more
directly suggested by the phrase; but even this is not expressed
unequivocahy. Certainly those are wrong who translate ‫ ְּיִהוָה‬uniformly “the
Eternal.” The word has become strictly a proper name. We might as well
(and even with more correctness) always read “the supplanter” instead of
“Jacob,” and “the ewe” instead of “Rachel.”—There can be little doubt, we
think, that Von Hofmann (Schriftbeweis I., p. 86) has furnished the clue to
the true explanation. The comparison of other passages in which there is the
same seemingly pleonastic repetition of a verb as in our verse ought to
serve as a guide. Especially Exo_33:19 : “I will be gracious to whom I will be
gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” It is true that
Lange attempts to interpret this expression in accordance with his
interpretation of the phrase now before us; but he stands in opposition to
the other commentators and to the obvious sense of the passage, which
evidently expresses the sovereignty of God in the exercise of his
compassion. Comp. Exo_4:13; 2Ki_8:1, and perhaps Eze_12:25. By this
pleonastic expression, and then by the emphatic single term, “He is,” is
denoted existence κατ’ ἐξοχήν; or rather, since the verb ‫ הִָיָה‬is not used to denote
existence in the abstract, so much as to serve as a copula between subject and predicate,
the phrase is an elliptical one, and signifies that God is sovereign and absolute in the
possesion and manifestation of his attributes. Self-existence, eternity and immutability are
implied, but not directly affirmed. Personality is perhaps still more clearly involved as one
of the elements. As contrasted with Elohim (whose radical meaning is probably power, and
does not necessarily involve personality), it contains in itself (whether we take the form
‫ אִ ְּהיה‬or ‫)יִ ְּהוה‬, as being a verbal form including a pronominal element, an expression of
personality: I am—He is. Jehovah is the living God, the God who reveals
Himself to His people, and holds a personal relation to them.—Tr.]
[12][The various explanations of this transaction are given by Hengstenberg,
Dissertations on the Pentateuch, p. 419 sqq. Briefly they are the following:
(1) That God, being the sovereign disposer of all things, had a right thus to
transfer the property of the Egyptians to the Israelites. (2) That the
Israelites received no more than their just due in taking these articles, in
view of the oppressive treatment they had undergone. (3) That, though the
Israelites in form asked for a loan, it was understood by the Egyptians as a
gift, there being no expectation that the Israelites would return. (4) That the
Israelites borrowed with the intention of returning, being ignorant of the
Divine plan of removing them from the country so suddenly that a
restoration of the borrowed articles to their proper owners would be
impossible.—These explanations, unsatisfactory as they are, are as good as
the case would admit, were the terms “borrow” and “lend,” derived from the
LXX. and reproduced in almost all the translations, the quivalents of the
Hebrew words. But the simple fact is that the Israelites are said to have
asked for the things, and the Egyptians to have given them. The
circumstances (Exo_12:33 sqq.) also under which the Israelites went away
makes it seem every way probable that the Egyptians never expected a
restoration of the things bestowed on the Israelites.—Tr.].

Exodus 19:1-25
SECOND DIVISION: MOSES AND SINAI.

______________

FOUNDATION IN THE LARGER SENSE

Exodus 19-31

FIRST SECTION

The Arrival at Sinai and the Preparation for the Giving of the Law.
The Covenant People and Covenant Kingdom. Institution of the
Covenant

Exo_19:1-25
1In the third month when [after] the children of Israel were gone forth out
of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.
2For they were departed [And they journeyed] from Rephidim, and were
come [and came] to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched [and encamped] in
the wilderness, and there Israel camped [was encamped] before the mount.
3And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him out of [from]
the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the
children of Israel: 4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I
bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5Now therefore, if
ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a
peculiar treasure unto me above all people [peoples]: for all the earth is
mine: 6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an [a] holy
nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of
Israel. 7And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid
before their faces 8[before them] all these words which Jehovah commanded
him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that Jehovah hath
spoken we will do. And Moses 9returned [brought back] the words of the
people unto Jehovah. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in
a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee and believe
[trust] thee for ever. And Moses told the 10words of the people unto
Jehovah. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify
them to-day and to-morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11And be
ready against the third day: for [for on] the third day Jehovah will come
down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. 12And thou shalt set
bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that
ye go not up [Beware of going up] into the mount, or touch [touching] the
border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely [surely be] put
to death. 13There shall not an [no] hand touch it [him],1 but he shall surely
be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it [he] shall not
live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
14And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the
people; and they washed their clothes. 15And he said unto the people, Be
ready against the third day: come not at your wives [near a woman]. 16And
it came to pass on the third day, in the morning [when morning came], that
there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and
the voice of the [a] trumpet exceeding loud; so that [and] all the people that
was17[were] in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out
of the camp to meet with [to meet] God; and they stood at the nether part
[the foot] of the mount. 18And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke [all
mount Sinai smoked], because Jehovah descended upon it in fire; and the
smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount
quaked greatly. 19And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and
waxed louder and louder [And the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and
louder], Moses spake [speaking] and God answered [answering] 20him by a
voice.2 And Jehovah came down upon mount Sinai, on [to] the top of the
mount; and Jehovah called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses
went 21up. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest
they break through unto Jehovah to gaze [behold], and many of them
perish. 22And let the priests also, which [who] come near to Jehovah,
sanctify themselves, lest Jehovah break forth upon them. 23And Moses said
unto Jehovah, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou
chargedst [hast charged] us, saying, Set bounds about 24the mount, and
sanctify it. And Jehovah said unto him, A way [Go], get thee down; and thou
shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the
people break through to come up unto Jehovah, lest he break forth upon
them. 25So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto [told] them.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[Exo_19:13. The repetition of the word “touch” (‫ ) ָנִגע‬naturally suggests the


thought that the object is the same as in the preceding verse, viz., “mount.” But this
cannot be the case. For (1) if this were so, it is not probable that the word
“hand” would be used, especially after the more general prohibition. The
second prohibition would be weaker than the first, for one would most
naturally touch the mountain with the foot, not the hand. But (2) more
decisive still is the consideration that the conjunction ‫ כִִי‬does not admit of this
construction. It can here only have the meaning “but” in the sense of the German
“sondern,” i.e, “but on the contrary.” As the verse stands in A. V., a reader
would most naturally understand “but” to be equivalent to “but that,” and
the meaning to be, “No hand shall touch it wilhout his being stoned,” etc.,
which, however, cannot have been the meaning of the translators, and
certainly not of the Hebrew author. On the other hand, it makes no sense to
say, “No hand shall touch the mountain, but on the contrary he shell be
stoned.” The meaning must be: “No hand shall touch him,” i.e., the
offender; “but he shall be killed without such contact by being stoned or
shot.”—Tr.]

[The last two verbs in this verse are in the Imperfect tense, and hence
express continued action. The Hebrew does not say, “when the voice.…
waxed louder and londer, [then] Moses spake,” etc., especially not, if “when”
is understood to be equivalent to “atter.” We have endeavored to give the
true sense by the participial rendering.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Sinai and the Arrival there.

A full geographical treatise on the whole Horeb group, and especially Sinai,
is given by Ritter VIII. 2, p. 527 sqq.; Robinson, 1., p. 140 sqq.;
Tischendorf, Aus dem heiligen Lande, p. 61 sqq.; Strauss, p. 133 sqq. See
also the lexicons and commentaries. We quote from Zeller’s Biblisches
Wörterbuch, II., p. Exodus 482: “A few remarks on the question respecting
the scene of the giving of the law. There are two different localities which
have their advocates. Some find the place in Sinai proper, Jebel Musa and
the plain es-Sebaiyeh lying south of it; others, in the northern terrace of
Sinai, that which is now called Horeb, especially the peak of Ras es-
Safsafeh, with the plain er-Rahah, which stretches out before it in the north.
Both plains would be in themselves suitable for the purpose; for they are
about equally large, and furnish room for the marshalling of a large
multitude. Each is so sharply distinguished from the mountain rising up from
it that the latter might in the most literal sense be said to be touched by one
in the plain;—which gives an excellent illustration of the expression used by
Moses (Exo_19:12): ‘whosoever toucheth the mount,’ etc. Yet perhaps the
weight of the evidence is in favor of the southern plain, es-Sebaiyeh. For (1)
the mountains within which the plain reposes, like a secluded asylum, rise
up from it in an amphitheatrical form and very gradually, and therefore its
slopes could have been used for the marshalling of the people if at any time
there was not quite space enough in the plain itself; whereas the mountains
bordering on the plain er-Rahah are so abrupt and steep that they could not
have been used for this purpose. (2) The plain er-Rahah has a water-shed
from which the ground to the north falls away more and more, so that to the
view of those standing there, Ras es-Safsafeh must have become less and
less prominent, whereas the plain es-Sebaiyeh rises higher and higher
towards the south, and Jebel Musa or Sinai becomes more and more
majestic in appearance. (3) The view on the south side of Sinai, where this
mountain towers up perpendicularly nearly 2000 feet, like an immense altar,
is decidedly more grand. (4) In Exo_19:17 it is said that Moses brought the
people out of the camp to meet God. Now we can hardly conceive a place
better fitted for a camping-place than the plain er-Rahah with the valleys
and pastures of the environs, especially the wady es-Sheikh closely
adjoining it. But if this was the camping place, and at the same time the
place where the people were drawn up at the time of the giving of the law,
how are we to conceive of that bringing forth out of the camp? This
expression would have no meaning. Whereas this expression becomes full of
appositeness, if we assume the plain er-Rahah on the north of Horeb to be
the camping-place, but the plain es-Sebaiyeh south of Jebel Musa to be the
standing-place of the people when the law was given. From that northern
plain 600,000 men (for children and minors, as well as women and old men
doubtless remained behind in the camp) might well have gone in the course
of a day through the short wadies es-Sebaiyeh and Shoeib into the southern
plain, and back again into the camp; for the distance is only a short hour’s
journey.”—On the difficulties attending the combination of both places, see
Keil, II., p. 94. The expression, “Israel camped before the mount”
(Exo_19:2), is certainly opposed to the assumption of two camps over
against two mountains. Comp. the graphic description in Strauss. On the
relation between the names Sinai and Horeb, comp. Knobel, p. 188. Note:
(1) that the whole region is named, after the mountain where the law was
given, sometimes Sinai, sometimes Horeb; (2) that Horeb, being reached
while the people were in Rephidim, may include Sinai; (3) that Horeb, as a
separate mountain, lies to the north of Sinai, and therefore was first reached
by the Israelites. See also Keil, p. 90, and Philippson, p. 403.—This group of
lofty granite mountains cannot primarily be designed to serve as a terror to
sinners; it rather represents the majesty and immovable fixedness of God’s
moral revelation, of His law, in a physical form; it is therefore a positive,
imposing fact, which disseminates no life, yet on which the sinner’s false life
may be dashed to destruction.—“Lepsius’ hypothesis, that Sinai or Horeb is
to be looked for in Mt. Serbal, has rightly met no approval. In opposition to
it consult Dieterici, Reisebilder, II., p. 53 sqq.; Ritter, Erdkunde, XIV., p. 738
sqq.; and Kurtz, History, etc., III., p. 93” (Keil).

The Arrival at Sinai.—In the third month. Two months then have passed
thus far, of which probably the greater part belongs to the encampment in
Elim and Rephidim. The same day.—According to the Jewish tradition this
means on the first day of the third month, but grammatically it may be
taken more indefinitely = “at this time.”

2. Jehovah’s Proposal of a Covenant, and the Assent of the People.


Exo_19:3-8.

And Moses went up.—On Sinai Moses received his commission from
Jehovah to lead out the people. Therefore he must now again appear before
Jehovah on Sinai, to complete his first mission, and receive Jehovah’s
further commands. It is a characteristic feature of the following transaction
concerning the covenant, that Jehovah calls out to Moses as he goes up. A
covenant is a coming together of two parties. It has been said indeed, that
‫בְִּ ִרית‬, διαθήκη, testamentum, means, not covenant, but institution. It is true, the divine
institution is the starting-point and foundation, but the product of this institution is the
covenant. This is true of all the covenants throughout the Bible. They everywhere
presuppose personal relations, reciprocity, freedom; i.e., free self-determination.

So here the people are induced by Jehovah’s proposal to declare their voluntary
adoption of the covenant (Exo_19:8). After this general adoption of the
covenant, there follows a special adoption of the covenant law, Exo_24:3.
Not till after this does the solemn covenant transaction take place, in which
the people again avow their assent, their free subjection to the law of
Jehovah (Exo_24:7). This relation is so far from being an absolute
enslavement of the human individuality by the majesty of the divine
personality, as Hegel imagines (Vol. xi. 2, 46), that on the basis of this
relation the notion of a bridal and conjugal relation between Jehovah and His
people gradually comes to view. But the characteristic feature of the law is,
that it rests, in general, on a germ of ideality, of knowledge, of redemption,
but, in particular, everywhere requires an unconditional, and even blind,
obedience. Hence it may be said: In general it is doctrine (Thorah), in
particular it is statute. The ideal and empirical basis is the typical
redemption: I am Jehovah, thy God, that have brought thee out of Egypt,
etc., as a fact of divine goodness and grace; and the spirit of it is expressed
in the rhythmically solemn form in which the covenant is proclaimed in
Exo_19:3-6. The parallel phrases, “House of Jacob,” and “Children of Israel,”
present in conjunction the natural descent of the people, and the spiritual
blessings allotted to them. Ye have seen.—A certain degree of religious
experience is essential in order to be able to enter into covenant relations
with Jehovah. This experience is specifically an experience of the sway of His
justice over His enemies, and of His grace over His chosen people. Eagles’
wings.—“The eagle’s wings are an image of the strong and affectionate care
of God; for the eagle cherishes and fosters her young very carefully; she
flies under them, when she takes them out of the nest, in order that they
may not fall down upon rocks and injure themselves or perish. Comp.
Deu_32:11, and illustrations from profane writers, in Bochart, Hieroz. II.,
pp. 762, 765 sqq.” (Keil).—And brought you unto myself.—Knobel: to the
dwelling-place on Sinai. Keil: unto my protection and care. It probably
means: to the revelation of myself in the form of law, symbolized indeed by
the sanctuary of the lawgiver, viz., Sinai. But that is a very outward
conception of Keil’s, that the pillar of cloud probably retired to mount Sinai.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed.—According to Keil the
promise precedes the requirement, “for God’s grace always anticipates
man’s action; it demands nothing before it has given.” But here evidently
the requirement precedes the promise; and this is appropriate to the legal
religion of Moses in the narrower sense. In the patriarchal religion of
Abraham the promise precedes the requirement; under Moses the
requirement precedes the promise, but not till after the fulfilment of a
former patriarchal promise, an act of redemption, had preceded the
requirement. The requirement is very definite and decided, accordant with
the law.—The promise is, first: Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto
me.—Keil says: ‫ סְִּגֻלָ ה‬signifies not possession in general, but a precious possession,
which one saves, lays up (‫)סִָגל‬, hence treasure of gold and silver, 1Ch_29:3, etc. (λαὸς
περιούσιος, etc.Mal_3:17; Tit_2:14; 1Pe_2:9). “We translate, “above all people,”
not, “out of all people,” in accordance with the following words: for all the
earth is mine.—“This reason for choosing Israel at once guards against the
exclusiveness which would regard Jehovah as merely a national God” (Keil).
It may be observed that the people are to be as distinctively the lot (κλῆρος)
of Jehovah, as Jehovah desires to be the lot of His people.—In the second place,
the first promise, or the ‫סְִּגֻלָ ה‬, is explained: Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of
priests.—The LXX. translate, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα; so Peter, 1Pe_2:9. Onkelos:
“kings, priests.” Jonathan: “crowned kings, ministering priests.” According to
the Hebrew text, the kingdom as a unit, or the realm as a body of citizens, is
a nation of priests. The individuals are priests; the unity of their
commonwealth is a kingdom, whose king is Jehovah. It is therefore a
kingdom whose royal authority operates every way to liberate and ennoble,
to sanctify and dignify; the priests are related to the king; in their totality
under the king they constitute the priesthood, but only under the condition
that they offer sacrifice as priests. The N. T. term, “a royal priesthood,”
derived from the LXX., merges the several priests in the higher unity of a
single priesthood, whose attribute, “royal,” expresses the truth that the king,
through his royal spirit, has incorporated himself into the midst of his
people. All this, now, the Israelites are to be, in their general attitude, first
in the typical sense, which points forward to the actual fulfilment, and
prophetically includes it. Keil, therefore, is wrong in saying that “the notion
of theocracy or divine rule (referring to the preceding explanations, II., p.
97), as founded by the establishment of the Sinaitic covenant, does not at
all lie in the phrase ‫כהֲ נִ ים מִ ְּמלכת‬
ִֹ [‘kingdom of priests’]. The theocracy
established by the formation of the covenant (chap. 24) is only the means
by which Jehovah designs to make His chosen people a kingdom of priests.”
Whilst here the theocracy is made not even a type, but only the medium of a
type, of the New Testament kingdom of heaven, the people of Israel are
raised high above their typical significance (p. 98), much as is done in the
Judaizing theories of Hofmann and others. The relations are rather quite
homogeneous: a typical people, a typical kingdom of God, a typical law, a
typical sacrifice, etc. On the other hand, Keil’s sentiment, that Israel, as a
nation of priests, has a part to act in behalf of other people, is every way
accordant with the Old Testament prophecy and with the New Testament.
(Isaiah 42; Rom_11:15; Rom_15:16.) And a holy nation.—The notion of
the holiness of Jehovah first appears in chap. 15. Here the notion of a holy
people. The holiness of Jehovah is the originating cause of the creation of a
holy people. On the various explanations of the notion of holiness, vid. Keil,
p. 99. Neither the notion of newness or brilliancy, nor that of purity or
clearness satisfies the concrete import of holiness. Jehovah keeps Himself
pure in His personality, He protects His glory by His purity, His universality
by His particularity—thus is He the Holy One. And so He creates for Himself
a holy people that in a peculiar sense exist for Him, separated from the
ungodly world, as He in a peculiar sense exists for them, and keeps Himself
aloof from notions and forms of worship that conflict with true views of His
personality. The opposite of ‫ קִָדוׁש‬is ‫חִֹל‬, κοινός, profanus” (Keil). See the
passages 1Pe_1:15; comp. Lev_11:44; Lev_19:2.—And all the people
answered together. Thus a historical, positive, conscious obligation is
entered into, resting, it is true, on an obligation inherent in the nature of
things.

3. Provisions for the Negotiation of the Covenant. Exo_19:9-13.

First: Jehovah will reveal Himself to Moses in the thick cloud. The people are
to listen while He talks with Moses. Keil seems to assume that the people
also are to hear with their own ears the words of the fundamental law. But
Exo_19:16-19 show what is meant by the people’s hearing. The sound of
thunder and of the trumpet which the people hear sanctions the words which
Moses hears. In consequence of this the people are to believe him for ever.
The perpetual belief in Moses is the perpetual belief in the revelation and
authority of the law. What follows shows that mediately the people did hear
the words.

Secondly: The people, in order to receive the law, are to be sanctified for
three days, i.e., are to dispose themselves to give exclusive attention to it.
The symbolical expression for this consists in their washing their garments,
ceremonially purifying them. It shows a want of appreciation of propriety to
include, as Keil does, the explanatory precept of Exo_19:15 among the
immediate requirements of Jehovah.

Thirdly: The people are to be kept back by a fence enclosing the mountain.
That is, the restraining of the people from profaning the mountain as the
throne of legislation serves to protect them; comp. the significance of the
parables in Matthew 13. The transgressor is exposed to capital punishment;
but inasmuch as his transgression finds him on the other side of the limit, no
one could seize him without himself becoming guilty of the transgression;
hence the direction that he should be killed from a distance with stones or
darts.3 Consistency requires that the same should be done with beasts that
break through. Reverence for the law is thus to be cultivated by the most
terrifying and rigorous means. When the trumpet.‫ חִֹּיבֵ ל קִרן = ׁשופָ ר‬,‫חִֹּיבֵ ל‬. “To
draw out the horn [as the Hebrew expresses it] is the same as to blow the
horn in prolonged notes” (Keil). Vid. Winer, Realwörterbuch, Art.
Musikalische Instrumente. It is a question when the prohibition to come near
the mountain was to be terminated. According to Keil, a signal was to be
given summoning the people to approach, and that then the people, as
represented by the elders, were to ascend the mountain. But nothing is
anywhere said of such a signal. It is simpler, with Knobel, thus to
understand the direction: “When at the close of the divine appearances and
communications an alarm is sounded, and so the people are summoned to
start, to separate.”4 When the tabernacle was finished, this became the
sacred meeting-place of the people, to which they were called. Soon
afterwards the trumpets summoned them to set forth, perhaps re-enforced,
on account of the importance of the occasion, by the jubilee horn, or itself
identified with it.

4. The Preparation of the People. Exo_19:14-15.


The direction given by Jehovah respecting the sanctification of the people is
further explained by Moses. The distinction between the divine revelation
and the human expansion of it appears here as in 1 Corinthians 7.

5. The Signs accompanying the Appearance of Jehovah, the Lawgiver, on


Sinai. Exo_19:16-19.

And it came to pass on the third day. Here is another prominent element
in the miracle of Sinai, that is generally overlooked, viz., the fact that Moses
through divine illumination so definitely predicted that the miraculous
occurrence would take place in three days. By identifying him all along with
God’s revelation the miraculous mystery of his inner life is obliterated. That
there were thunders and lightnings.—All this animated description of the
miraculous event Keil takes literally, and following Deu_4:11; Deu_5:20
(23), expands the account, although if the mountain was burning in the
literal sense of the word so that its flame ascended up to heaven, there
would be no place for clouds and cloudy darkness. In a thunder-storm are
united both nocturnal darkness and flaming light. Keil quotes various
conjectures concerning the trumpet sound. No reference is had to the
trumpet sound made by the voice of God in the ghostly sphere of the
remorseful conscience of a whole people. But comp. Joh_12:29. That the
darkness indicates the invisibility and unapproachableness of the holy God
who veils Himself from mortals even when He discloses Himself, is evident
from all the analogies of clouds up to the sacred one in which Christ
ascended. Fire has a twofold side, according to man’s attitude towards the
divine government; it is therefore, as Keil says, at once the fire of the zeal of
anger and the zeal of love. To unite both ideas in one, it is the fire of the
power that sanctifies, which therefore purges, transforms, vivifies, and
draws upward, as is shown by the ascension of Elijah and the phenomena of
the day of Pentecost. The same is true of thunder. Since the law is now
given for the first time, this can have nothing to do with the thunder of the
last judgment. Vid. on Revelation, p. 197.—All the people trembled. While
in this mood they are led by Moses out of the camp to the foot of the
mountain. It is, to be sure, hardly to be supposed that this denotes a march
from the plain of Rahah into that of Sebaiyeh. “The people, i.e., the men,”
says Keil,—a limitation for which there is little reason.—And all mount
Sinai smoked.—The view of the scene is renewed and intensified, the
nearer the people come to the foot of the mountain. Moses speaking, and
God answering.—Glorious definition of the nature of law! All of God’s
commands are, so to speak, answers to the commands and questions of
God’s chosen servant; they grow out of a reciprocal action of God and the
inmost heart of humanity.

6. The Calling of Moses alone up to the Mount, etc. Exo_19:20-25.

And Jehovah said unto Moses.—There must be some significance in the


fact that Moses is required again to descend from Sinai, in order repeatedly
to charge the people not to cross the limit in order to gaze, because by this
sin many might perish. This direction is now even extended to the priests;
and in accordance with their position they are exposed to the sentence of
death even in the camp unless they sanctify themselves; only Aaron is
permitted to go up in company with Moses. So sharp a distinction is made
between the theocratic life of the people, between the sphere of sacerdotal
ordinances (which, therefore, already exist), and the sphere of revelation, of
which Moses is the organ. That Aaron is allowed to accompany him when the
first oral revelation of the law is made, indicates that in and with him the
priests, and gradually also the whole priestly nation, which begins to assume
a priestly relation to mankind in the near presence of the law, are to be
lifted up into the light of revelation. Various views of this passage, especially
a discussion of Kurtz’s opinion, are to be found in Keil. Knobel finds here “an
interpolation of the Jehovist.”

Inasmuch now as the narrative makes the law of the ten commandments
follow immediately, whilst Moses seems to be standing below with the
people, a literal interpretation concludes that Jehovah communicated the ten
commandments down from Mt. Sinai immediately to the people, and so “the
fundamental law of the theocracy has a precedence over all others” (Knobel;
see also Keil, p. 106). The fact that Jehovah has already given answer to
Moses on the mountain, is overlooked; as also the passages Exo_24:15
sqq.; 34; Deu_5:5; Deu_33:4, to say nothing of Galatians 3 and other
passages. It is true, the representation here is designed to make the
impression that the law of the ten commandments, although mediated by
Moses, has yet the same authority as if Jehovah had spoken it directly to the
people from Sinai; and no less does it express the pre-eminent importance
of the ten commandments. The following distinctions are marked: As oral (or
spiritual) words Moses receives the divine answers on the mountain
(Exo_19:19). Then God addresses the same words from Sinai in the voices
of thunder to the people at the foot of the mountain; and Moses, who stands
below with the people, is the interpreter of these voices, as is clearly shown
by Deu_5:5. This oral, spiritual law of principles, which is echoed in the
conscience of all the people, as if Jehovah were directly talking with them, is
the foundation for the establishment and enforcement of the written law
engraved on the stone tablets.

Footnotes:

[1][Exo_19:13. The repetition of the word “touch” (‫ ) ָנִגע‬naturally suggests the


thought that the object is the same as in the preceding verse, viz., “mount.” But this
cannot be the case. For (1) if this were so, it is not probable that the word
“hand” would be used, especially after the more general prohibition. The
second prohibition would be weaker than the first, for one would most
naturally touch the mountain with the foot, not the hand. But (2) more
decisive still is the consideration that the conjunction ‫ כִִי‬does not admit of this
construction. It can here only have the meaning “but” in the sense of the German
“sondern,” i.e, “but on the contrary.” As the verse stands in A. V., a reader
would most naturally understand “but” to be equivalent to “but that,” and
the meaning to be, “No hand shall touch it wilhout his being stoned,” etc.,
which, however, cannot have been the meaning of the translators, and
certainly not of the Hebrew author. On the other hand, it makes no sense to
say, “No hand shall touch the mountain, but on the contrary he shell be
stoned.” The meaning must be: “No hand shall touch him,” i.e., the
offender; “but he shall be killed without such contact by being stoned or
shot.”—Tr.]

[2][The last two verbs in this verse are in the Imperfect tense, and hence
express continued action. The Hebrew does not say, “when the voice.…
waxed louder and londer, [then] Moses spake,” etc., especially not, if “when”
is understood to be equivalent to “atter.” We have endeavored to give the
true sense by the participial rendering.—Tr.]

[3]This is perhaps in general the reason for stoning.

[4][There seems to be no inconsistency between Knobel’s view and that of


Keil. The latter understands the sound of the trumpet (Exo_19:13) to be the
signal, and so does Knobel. And both assume that the signal was to follow
the promulgation of the law.—Tr.].
Exodus 2:23-4:28
THE CALL OF MOSES
The Egyptian records refer to Moses. Rameses, said by many to be the
Pharaoh of the Exodus, built a great monument on which he made an
inscription naming the nobility who were present when it was erected.
Toward the end of the list he mentions “The ra-Moses, Child of the Lady and
Priestess of the Sun God Ra.”
Note the peculiarity of the description. “The ra-Moses” means some
distinguished ra-Moses, while “Child of the Lady” describes a situation and
relation not unlike that of Moses and Pharaoh’s daughter. There are other
corroborative data we have no space for, mentioned as a further hint
concerning what archaeology reveals on the historicity of the Old Testament.
THE BURNING BUSH (Exo_2:23 to Exo_3:10)
Observe the prelude to the oratorio of power and grace the next chapter
reveals, which is found in the language of the closing verses of the present
chapter: “God heard,” “God remembered,” “God looked,” “God had respect
unto,” or took knowledge of them. His spiritual apprehension is limited who
finds nothing for his soul to feed upon in this.
Observe in the burning bush a type of Israel afflicted but not consumed,
because God was in the midst of her. Observe in Moses’ action (Exo_3:3) an
illustration of the purpose God has in a certain kind of miracle which He
performs. This purpose is simply to arrest the attention of men to listen to
His voice, that they may be convinced. Observe the name by which God
reveals Himself (Exo_3:6), and the identity it establishes with Israel’s past,
awakening hope and confidence in Him as the God of promise.
What does God now propose to do for Israel (Exo_3:8)? Why (Exo_3:9)?
How (Exo_3:10)? To what extent is Moses to be used, that is, shall he bring
Israel out and in, or only out (Exo_3:10)?
THE GREAT NAME (Exo_3:11-22)
It is not surprising that when Moses, hesitates to accept His command
(Exo_3:11), God should encourage him with a token (Exo_3:12), but is it
not singular that the token shall not be realized upon until after the
command has been fulfilled (same verse, last clause)? Did God mean that
the burning bush was the token, or are we to suppose that the token was
the event itself? In the latter case, it were as though God said, “Go, and try,
and you shall find in the trial and its result that I have sent you.” The former
view accords better with the Hebrew accents in the case and with our
ordinary idea of a sign, but the latter is corroborated by later Scriptures,
such as Isa_7:14.
Have we ever met with this name of God before (Exo_3:14)? It is the
expression of what God is, the sum of His being and the greatest of all His
names. A commentator paraphrases the verse thus: “If Israel shall ask:
What are the nature and attributes of Him who hath sent thee to bring us
out of Egypt? Tell them it is the eternal, self-existent, immutable Being who
only can say that He always will be what He always has been.”
Compare Christ’s words concerning Himself in Joh_8:58 and observe the
identity of expression as well as the application of it made by the Jews, who
understood Christ to appropriate this name to Himself.
Are you troubled about the ethics of Exo_3:21-22? If so, you will wish to
know that “borrow” does not imply a promise of return but signifies simply
to ask or demand (compare Psa_2:8). The Israelites were but receiving at
last the fair wages for their toil which their oppressors had denied them.
They shall not be ashamed who wait for God.
MOSES’ HESITANCY AND DISTRUST (Exo_4:1-17)
Moses’ long tutelage in Midian has developed caution. He is a different man
from the one who slew the Egyptian in haste forty years before (Exo_4:1)!
What is the first sign now given him (Exo_4:2-5)? The second (Exo_4:6-8)?
Were these simply for his own assurance or that of Israel? What power was
bestowed upon him with reference to a third sign? Doubtless there was an
adaptedness of these signs to the purpose for which they were to be used in
Egypt, but space will hardly permit a discussion of that feature.
In what does the backwardness of Moses approach the danger point of
unbelief (Exo_4:10-13)? Light is thrown on the answer to this question if we
reflect that Exo_4:13 amounts to this: “Choose another, a better man to
send.” No wonder God was angered, and yet how does He express His
patience (Exo_4:14-16) ? Nevertheless, Moses may have forfeited a certain
privilege because of his waywardness. A rendering of Exo_4:14 could read:
“‘Is not Aaron thy brother the Levite?’“ By which we may understand that in
consequence of Moses’ act the honor of the priesthood and of being the
official head of the house of Levi was denied him and conferred on Aaron. If
this be true, it teaches that those who decline the labor and hazard
connected with the call of God to a special service may lose a blessing of
which they little dream.
THE START FOR EGYPT (Exo_4:18-28)
How is Moses encouraged (Exo_4:19)? What peculiar designation is given
Israel (Exo_4:22)? You will recall the harmony between this and what we
have learned as God’s purpose in calling Israel for her great mission. She
was favored beyond other nations not for her own sake but that of those
nations to which she was to minister.
What mysterious incident occurred on this journey (Exo_4:24-26)? We do
not know the meaning of this, but following we give the views of James G.
Murphy in his commentary on Exodus:
The Lord had charged Moses with a menace of the gravest kind to Pharaoh
and it was well that Moses himself should feel acutely the pang of death in
order to comprehend the meaning of this threat. It appears that his
youngest son had not been circumcised through some fault of his; the
neglect of which was a serious delinquency in one who was to be the leader
and lawgiver of the holy people. It was therefore meet that the perfection of
the divine holiness should be made known to him and that he should learn at
this stage of his experience that God is in earnest when He speaks, and will
perform what He has threatened. Hence the Lord sought to kill him probably
by some disease or sudden stroke. It is also probable from her promptitude
in the matter that Zipporah was in some way the cause of the delay in
circumcising the child. Her womanly tenderness shrunk from the painful
operation, and her words seem to imply that it was her connection with
Moses that had necessitated the bloody rite. It was doubtless a salutary and
seasonable lesson to her as well as Moses. The Lord, who sought to put the
latter to death, remitted the penalty when the neglected duty had been
performed.
QUESTIONS
1. How does archeology testify to Moses in Egypt?
2. What is God’s purpose in certain miracles?
3. How would you define “I Am That I Am”?
4. Give an argument from Joh_8:58 for Christ’s deity.
5. How would you explain the word “borrow” (Gen_3:21-22)?
6. How does Murphy explain Gen_4:24-26?

Exodus 19:1-25

PREPARATION FOR RECEIVING THE LAW


The Exodus includes two concurring elements in the moral history of the
people their redemption and their renovation. It is worthy of notice that God
did not give Israel the law first and then say, “I will redeem you if you obey
it,” but that He redeemed them first and gave them the law afterwards.
THE ARRIVAL AT SINAI (Exo_19:1-2)
“In the third month the same day.” These words lead to the belief that the
first day of the third (lunar) month is meant, just 45 days (as we can easily
recall) from their departure out of Egypt. To these, quoting Bush, let us add
the day on which Moses went up to God (Exo_19:3), the day after when he
returned the answer of the people to God (Exo_19:7-8), and the three days
more named (v. 10-11), and we have just fifty days from the Passover to
the giving of the law. Hence the feast kept in later times to celebrate this
event was called Pentecost, which means fiftieth day. And it is interesting
that it was at this very feast the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples of
Christ (Act_2:1-4) to enable them to communicate to all men to the new
covenant of the Gospel.
The text of Exo_19:2 in the King James version distinguishes between the
“desert” and the “wilderness” of Sinai, but there seems to be no good reason
for this. “Sinai” denotes a particular mountain of that name, while “Horeb”
denotes the range of which Sinai is a part. The wilderness of Sinai would
seem to be the plains and wadys in its immediate neighborhood, including
the mountain itself, and perhaps coextensive with the term Horeb.
THE DIVINE PRELUDE (Exo_19:3-9)
When it is said “Moses went up unto God,” remember the pillar of cloud in
which in a sense the divine Presence abode, and which now rested doubtless
on the summit of the mountain. Evidently Moses did not ascend the
mountain at this time, but simply approached it.
By what two names are the people designated in Exo_19:3? Which points to
their natural and which their spiritual derivation (Gen_32:23-32)?
With what three words in Exo_19:4 does God call them as witnesses to the
fidelity of His promises? What beautiful figure of speech does He use
expressive of His care for them? (Compare Exo_19:4 with Deu_32:11-12.)
Also examine Rev_12:14, where His care for them in their coming tribulation
at the end of this age is spoken of in similar terms. The parent eagle in
teaching its nestlings to fly sweeps gently past them perched on the ledge of
a rock, and when one, venturing to follow, begins to sink with dropping
wing, she glides underneath it and bears it aloft again.
But what is expected of them as the result of this grace? And what promise
is bestowed upon them in this contingency (Exo_19:5)? And how will their
preciousness to God find expression in their service (Exo_19:6)?
NOTE
1. that while all the inhabitants of the earth belong to God by right of
creation and general benefaction, Israel belonged to Him by special
grace and covenant; that while they themselves were to be objects
of priestly intercession and kingly protection they were also to be
elevated into the dignity and authority of performing priestly
functions and dispensing royal favors to others; and
2. that as a qualification for all this they were to be a holy nation.
THE PEOPLE’S PLEDGE (Exo_19:7-9)
THE PEOPLE’S PLEDGE (19:7-9) “The elders of the people” (Exo_19:7)
means the leaders and principal men of the different tribes. How is the
Lord’s command received by them (Exo_19:8)? While this is commendable,
yet in the sequel how much better if they had asked God’s help to enable
them to obey and to appreciate His goodness! How little they knew
themselves, and how well they represent us in the earlier stages of our new
experiences in Christ!
What does God now promise to Moses personally (Exo_19:9)? To what end?
And why was it necessary? Had not God given evidence of His divine
commission in the sign of the rod and the serpent? Yes, but this was only
before the elders of the people. And had He not given evidence in the
miracles of judgment upon Egypt? Yes, but many of these were not before
all the people. So now they are to have a general and personal attestation
which should last forever. Observe our Savior’s recognition of this authority
of Moses in Luk_16:31, and compare a similar recognition of His own
authority in 2Pe_1:16-18.
THE PEOPLE’S PURIFICATION (Exo_19:10-14)
We can see the propriety of this command, but should remember that there
is no virtue in external washings and other abstinences, except as they
symbolize and impress us with the obligation of inner holiness and
separation on the part of those who are to hold intercourse with God.
What was the Lord now about to do (Exo_19:11)? And with reference
thereto what warning is promulgated (Exo_19:12)? What should happen to
the man or beast overstepping these bounds (Exo_19:13)? The word “it” in
the first clause of the verse refers to the man or beast. That is, no one
should cross the bounds, even to go after it (the man or beast) to drag it
back or punish it, but from a distance it should be stoned or shot. What a
commentary on presumptuous sin!
“Trumpet” means a supernatural one to be heard from the mountain. The
people were to “come up to the mount” in that they were to draw night to it,
but no nearer than the bounds already prescribed.
THE PHENOMENA ON THE MOUNT (Exo_19:16-25)
Describe the impressive phenomena of verses 16 and 18, and their effects
on the people. Never until the close of this age and the coming of our Lord
will anything like this be seen or heard again. Compare 2Th_1:6-10 and the
language of the Apocalypse, e.g., chapters 4 and 5.
How did God speak to Moses (Exo_19:19)? Doubtless this means by “an
audible and articulate form of word.” What seems to have been impending
on the part of the people, judging by Exo_19:21? How is God’s attention to
details (if one may so say), and how is His mercy manifested here?
Who can be meant by “priests” in Exo_19:22 since the Aaronic priesthood
was not yet instituted? The common answer is the firstborn or eldest son in
every household. This seems to be suggested by the patriarchal history as
one of the privileges connected with the birthright. Compare also Exo_24:5.
Who was to come up into the mountain with Moses when the latter returned
(Exo_19:24)? We shall see the reason for this later when Aaron is invested
with the priesthood, for it was fitting that there should be put upon him that
distinction which would inspire respect for him on the part of the people.
QUESTIONS
(1) What have we learned about the day, or feast, of Pentecost?
(2) What have we learned of the priestly character of Israel?
(3) Can you quote Luk_16:31?
1. Name one or two illustrations here of God’s grace to us in Christ.
2. Have you examined the Scripture references in this lesson?

Exodus 3:1-22

Exo_3:2

It is the office and function of the imagination to renew life in lights and
sounds and emotions that are outworn and familiar. It calls the soul back
once more under the dead ribs of nature, and makes the meanest bush burn
again, as it did to Moses, with the visible presence of God.

—J. Russell Lowell.

References.—III. 2.—A. M. Mackay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893,


p. 20. G. F. Browne, ibid. vol. liv. 1898, p. 76. P. McAdam Muir, ibid. vol.
lviii. 1900, p. 246. E. E. Cleal, ibid. vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 267; see also ibid. vol.
lxviii. 1905, p. 44. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, the Books of
Exodus, etc., p. 19. R. J. Campbell, Sermons Addressed to Individuals, p.
207. J. M. Neale, Sermons For Some Feast Days in the Christian Year, p. 83;
see also Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iv. p. 251. III.
2, 3.—J. M. Neale, Sermons For Some Feast Day in the Christian Year, p. 74.
A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, Part II. p. 299.

Exo_3:3

It is good to come to the place of God's presence, howsoever; God may


perhaps speak to thy heart, though thou come but for novelty. Even those
who have come upon curiosity have been oft taken.

—Bishop Hall.

See also Keble's lines on the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

What we mean by wondering is not only that we are startled or stunned—


that I should call the merely passive element of wonder.... We wonder at the
riddles of nature, whether animate or inanimate, with a firm conviction that
there is a solution to them all, even though we ourselves may not be able to
find it. Wonder, no doubt, arises from ignorance, but from a peculiar kind of
ignorance, from what might be called a fertile ignorance.

—Max Müller.

What must sound reason pronounce of a mind which, in the train of a


million thoughts, has wandered to all things under the sun, to all the
permanent objects or vanishing appearances in the creation, but never fixed
its thought on the supreme reality; never approached like Moses 'to see this
great sight'?

—John Foster.

Burning But Not Burnt

Exo_3:3

The story of Moses is the story, at first, of failure. Two great streams of
influences moulded his life: one drawn from the Egyptian surroundings of his
early days, the other from his mother's teaching. On the one side he had the
speechless-eyed deities of Egypt looking for ever into his face; on the other
he had his belief in the governing providence of God. He looked to find
amongst his own people aspirations after better things, and responsiveness
to his own spirit; he met only with coldness, and refusal to follow. Then
came his exile in Midian—an exile from all his early dreams and hopes, from
the position he had in Egypt, from the future which flowed before him.

I. The Vision and its Results.—The vision was the revelation that restored
him to faith and energy. The revelation was threefold. It was a revelation (a)
of permanence, (b) of purity, (c) of personal power.

(a) A revelation of permanence, for the bush was not consumed; it held its
own life amidst the devouring flame.

(b) A revelation of purity, for before he could enter into the deep meaning of
that vision, a Voice had bidden him 'put his shoes from off his feet, for the
place on which he stood was holy'.

(c) A revelation of personal power and love, for out of the distance, out of
the background of the vision, giving it its heart and life, came the voice of
Him who proclaimed Himself through all the changes and vicissitudes of the
life of Israel as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

II. A Vision for all Time.—The revelation was not for Moses alone. Note:—

(a) There is in every common bush the light of God, and only those see it
who draw off their shoes.

(b) We forget to turn aside to see the great sights about us.

(c) If we give our hearts leisure and earnestly seek to meet with God, God
will meet with us.

The Negative Side

Exo_3:3

I have broken up the text in this way that we may see more vividly the
special point and largest meaning. Many men turn aside to see why things
are; here is a man who turns aside to see why things are not. God disturbs
our little law of continuity—as if we knew anything about continuity! We
were born yesterday, and are struggling today, and tomorrow will be
forgotten, and we shape our mouths to the utterance of this great word
continuity! We spoil ourselves by using long words instead of short ones.
'I will turn aside, and see why not.' If you saw a river flowing up a hill,
perhaps you would turn aside and see why it does not, like all other rivers,
flow downhill. If you saw an eagle build ing its nest in the middle of the
Atlantic, perhaps even you and I might be wakened out of our vulgar
narrowness and startled by the ministry of surprise. God has a great surprise
ministry.

I. I will turn aside, and see why the wicked are not consumed, and I find an
answer in the fact that God's mercy endureth for ever, of His love there is no
end, and that men may be in reality better than they themselves suppose.
Not what we see in ourselves, but what God sees in us is the real standard
of judgment. We are never so near the realization of the great blessing as
when we see nothing in ourselves to deserve it.

II. I will turn aside, and see and inquire why the departed ones do not speak
to us and tell us about the other and upper side of things. Who shall say that
the departed never speak to us? What is speaking? Which is the true ear,
the ear of the body or the ear of the soul? What are these unexplained
noises? What are these sudden utterances of the summer wind? Who can
interpret this gospel of fragrance, this apocalypse of blossom, this mystery
of resurrection? Who knows what voices sweep through the soul, and what
tender fingers touch the heart-strings of the life? Who is it that whispers
things to the heart? Who is it that said, Be brave, take up your work, never
stand still till the Master appear? Who is it, was it, how could it be? I will
turn aside, and see this great sight, and I will believe that more is spoken to
us than the ear of the body can hear.

III. What a rebuke this is as a text to all our little notions about cause and
effect! The Lord is always surprising people by unexpected revelations; the
Lord is always perplexing the mind by tearing human calculations to rags;
again and again through Pentecostal winds there roars this glorious gospel,
The Lord reigneth. Personality is greater than law; consciousness is the true
continuity; God is the Master, and if He pleases to turn the sun into darkness
He will do it, aye, and the moon into blood, and she shall be melted as into a
crimson flame.

—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 239.

References.—III. 3.—W. H. Hutchings, Sermon Sketches, p. 94. W. Boyd


Carpenter, The Burning Bush, p. 1.
Exo_3:4

'I think, sir,' says Dinah Morris in Adam Bede (ch. VIII.), 'when God makes
His presence felt through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses never took
any heed what sort of bush it was—he only saw the brightness of the Lord.'

The more the microscope searches out the molecular structure of matter,
the thinner does its object become, till we feel as if the veil were not being
so much withdrawn as being worn away by the keen scrutiny, or rent in
twain, until at last we come to the true Shekinah, and may discern through
it, if our shoes are off, the words I AM, burning, but not consumed.

—Dr. John Brown on Art and Science.

References.—III. 4.—S. Wilberforce, Sermons Preached on Various


Occasions, p. 37.

Holy Ground

Exo_3:5

The biography of great men is not confined to public events. It relates the
incidents which are private, and describes the experiences which are
spiritual and account for visible results. Thus it was with Moses; we must be
with him in the wilderness in order that we may understand his conduct at
the court of Pharaoh and at the head of the host of Israel.

I. True Sanctity Confined to No Place.—To Moses the desert was a


temple, and the acacia thorn a shrine. A spot before indistinguishable from
any other in that waste, where the flocks found their pasture or the wild
beast his lair, became henceforth holy in the memory of this servant of the
Lord.

II. The Presence of the Lord Imparts True Holiness.—It needs not that
princes should lavish their wealth, that architects should embody the
conceptions of their genius, that priests should celebrate magnificent rites,
that psalms should echo and incense float through aisle and dome, in order
that a place should become consecrated and sacred to the service of the
Eternal. Where God meets with any soul of man, reveals the majesty of His
attributes, the righteousness of His law, the tenderness of His love, there is
a holy place.
III. A Divinely Consecrated Service.—True holiness is not so much in the
place as in the heart. A man's mission in the world is determined by the
counsels and commands received by him in solitude and silence. The holy
ground of communion from which God's servants start imparts its holiness to
the long path of their pilgrimage, to the varied scenes of their ministry.
Moses could never forget the day of Divine fellowship and revelation from
which dated his conscious devotion, his holy service to Israel and to God. In
how many great men's lives do we trace this same connexion between holy
communion and holy ministry! Work acceptable to God and beneficial to men
would not have been achieved had not the power to perform it sprung from
the holy point of contact where the Creator and the created meet.

IV. We may Make a Holy Place.—There is no spot which may not become
the point of contact between the human spirit and the Divine. In the lonely
desert or the crowded city, in the peaceful home or the consecrated church,
the Divine presence may be realized and the Divine blessing may be
obtained. Earth may be filled with holy places and life with holy service.

Exo_3:5

We must not only have our hearts bubbling over with thanksgiving and joy
in our Father's presence; we must also take off our shoes from our feet,
because we are on holy ground. There is a danger in the emotions being too
much aroused unless the prayer be truly one of real adoration.

—Father Dolling in The Pilot (4 May, 1901).

All concentrates; let us not rave; let us sit at home with the cause. Let us
strive and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions,
by a simple declaration of the Divine fact. Bid the invaders take the shoes
from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simplicity judge them, and
our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of nature and fortune
beside our native riches.

—Emerson on Self-Reliance.

The Call to Reverence

Exo_3:5

God demanded all the outward forms of a rigid reverence as the first step in
that fellowship with Himself to which He was about to summon Moses and
the nation Moses was destined to lead and to mould.

I. The fact that the name Jehovah is revealed in immediate connexion with
this incident seems to warrant us in reading some reference in this symbol
to God's essential and unsustained existence. Self-origination, unwasting
spontaneity, self-sufficing, absolute, and eternal life, that can only be known
by contrast to the finite life of the creature—these are the meanings of the
striking object-lesson.

And the vision perhaps indirectly intimates that God's mysterious love, like
His life, was selfderived, inexhaustible, above all outward conditions. The
flame of its unearthly beauty was maintained by an infinite spontaneity of its
own. It did not depend for its strength or fervour upon the things it clasped
in the embrace of its fidelity and tenderness.

The vision, with its solemn lessons, had probably a most vital bearing upon
the future character and history of Moses. It was no unimportant step in
training him to that spiritual aptitude for seeing the things of God which
made him the foremost of the prophets. Do not think of reverence as one of
the second-rate sentiments of the soul, to which no great promises are
made. This sense of awe was the threshold to those apocalyptic experiences
which brought such privilege and enrichment to his after life.

II. When the New Testament is compared with the Old, it may seem to some
minds that the grace of reverence has passed more or less into the
background. But if we look beneath the surface a little we shall find that the
New Testament is just as emphatic in its presentation of this obligation as
the Reverence is the comely sheltering sheath within which all the vital New
Testament virtues are nurtured. Only the lower orders of plants produce
their seeds upon the surface of the leaf without the protection of floral
envelopes and seed vessels. The religious faith is of the rudest and most
elementary type, and will bear only ignoble fruit, where faith is without this
protecting sheath of reverence for its delicate growths.

Faith without reverence is a pyramid resting upon its apex.

There can be no Obedience that is entirely sincere in its qualities without


reverence.
There can be no Resignation to the Divine will apart from habitual tempers
of reverence and godly fear.

Irreverence implies partial ignorance of God, and where there is partial


ignorance of God the possession of eternal life cannot be rich, free, firmly
assured.

—T. G. Selby, The Lesson of a Dilemma, p. 123.

References.—III. 5.—W. J. Butler, Sermons for Working Men, the Oxford


Sermon Library, vol. ii. p. 190. R. D. B. Rawnsley, Plain Preaching to Poor
People, 3rd edition, p. 1. J. Fraser, Parochial and other Sermons, p. 248. C.
J. Vaughan, Lessons of Life and Godliness, Sermon viii. III. 5, 6.—W. R.
Shepherd, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 267. III. 6.—Spurgeon,
Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2633. G. S. Barrett, Outlines of Sermons on the Old
Testament, p. 25. G. B. Pusey, Selections, p. 207. III. 6, 7, 9-14.—J.
Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 352. III. 7, 8.—R. W. Hiley,
A Year's Sermons, vol. i. p. 165. III. 7, 8, 10, 12.—C. Brown, The Birth of a
Nation, p. 107.

Exo_3:8

If it please heaven, we shall all yet make our Exodus from Houndsditch, and
bid the sordid continents, of once rich apparel now grown poisonous Ole'-
Clo', a mild farewell! Exodus into wider horizons, into God's daylight once
more; where eternal skies, measuring more than three ells, shall again
overarch us; and men, immeasurably richer for having dwelt among the
Hebrews, shall pursue their human pilgrimage, St. Ignatius and much other
saintship, and superstitious terror and lumber, lying safe behind us, like the
nightmares of a sleep that is past.

—Carlyle, Latter-day Pamphlets, No. viii.

References.—III. 9, 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2631.

Exo_3:10

'Among our aristocracy,' writes Carlyle in his essay on 'Corn-law Rhymes,'


'there are men, we trust there are many men, who feel that they also are
workmen, born to toil, ever in their great Taskmaster's eye, faithfully with
heart and head, for those who with heart and hand do, under the same
great Taskmaster, toil for them;—who have even this noblest and hardest
work set before them; to deliver out of that Egyptian bondage to
Wretchedness and Ignorance and Sin, the hardhanded millions.'

There are many persons, doubtless, who feel the wants and miseries of their
fellow-men tenderly if not deeply; but this feeling is not of the kind to induce
them to exert themselves out of their own small circle. They have little faith
in their individual exertions doing aught towards a remedy for any of the
great disorders of the world.

—Sir Arthur Helps.

In strictness, the vital refinements are the moral and intellectual steps. The
appearance of the Hebrew Moses, of the Indian Buddh—in Greece, of the
Seven Wise Masters, of the acute and upright Socrates, and of the Stoic
Zeno,—in Judea, the advent of Jesus,—and in modern Christendom, of the
realists Huss, Savonarola, and Luther, are causal facts which carry forward
races to new convictions and elevate the rule of life.

—Emerson on Civilization.

'Come now therefore.'

Great men, like great periods, are explosive materials in which an immense
force is accumulated; it is always pre-requisite for such men, historically and
physiologically, that for a long period there has been a collecting, a heaping
up, an economizing, and a hoarding with respect to them,—that for a long
time no explosion has taken place.

—Nietzsche in The Twilight of the Idols.

References.—III. 10.—E. L. Hull, Sermons Preached at King's Lynn (3rd


Series), p. 81. III. 10, 11.—C. M. Short, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891,
p. 21. III. 10, 20.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Exodus, etc.,
p. 26.

Exo_3:11

'For one thing,' says Carlyle in his fourth lecture on Heroes, 'I will remark
that this part of Prophet to his Nation was not of his seeking; Knox had lived
forty years quietly obscure, before he became conspicuous.... He was with
the small body of Reformers who were standing siege in St. Andrews
Castle—when one day in this chapel, the preacher, after finishing his
exhortation to those fighters in the forlorn hope, said suddenly, that there
ought to be other speakers, that all men who had a priest's heart and gift in
them ought now to speak;—which gifts and heart one of their own number,
John Knox the name of him, had.... Poor Knox could say no word;—burst
into a flood of tears, and ran out. It is worth remembering, that scene. He
was in grievous trouble for some days. He felt what a small faculty was his
for this great work. He felt what a baptism he was called to be baptized
withal.'

At the opening of his Ministry at Collace, Dr. A. A. Bonar notes in his diary: 'I
have been thinking of the case of Moses. He trembled and resisted before
being sent, but from the moment that he was chosen we never hear of
alarm or fear arising.'

Reference.—III. 11-13.—G. Hanson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p.


101.

Exo_3:12

He was not a name, then; not a tradition, not a dream of the past. He lived
now as He lived then; He who had been with men in past ages, was actually
with him at that hour.

—F. D. Maurice.

Compare Knox's urgent letter from Dieppe to his irresolute Scotch friends,
in 1557: 'The invisible and invincible power of God sustaineth and preserveth
according to His promise, all such as with simplicity do obey Him. No less
cause have ye to enter in your former enterprise than Moses had to go to
the presence of Pharaoh; for your subjects, yea, your brethren are
oppressed; their bodies and souls holden in bondage; and God speaketh to
your conscience that ye ought to hazard your own lives, be it against kings
or emperors, for their deliverance.'

References.—III. 12.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life,


p. 276. III. 13.—R. J. Campbell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p.
177. J. Parker, Wednesday Evenings at Cavendish Chapel, p. 105. III. 13
14.—J. Wordsworth, The One Religion, Bampton Lectures, 1881, p. 33.
Exo_3:14

'Virtue is the adherence in action to the nature of things,' says Emerson in


his essay on Spiritual Laws, 'and the nature of things makes it prevalent. It
consists in a perpetual substitution of being for seeming, and with sublime
propriety God is described as saying I AM.'

'I have been struck lately,' wrote Erskine of Linlathen to Maurice, 'by the
communication which God made to Moses at the Burning Bush. "I AM"—the
personal presence and address of God. No new truth concerning the
character of God is given; but Moses had met God Himself, and was then
strengthened to meet Pharaoh. There is one immense interval between "He"
and "I"—between hearing about God and hearing God. What an interval!'
God hath not made a creature that can comprehend Him; it is a privilege of
His own nature: 'I am that I am' was His own definition to Moses; and it was
a short one to confound mortality, that durst question God, or ask Him what
He was. Indeed, He only is; all others have and shall be.

—Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, pt. i. sec. 2.

References.—III. 14, 15.—J. Leckie, Sermons Preached at Ibrox, p. 35. Cox,


"The Tetragrammaton," Expositor (2nd Series), i. p. 12. Sherlock, Christian
World Pulpit, xx. p. 44. Harris, Christian World Pulpit, xvi. p. 272. Kingsley,
Gospel of the Pentateuch, Sermon ix. Parker, People's Bible, ii. p. 32.
Roberts, Homiletic Magazine, viii. p. 211. Stanley, Jewish Church, i. p. 94. T.
Arnold, Sermons on Interpretation, p. 209.

Exo_3:15

'Neither Moses, nor the Prophets, nor Christ Himself, nor even Mohammed,'
says Max Müller in the second volume of his Gifford Lectures, 'had to
introduce a new God. Their God was always called the God of Abraham, even
when freed from all that was local and narrow in the faith of that patriarch.'

References.—III. 15.—C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p. 1.

Exo_3:19-20

What appears to one side a singular proof of the special interposition of


Providence, is used on the other side, and necessarily with equal force, to
show that Christianity itself is no special interposition of Providence at all,
but the natural result of the historical events by which it was ushered into
the world. The Duke of Weimar spoke more safely when he said of the
tyranny of the first Napoleon in Germany, 'It is unjust, and therefore it
cannot last'. He would have spoken more safely still if he had said, 'Last or
not last, it is unjust, and being unjust, it carries its own sentence in its
heart, and will prove the weakest in the sum of things'.—Goldwin Smith,
Lectures on the Study of History, pp. 68-69.

When I first heard that Buonaparte had declared that the interests of small
states must always succumb to great ones, I said, 'Thank God! he has
sealed his fate: from this moment his fall is certain'.

—Coleridge.

References.—IV. 1.—T. G. Selby, The God of the Patriarchs, p. 163. IV. 1-


10.—G. Hanson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1897, p. 101.

Exodus 19:1-25

Exo_19:4-5

A great deliverance, whether of a man or of a society, is a great claim on the


life that is saved. The Israelites carried with them a grand inheritance of
holiness and truth. They were saved because of it. As a nation they betrayed
it.

—Edward Thring.

References.—XIX. 6, 6.—Bishop Gibson, The Old Testament in the New, p.


31. XIX. 6.—Bishop Diggle, Sermons for Daily Life, p. 100.

Exo_19:10

After the deification of the emperors we are told that it was considered
impious so much as to use any coarse expression in the presence of their
images. To Marius the whole of life seemed full of sacred presences
demanding of him a similar collectedness.

—Pater, Marius the Epicurean, i. p. 24.


Exo_19:11

Lady Beaumont told me that when she was a child, previously to her saying
her prayers, she endeavoured to think of a mountain or great river, or
something great, in order to raise up her soul and kindle it.

—Coleridge, Anima Poetæ, p. 56.

Exo_19:16

Rituals, Liturgies, Credos, Sinai Thunder: I know more or less the history of
these; the rise, progress, decline and fall of these. Can thunder from all the
thirty-two azimuths, repeated daily for centuries of years, make God's laws
more godlike to me? Brother, No. Perhaps I am grown to be a man now; and
do not heed the thunder and the terror any longer! Perhaps I am above
being frightened; perhaps it is not Fear, but Reverence alone, that shall now
lead me.

—Carlyle, Past and Present.

Reference.—XIX. 20.—K. Moody-Stuart, Light from the Holy Hills, p. 35.

Exodus 2:11-3:10

From the address of Stephen, in Act_7:1-60, we learn that at the time of the
event, recorded in verses Exo_2:11-15 of our chapter, Moses was "full forty
years old." He had reached complete maturity as well as conspicuous
greatness in the highest court circles of Egypt and, if we only had the record
of Exodus we might be inclined to regard his slaughter of the Egyptian as an
act prompted simply by a sudden burst of indignation. We have to read
Heb_11:24-26, and then we discover that it was an outward expression of
an inward resolve, which had been reached in the power of faith.

In Exodus we are given a brief recital of the facts on the surface history of
the episode. In Act_7:1-60 we are told of what was in his mind, leading
him to act as he did. As to the history, he knew that he sprang from Israel
and shared Israel's hopes, though he was a great man amongst the
Egyptians. The assaulted Hebrew was brother to him. He "looked this way
and that way," and as there were no witnesses, he identified himself with
the Hebrew and slew the Egyptian But what was in his heart was the
conviction that God by his hand was going to deliver the children of Israel,
and "he supposed his brethren would have understood" that such would be
the case.

His brethren however did not understand, for they did not share his faith. In
result they rejected him as their deliverer, wishing to pursue their own way
of wrong-doing, and not to stir up retaliation from the power of Egypt. In
Act_7:1-60, Stephen is led to make these points clear, in order to show that
in the rejection of the Lord Jesus the Jews had re-enacted, on a scale
infinitely more serious, what their fathers had previously done with Moses.
In the Lord Jesus there was not the slightest element of imperfection. In
Moses there was distinct failure. His desires were right: his action wrong.

How often this has been the case with all the servants of God save the one
perfect Servant! Again and again there is with us the "seeing" of some
"wrong," that should be avenged — or possibly of some right, that should
be established — and then hasty action, confident that God would endorse it.
We too have "supposed" that we are at liberty to do God's work in our own
way and strength, and that all will understand. A New Testament example of
this is furnished by Peter. To stand by the Lord in the hour of His trial was
surely a good thing, and Peter "supposed" that he had grace and power to
do it. As in the case of Moses his discomfiture was complete, but like Moses
he afterwards did in the power of God what he failed to do in his own
wisdom and strength, as we see in Joh_21:19.

But if in Exodus we are given the surface history, and in Acts what was
working in the mind of Moses, we discover in Hebrews the amazing faith
that illumined his mind and led to his great renunciation — as remarkable
a decision as any recorded in Scripture. To his faith the nation of slaves in
Egypt were "the people of God." All that Egypt had to offer him were "the
pleasures of sin," though indeed there were "the treasures in Egypt." His
faith then had about it a quality which reminds us of the X-rays, which
pierce to things beneath the surface. It saw through the oppressed
Israelites, unattractive as many of them were, and discovered that God was
behind them and beneath them. When the treasures of Egypt with all their
pleasures passed before his gaze, he discerned far beyond them, and wholly
surpassing them, "the recompense of the reward."

Hence he chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God," and he
"esteemed the reproach of Christ" to be of surpassing worth. All this
happened about 1,500 years before the Lord Jesus Christ appeared. When
He did appear, we have the supreme example of the One who stooped from
the heights of the Divine glory to take up the cause of sinful men, with all
the reproach that entailed. The step that Moses took was a slight
foreshadowing of that marvellous event. The reproach that it involved for
him was in its principle and character the reproach of Christ.

One thing further we must remark. The elevation of Moses, to the position of
influence and power he held in Egypt, was a singular act of God's
providence. Providence however is not that which is to guide us, but rather
faith. His natural reasoning would have said, Providence has placed me in
the court of Pharaoh in a most remarkable way, so of course I must be
guided by Providence and remain here. Faith discerned that Providence was
only a means to an end, preparing him for the step which faith indicated in
due time. If we too, in our much smaller affairs, remember that faith in
God's word is to guide us, and not Providential dealings, we shall do well.

The immediate effect of this intervention by Moses was his flight from Egypt
and consequent sojourn in Midian for forty years. When he found that the
thing was known, and his action, however well-intentioned was rejected by
his people, he departed. Reading Exodus, we certainly get the impression
that the prevailing motive with him was the anger of Pharaoh. Rather a
different light upon it is cast by Act_7:29. "Then fled Moses at this saying"
— the saying of the wrongdoer — "Who made thee a ruler and a judge over
us?" So evidently his rejection by his own people was what cut him to the
quick. Forty years later they all had to discover that it was GOD, who made
him a ruler and judge over them, but for the time being he was lost to them.

In Exo_2:1-25, the next forty years of Moses' life is compressed into verses
Exo_2:15-22. We again see God acting in His providence and giving Moses a
home and a wife in a strange land. The name that he gave to his son
showed that he realized that Midian was not the place of God's purpose for
him, and that he had expectations that lay outside of it. Only Divine support
could have enabled him to endure the long years of exile, doing nothing but
keeping the sheep of his father-in-law, as we are told in the first verse of
Exo_3:1-22. It was a tremendous humiliation after his princely place in
Egypt. What sustained him?

Personally we believe that Heb_11:27 refers to this period, though some


treat it as referring to the exodus mentioned in verse 29 of that chapter. The
events referred to there, up to verse 31, are in chronological order, and
unless verse 27 occurred before 28, the order of time would be broken in
this solitary instance. Moreover, as we have seen, Act_7:1-60 shows that
what moved Moses in his flight was acute disappointment that his well-
intended intervention was rejected by the very people on whose behalf he
made it; so that they did not recognize him as a man sent by God. It was
that, and not the wrath of the king, that sent him forth from their midst.

Accepting this view of verse 27, we see at once what it was that sustained
him during the dreary years of his exile. The man who had led multitudes
amidst the splendours of Egypt, now spends his years leading about a flock
of senseless sheep! Yet "he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." In
Act_7:1-60 it is stated that he acted as "seeing one of them suffer wrong."
When wrong exists it is well that we should see it but if that is all that we
see, we easily go wrong ourselves. It is when the eye of faith is fixed on
God, that we go right. We are told that, "faith is... the evidence of things
not seen" (Heb_11:1). Faith can see what is unseen to the natural eye.

Thus it was with Moses. God was before the eyes of his heart during all
those 40 years, and hence the discipline to which he was subjected bore its
wonderful fruit in due season. During his first 40 years he had attained to
being a "Somebody" of much importance in Egypt; but during his second 40
years in Midian he learned how to be a "Nobody" in the world of men.

God was going to entrust to him a work of such magnitude that this lengthy
period of discipline and humbling was needful.

The closing verses of Exo_2:1-25 relate the death of the Pharaoh of those
days, but the oppression of Israel continuing, God heard their cry and
groaning, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham. Let us note that
His intervention and His redemption of Israel from the house of bondage was
under that covenant, and the covenant of law was not propounded until we
reach Exo_19:1-25.

Exo_3:1-22. At the end of the 40 years in Midian, Moses had led the flock of
Jethro into the vicinity of Horeb, which appears to be a more general term,
embracing the mountain group of which Sinai was the chief peak. At that
spot God appeared to him, so that he got his commission at the very place
to which he was to lead the people after their liberation from Egypt, and
where was to be promulgated the law, which is for ever connected with his
name.

A number of times in the Old Testament do we get these appearances of


God to men, and they vary in mode and character, so as to suit the
communication or revelation that had to be made. Here the Angel of the
Lord appeared to him in a burning bush. Now in both Old and New
Testaments the word used is one that signifies a bush of thorns, or, bramble
bush; a bush of little worth and one that fire would soon consume. But God
was in the bush, and therefore it was not consumed.

Here was a sight that directly contradicted all that was natural, and Moses
was drawn to it. He had to learn that though, "our God is a consuming fire"
(Heb_12:29), He could dwell in the midst of a people, who in themselves
were thorny and fit fuel for the flames, and yet not consume them. It was
indeed a "great sight," and surely during the forty years in the wilderness,
when Jehovah in a pillar of fire dwelt in the midst of rebellious Israel, Moses
must have thought upon the way in which God had revealed Himself to him
at the start, in His great kindness.

In this incident the Angel, or, Messenger of the Lord is the Lord Himself, as
we see if we compare verses Exo_2:2; Exo_2:4. This being so, Moses had to
keep at a distance and remove his shoes, as a sign that the place was holy,
and he but a servant. Distance there had to be, but it was not nearly so
pronounced as it was later when the law was given, and this doubtless
because at the outset the Lord revealed Himself to him as "the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." The God, who had
instituted the covenant of promise, was not so awesome, as when He
instituted the law from Sinai.

This is the statement to which the Lord referred when He rebuked the
Sadducees, as recorded in Mat_22:23-33. The patriarchs had died out of the
world of men, but they lived in God's presence, and this guaranteed a
resurrection in God's appointed hour; a resurrection, moreover, which would
involve an entrance into a new and heavenly order of things. It is noticeable
too that the Lord referred to the statement as being "spoken unto you."
What was said to Moses stands good for all, and for all time.

Having revealed Himself to Moses in this way, He made a declaration of


three things. First, of His attention to the cry of His people and His
sympathetic concern for their sorrows. For a century or two it must have
seemed as though He was indifferent. But it was not so. God is never in a
hurry and He intervenes in His own time, which is the right time. The three
statements in verse Exo_2:7 are very touching: He had seen; He had
heard; He knew their sorrows. Thus it ever is with all His people, with us
among the rest. The deliverance of Israel meant drastic judgments upon
Egypt, and our God is slow to anger. Do we wonder why the Lord Jesus, who
is coming quickly, has not yet come? Let us remember that His advent will
mean tremendous judgments upon a guilty world.

Second, He declared His purpose to deliver His people from the slavery of
Egypt and bring them into a land, "flowing with milk and honey." This is
what Palestine was, as corroborated by the spies, in Num_13:27; it is what
the land will be in a coming day, though for centuries it has lain desolate.
The blessings of that land were earthly, but they came from the hand of God
and were not won as the result of irrigation and toil as in the case of Egypt.

Third, He told Moses that he was to be the servant, commissioned to face


the mighty monarch, Pharaoh, and deliver the children of Israel out of his
hand. As stated by Stephen, "This Moses whom they refused... the same did
God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel, which
appeared to him in the bush." What he had attempted to effect in his own
wisdom and strength, and failed to do, he is now to accomplish in the
wisdom and power of God.
Exodus 18:1-20:11

The eighteenth chapter is somewhat parenthetical in its nature, inasmuch as


it recounts an episode in which Moses' father-in-law played a considerable
part. To get the more direct dealings of God with the people we have to read
straight on from the end of Exo_17:1-16 to the beginning of Exo_19:1-25.

Jethro must have known the full story of Israel's sufferings in Egypt for
Moses had dwelt with him for forty years. Now he had heard the wonderful
story of their deliverance, and he came to rejoice with them, bringing
Zipporah and her two sons. Only now do we learn that Moses had sent her
back to her father, and what was the name of the second son.

The episode related in Exo_4:1-31 had shown us that Zipporah was not
prepared for circumcision, the sign of the covenant with Abraham, and the
type of the cutting off of the flesh. And, in that chapter it is "son," in the
singular, which we take as applying to Gershom, previously mentioned in
Exo_2:1-25. In naming his elder son Gershom, Moses revealed his
consciousness of strangership in the world where he sojourned, and the
cutting off of circumcision was very appropriate in regard to that. Now the
second son is mentioned, and we pass from what is negative to what is
positive, since Eliezer signifies, "My God is an help." This had now been
made very plain, and in these two names we find Moses saying in principle
what Joseph before him had said in the names of his two sons, which meant,
"Forgetting," and "Fruitful."

Many see in this chapter a picture, though perhaps a faint one, of what will
take place at the end of Israel's history. It is given to us before we turn from
God's dealings with the people in grace, under the old covenant with
Abraham, to the fresh covenant of law, with which Exo_19:1-25 is occupied.
Let us consider this picture in its broad outlines.

In the language of Deu_33:5, Moses was, "king in Jeshurun, when the heads
of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together." In our
chapter we find the heads of the people being selected, as Jethro counselled
under God; for he only advised it, if "God command thee so." So it seems
that here we have a little sample of the coming kingdom. Moses is king; the
people are subject to him; the Gentile, in the person of Jethro, comes to
rejoice with him and his people. Moreover his Gentile wife is there, though
she had disappeared during the time when God was redeeming His people
by powerful judgments, and in her we see a faint type of the church.
Further, in the men appointed as rulers under Moses we see a type of those
who will reign with Christ in the day of the kingdom. This is in keeping with
Dan_7:14; Dan_7:18, where we are told that while the Son of Man will take
the kingdom as the supreme authority, the saints also will take the kingdom
in that day. The men who took authority under Moses were to be, "able
men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness." This reminds us
that the places of authority in the coming kingdom of Christ will be given to
those who have approved themselves as worthy during the present time of
responsibility here.

Exo_19:1-25 opens with the people camping at the foot of Sinai in the third
month after their deliverance from Egypt; and, reaching that spot, Moses
was called by God to go up into the mount in order that he might receive
from God and convey to the people a fresh proposal.

The people were reminded what God had done on their behalf, bringing
them to Himself in His grace. They however had not responded aright. They
lacked faith in God, and did not really know themselves. Would they now
have their footing with God established on a legal basis? Should God's
attitude towards them be governed by their attitude towards Him, so that, if
they obeyed they should be in favour, and if they disobeyed they should be
rejected?

In order more fully to grasp the difference between law and grace we may
note the contrast between verses Exo_18:4-5 of our chapter and 1Pe_2:9.
In Exodus the people were to be "a peculiar treasure," "a kingdom of
priests," "an holy nation," but only if they obeyed God's voice indeed. In
Peter the Christians of Jewish nationality are reminded what they are,
without any "if." They are not only "a royal priesthood," "an holy nation," "a
peculiar people," — three things almost identical with the three things of
Exodus — but they are a fourth thing, which does not appear in Exodus.
They are "a chosen generation," and that made a difference of immense
import. They were a new generation of God's choice — a born-again people.

As a result of this, grace had set them in a new and wonderful position, and
being this they were to show forth the praises of the One who had called
them into it. In Exodus, the position of privilege before God was only to be
theirs if their conduct merited it — if they obeyed. And, as we see in other
Scriptures, they had to obey in everything and all the time. Hence the
position was forfeited. They never had it, and on that basis they never will.
Law can only say, "Do and live," whereas grace says, "Live and do."

This legal proposal was laid by Moses before the people, and their reply was
promptly given, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Evidently it never
occurred to their minds that they lacked both inclination and power to do
what the law of God would enjoin. It is just this that both they and we have
to learn. But did not God know it? That, He most certainly did.

We may wish then to ask why did God propose the law, if He knew from the
outset what the result would be? This is virtually the question that Paul
raises in Gal_3:19. He answers it by saying, "It was added because of
transgressions," while they were waiting for the advent of Christ, the
promised Seed. The force of this becomes clearer if we read Rom_5:13; and
Rom_7:7-13. God gave the law to Israel that by it they might have their
sinful state brought home to them. Sin is lawlessness, and it was filling the
earth from the days of the fall; but, immediately the law was given, a clear
line was drawn, and stepping over that line a man became a definite
transgressor. His sin could now be imputed to him in a way not possible
before. God intended that in Israel definite proof should be given of the
fallen and sinful state in which men were found.

Let us not forget that Israel was chosen, not only to be the central nation in
God's scheme for the government of the earth under Christ, but also to be
the sample nation, in whom was to be made the test as to the real state of
fallen humanity. They are a nation that has sprung from the finest human
specimen — Abraham, who was "the friend of God." Moreover they came
into being by a miracle — the birth of Isaac. They were specially separated
from the idolatrous nations and divinely educated by the voices of the
prophets. Nothing could be fairer than this test of humanity in this people,
who were the finest obtainable sample. We Gentiles were never put under
the law, but we must never forget that, when we speak of how the law
brought condemnation on Israel, we are thereby condemning ourselves.

In our chapter then, we see the people accepting the law as the determining
factor in their relations with God, and doing so in the confidence that they
would be able to keep it all. Had they had any true knowledge of themselves
they would never have done this. Having accepted it, however, a complete
change came over the scene. God veiled Himself and came to Moses in a
thick cloud, as verse Exo_18:8 tells us, and from thence He would speak
with Moses and make him His mouthpiece to the people.

Moreover, there would have to be special preparations on the part of the


people. For two days they were to be set apart; they were to wash even
their clothes, and bounds were to be set, preventing any from touching the
mountain, under pain of death. The law was now to be given, and it was
important that the people to whom it was given should be impressed with
the holiness of the One who gave it.

From verse Exo_18:16 to the end of the chapter we have a vivid description
of the tremendous scene that took place on the third day when the law was
given. The people were marshalled at the foot of the mount that they might
meet with God, as far as it was possible for them to do so. On the crest of
the mountain Jehovah descended in fire, heralded by thunders, lightnings,
cloud and smoke, and also the loud sound of a trumpet and quakings in the
earth. It must indeed have been a scene to strike terror into every heart. If
we turn to Heb_12:21, we discover a detail which is not mentioned in
Exodus — "So terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and
quake." Exodus tells us that the people trembled, but that Moses,
accompanied by Aaron, went up into the mount. Hebrews tells us how he
quaked as he did so.

Verse Exo_18:22 shows us that there were already in Israel men who were
acknowledged as priests, and in chapter Exo_24:5, we read of certain young
men who were sent to sacrifice unto the Lord. Who these were is not
disclosed, and not until we reach chapter 28 do we find Aaron and his sons
named, as to be set apart for the priest's office. What does appear clearly in
our chapter is that the special privilege connected with priesthood is that of
drawing "near to the Lord," and that such nearness demands sanctification
in no ordinary degree.

Verses Exo_18:1-17 of Exo_20:1-26 put on record the ten commandments


which specially summarized the demands made by the holy law of God. The
next chapter opens with the "judgments," which were to be set before them.
If we turn to Mal_4:4, we find both "statutes" and "judgments" mentioned
as well as the "law." The three words evidently cover all the legislation that
reached Israel through Moses, and as we begin to consider the legislation we
shall do well to note that in the days of Malachi, nearly a thousand years
after it was first given, it was still as binding as at the beginning. It was for
"all Israel," and valid all through that dispensation. What God originates at
the beginning of any dispensation stands good, and He never swerves from
it however much His people may do so.

In giving the commandments God presented Himself to Israel as Jehovah,


who had become in a special sense their God by having delivered them from
Egypt, the house of their bondage. He addressed Himself therefore at the
outset directly to the people, as verse Exo_18:19 indicates.

In the first three commandments God demanded that His rights as Creator,
and their Redeemer from bondage, should be respected. He alone is God, so
they were in the first place to recognize no other "god."

In the second place they were to make no attempt to have an image or


material representation of any unseen power. God is "in heaven above," and
anything purporting to be an image of Him is forbidden. Many other powers
there are both invisible and visible, and no representations of such are to be
made. All the idols of the heathen are strictly forbidden, and in this
connection the warning is issued as to the sins of the fathers descending in
retribution on the children. God knew how terribly infectious such idolatrous
practices are; and, that if the fathers start them the epidemic rages with
tenfold virulence in the children, and brings down the judgment upon their
heads.

On the other hand the government of God would be in favour of those who
are obedient because they love Him. Thus at the outset was it indicated that
love is what is really enjoined in the law. Love is the fulfilling of the law, as
we know very well.

In the third place the name of the Lord is safeguarded. Though Jehovah
Himself was unseen, His Name had been manifested, and His supreme place
in their midst would soon be disregarded if His Name were to be used in an
unworthy way.

It is remarkable that the commandments given with the object of asserting


and safeguarding the glory and the rights of God should be three, and this
long before the reality of the three Persons in the Godhead was brought to
light. We cannot but see in the second the clearing away of all that would be
calculated to confuse the issue when our blessed Lord Jesus appeared as
"the image of the invisible God" (Col_1:15). In Him, and in Him alone, is
found the true and perfect representation of all that God is.

Similarly it is remarkable that when the Holy Spirit — who is not incarnate,
but invisible — was sent forth He was sent by the Father in the name of
the Son (see, Joh_14:26). That name has to be safeguarded, and it is
further to be noted that it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, who has
come in that name, which is the unpardonable sin.

The fourth commandment concerns the due observance of the sabbath day,
which was to be the sign of the covenant which was just being established.
The first three commandments lay down man's duty in regard to God; the
last six his duty in regard to his fellows. Between these two divisions stands
'the sign of the covenant, for it of necessity drew a clear line of demarcation
between Israel, who as God's people were to observe this weekly day of
complete rest, and the rest of the nations, who did not observe it.

The Gentile nations had by this time lost all knowledge of the true God and
of His work in creation. Israel alone had the knowledge of this and of the
fact that God had rested on the seventh day. In the law God was enforcing
His creatorial rights over man, and by Sabbath observance Israel was to
have His creatorial work in constant remembrance.

We Christians are not under the law but under grace. The Sabbath, as the
sign of the law covenant, has therefore lost its significance for us, as we see
in such a Scripture as Col_2:16. Nevertheless there can be no doubt that a
rest of one day in every seven is the wise and beneficent intention of God for
man. The resurrection of Christ is the seal of our faith, and hence the first
day of the week, on which He rose from the dead, became the day that
Christians have from the very beginning devoted to His worship and service,
and it has become the day on which we cease from our ordinary toil. Israel's
week worked up to the day of rest. The Christian's week starts from the
day of rest, based upon the resurrection of Christ.

The world around us has turned it into a day of amusement, sport and sin.
Let us take good care to use it aright for the glory of God and our own
blessing.

Exodus 19:1-24:11

XII

THE COVENANT AT SINAI – ITS GENERAL FEATURES


Exodus 19:1-24:11

The covenant at Sinai is the central part of the Old Testament. There is no
more important part than the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, coupled with
all of the transactions that took place while the children of Israel remained
there. We first discuss, in catechetical form, the covenant in its general
features.

1. Describe the place of the covenant.

Ans. – The name of the place is sometimes called Sinai and sometimes
Horeb. Moses himself calls it each one. Horeb is the range of mountains of
which Sinai is the chief peak. So you speak truly when you say that the law
was given at Horeb and at Sinai. But that there is a distinction between the
two, you have only to see that at Rephidim, where the rock was smitten, it
was a part of the high range, and is called, in Exo_17:6, the rock in Horeb;
and yet the succeeding chapters show that they had not yet gotten to Sinai.
In describing the place, then, the first thing is to give its name, which is the
range of mountains called Horeb, whose chief peak is Sinai. The second idea
of the place is that this range of mountains, including Sinai, is situated in
Southern Arabia between two arms of the sea, and the triangular district
between those two arms of the sea is called the Sianitic peninsula. The third
part of the answer in describing the place is this: The immediate place has a
valley two and one half miles long by one and one-half miles wide, perfectly
level and right under Sinai. Sinai goes up like a precipice for a considerable
distance, then slopes toward the peak, and Overlooks a valley and a plain,
for it is a long way above the level of the sea. This valley is the only place in
all tin country where the people could be brought together in one body for
such purposes as were transacted here. Modern re- search has made it
perfectly clear that this valley right under Sinai is the place for the camp,
and you can put three millions of people there, and then up the gorges on
the mountain sides there is abundant range for their flocks and herds.

2. What are the historical associations of this place, before and since?

Ans. – It was called the Mount of God before Moses ever saw it, and there
was a good road into these mountains prepared by the Egyptians in order to
get to certain mines which they had in the mountains of Horeb. Since that
time we associate Horeb with Elijah when he got scared and ran a the way
from Samaria to Mount Sinai – a big run; he was very badly scared; and
what he was scared at was more terrible than a man; a woman was after
him. He was not afraid of Ahab, but he was afraid of Jezebel. Now, Sinai is
associated with Elijah; and I believe that Jesus went to Sinai, an I am sure
Paul did. He says when he was called to preach, "I did not go to Jerusalem
for the people there to tell me now to preach, but I went into Arabia." He
stayed there three years, and, as I think, he came down to this place when
the Law was given, in order to catch the spirit of the occasion of the giving
of the Law from looking at the mountain itself and there received the
revelations of the new covenant which was to supersede the covenant given
upon Mount Sinai. Long after Paul's time the historical associations of Sinai
are abundant. Many of the books that teach about the Crusades have
remarkable incidents in connection with the Sinaitic Peninsula and
particularly this mountain. If you were there today, you would see buildings
perpetuating Mosaic incidents, and on this mountain is a convent belonging
to the Eastern, the Greek church, rather than to the Roman church; and in
that convent Tischendorf found the famous Sinaitic manuscript of the New
Testament, which is the oldest, the best and the most complete. There are
associations in connection with Sinai which extend to the fifteenth century
and even after.

3. What was the time of the arrival of these people at this mountain?

Ans. – The record says, "In the third month after the children of Israel were
gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the game day came they into the
wilderness of Sinai." In chapter 16 it says: "And they took their journey from
Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the
wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of
the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt." They left
Egypt on the fifteenth and were in the wilderness of Sin on the fifteenth of
the next month, one month's time; but while it is only one month in time, it
covered parts of two months. "Now in the third month", but just where in it
the record does not say – they reached Sinai. Another question on that
directly.

In discussing this subject, I shall have the following general heads: (1) The
Preparation for the Covenant; (2) The Covenant Itself; (3) The Stipulations
of the Covenant; (4) The Covenant Accepted; (5) The Covenant Ratified; (6)
The Feast of the Covenant. That will be the order of this chapter.

4. What was the proposition and reply?

Ans. – In chapter 19 the proposition for the covenant comes from God in
these words: "And Moses went up unto God, and Jehovah called unto him
out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and
tell the children of Israel [here's the proposition]: Ye have seen what I did
unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you
unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my
covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: For
all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a
holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of
Israel." On those terms God proposes a covenant. Now, let us see if the
people agree to enter into covenant with God: "And Moses came and called
for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which
Jehovah commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, All
that Jehovah hath spoken we will do.” Moses then reported back to God
what the people said here was a mutual agreement on the part of the people
enter into a covenant (Exo_19:7-8).

5. What was the method of Jehovah's approach in order enter the covenant?

Ans. – The theophanv. "Theonhany" means an appearance of God. God says


to Moses, in describing how he will come, that he will come in a cloud; that
they won't see him; but they will see the cloud and hear his voice; an
appearance of God, some of it visible, a cloud that envelops God, and voice
Heard.

6. What was the preparation for this covenant they se to enter into?

Ans. – The first part of it was to sanctify the mountain "Sanctify" means to
set apart, or to make holy; to sanctify a mountain is to set it apart. That
mountain which was to be the scene and place of this great covenant
between God and the people was set apart, things set upon it, fenced
about', with the prohibitions of God: "Don't you come too close I it; don't
touch it." Just as God fenced the burning bush when he said to Moses
"Don't, draw nigh; stop, you are enough; take the shoes off your feet; this is
holy ground." The next part of the preparation was to sanctify the people.
This was done ceremonially. They were ceremonially purified, as is
expressed in these words: "Go down, charge the people, lest they break
through unto Jehovah to gaze, and many of them perish. And let the priests
also that come near to Jehovah, sanctify themselves, lest Jehovah break
forth upon them."

7. What was to be the signal which would bring the people close to that
mountain and put them into the presence of God?
Ans. – It was a trumpet sound, described on this occasion in such a way as
to thrill the people hearing the sound. This sound was prolonged, and thus it
waxed louder and louder and louder – a fearful, unearthly sound. No human
lips blew that trumpet earth never heard it before; the earth will hear it
again only one more time, and that when Christ comes to judge the world;
he will then come with the sound of a trumpet.

8. What was to be the time when God and the people, after this preparation,
should come together?

Ans. – On the third day.

9. Describe Jehovah's coming on the third day and compare Deu_4:10-12.

Ans. – The record says, "And it came to pass on the third day, when it was
morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon
the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people
that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of
the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And
Mount Sinai) the whole of it, smoked, because Jehovah descended upon it in
fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the
whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet waxed
louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice"
(Exo_19:16-19). In Deu_4:10-12, Moses describes it again, referring to that
great occasion, the theophany, and he uses this language: "The day that
thou stoodest before Jehovah thy God in Horeb, when Jehovah said unto me,
Assemble me the people, and I will make them hear my words, that they
may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that
they may teach their children. And ye came near and stood under the
mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the heart of heaven, with
darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And Jehovah spake unto you out of the
midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of words but ye saw no form; only ye
heard a voice." "Form" or similitude is a likeness; "you heard a voice, but
saw no likeness or similitude of God."

10. Who was the mediator of this covenant between God: and the people?

Ans. – You will notice that the people and God do not come together directly.
In the book of Job he says, "There is no daysman who shall stand between
me and God, touching God, touching me." If God had revealed himself
visibly to the people and directly, the sight would have killed them, for they
were a sinful people. In order to get to them, then, there was a necessity for
a middleman, a mediator; one who should approach God for the people and
approach the people for God. Now who was this mediator? Moses.

11. What part did the angels take, and how signified?

Ans. – In the later books of the Bible we learn that this law was given by the
disposition of angels and was signified by that trumpet, the trumpet served
to summon the whole army of God's angels.

12. When again will it sound, and why?

Ans. – When the judgment day comes: "He shall come with the sound of the
trumpet"; and when that trumpet sounds, its object is not to wake the dead,
according to the Negro theology, but to marshal the angels, to bring them
back with him.

13. What are the great lessons of this preparation?

Ans. – Let us get these clearly in our minds:

(1) That this is to be a theocratic covenant. I want you to get the idea
of this, viz.: The difference between a democratic covenant (made
with all the people), an aristocratic covenant (made with the nobles,
the best of the people) and a theocratic covenant, one in which God
alone makes the stipulation. The people don't prescribe anything. God
tells everything that is to be done, either on his part or on their part.
All the people have to do in a theocratic covenant is to say "yes" or
"no"; to accept or reject.

(2) That it was a mediatorial covenant) not a covenant directly


between God and the people, but a covenant in which a daysman goes
between, a mediator to transmit from God to the people, and from the
people to God.

(3) The third great lesson is that the people, in order to enter into a
covenant with God, even through a mediator, must have the following
requirements:

(a) They must make a great voluntary decision (Exo_24:8). You


remember when Elijah summoned all the people to meet him on
the mountain with the prophets of Baal, and had the test as to
who was God, and the prophets of Baal were to try to bring
proof that they represented God, and he was to prove that he
represented God; that he proposed to them that day to make a
great decision: "How long halt ye?" "Halt" does not mean to
"linger," but to "limp"; a halting man in the Bible is a "limping"
man. "How long hobble ye as a limping man between two
opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; if Baal be God, follow
him" (1Ki_18:21-40). This is the lesson: That what the people
must do was to make this great decision. Moses could not make
it for them. They were brought up there; they had plenty of
ground on which to stand; that valley was two and a half miles
long and one and a half miles wide; and God could speak loud
enough for them to hear him, and anything they said he could
hear. "Now, you people, will you make this decision?" And they
said, "We will."

(b) The people must have fear toward Jehovah. "You are not
entering into a covenant with a dumb idol, but with the living
God."

(c) "And you must have reverence. Don't get too close to the
divine presence; don't try to break through that fence; don't
touch the mountain; do not presume to be intimate with
Jehovah. You must have reverence."

(d) The next requirement was holiness; and that holiness is a


sanctifying by the ceremonial purification. The last requirement

(e) is obedience. "Will you obey? Will you do it.?" Suppose now,
to give you, the idea perfectly, I ask again: What are the great
lesson from this preparation? Theocratic covenant; lessons of the
mediatorial covenant; What the people must do: decide, fear
God, have reverence, be purified, obey God. That discusses the
first part of the preparation for the covenant. We will now
discuss, in general terms, the covenant itself.

14. Give proofs that what we call the giving of the law of Mount Sinai is a
covenant as well as a law.
Ans. – The evidence of its being a covenant is presented by the meaning of
the word "covenant," viz.: agreement between two, under stipulations
binding either party. That is a covenant; and the ratification takes place by
the sacrifice of a victim. All the covenants of the Old Testament are of that
kind. As a proof that this is a covenant, God, the party of the first part,
makes the proposition to enter into the covenant; then the people agree to
it; and next, God prescribes, what he will do, and what they must do. These
are the stipulations of the covenant. Then the people must accept formally
after they have heard all the stipulations, and then comes the ratification. In
Exo_24:1-8, we have an account of the ratification. In this chapter I shall
speak of it more as a covenant than as a law.

15. What are its three constituent parts, binding the people?

Ans. – Whatever mistakes you make, do not make a mistake in answering


this question. It is just as clear as a sunbeam that this covenant entered into
on Mount Sinai has three distinctive, constituent parts:

(1) The moral law (Exo_20:17), the Ten Commandments, the first part
of the covenant.

(2) The altar, or law of approach to God (Exo_20:24-26; Exo_23:14-


19). In case you cannot keep the moral law, the law of the altar comes
in.

(3) The civil or national law, (Exodus 1-23:13). Now, what are the
constituent parts of the covenant? Moral law, law of the altar, or way
of approach to God, also the civil, or national law. The civil law of
judgments covers several chapters: they are all a part of this
covenant. Now, let us separate those ideas:

(1) Relates to the character of the person;

(2) to the way you can approach God, if you fail in character;

(3) to the civil, or national affairs. Israel was a nation. This is not
Abraham making a covenant; it is not Moses making one; it is a
nation entering into a covenant with God, to be his treasure, his
peculiar people. And I venture to say that everything else in the
Pentateuch, whether in the rest of the book of Exodus, in
Leviticus, in Numbers, or in Deuteronomy, everything is
developed from one or other of these three things. All Leviticus
is developed from the law of the altar; it is just simply an
elaboration of that part of this covenant they entered into with
God, and was enacted when they were at Sinai. All that part of
Numbers up to the time they left Sinai (first ten chapters) is a
development of one or another of these three parts. Every new
enactment which comes in Numbers, every restatement
occurring in Deuteronomy must be collocated there with the
moral law and with the altar law, or with the national law. I had
the pleasure at Brownwood, Texas, at the request of the school,
the churches, and the people there, to deliver a lecture on
Leviticus, so as in one lecture to give those people an idea of the
book. And the first thing I wrote on the blackboard was:
"Everything in the book of Leviticus is developed from that part
of the covenant given on Mount Sinai which relates to the law of
the altar, or the way of approach to God."

16. In what prophecy is it shown that this covenant given on Mount Sinai
shall be superseded by a new covenant with different terms?

Ans. – Jeremiah is the prophet. The passage commences: "In the last days,
saith the Lord, I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, not like
the covenant I made with them when I led them out of Egypt." Jeremiah
then shows how different the terms of the new covenant shall be from those
of the covenant given at Sinai (Jer_31:31-34).

17. Where in the New Testament are the terms of the two covenants
contrasted in this form: "Do and thou shalt live," and "Live and (thou shalt)
do"?

Ans. – You are bound to see that there is a sharp contrast between the new
and the old covenants. If this old covenant says, "Do in order to live," and
the new one says, "Live in order to do," you must be alive before you can
do; and they then start in different directions, keep going away from each
other, one going up, the other going down. Where in the New Testament is
that thought brought out? (Rom_10:5 ff.)

18. Where in the New Testament is the contrast between the two covenants
expressed in allegory?

Ans. – Gal_4:24 ff.

19. What three books of the New Testament best expound the covenants as
contrasted?

Ans. – Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews (in that order), particularly,


Hebrews. And now comes a question of chronology.

20. What is the support for the Jewish tradition that this covenant was
enacted the fiftieth day after the Passover sacrifice in Exodus 12?

Ans. – You know the Jews always have maintained that the law given on
Mount Sinai was on the fiftieth day after the Passover was celebrated; just
as in the New Testament the Holy Spirit was given on the fiftieth day after
the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Alexander Campbell makes a great point
of that: The giving of the new covenant law must be on the fiftieth day after
Christ's crucifixion. You could make it a proof this way: Exodus 12 says that
this month Abib, later called Nisan, i.e., after the captivity it was so called,
shall be the beginning of the year to you, and on the fifteenth day of that
month they left Egypt, not on the first day of the month, but on the
fifteenth, which was the beginning of the new year. The Passover was slain
on the night of the fourteenth, and hurriedly eaten. On the fifteenth they
marched out. Chapter 16 tells us that on the fifteenth day of the next
month, which would be about a month after they left Egypt, they were then
in the wilderness of Sin, not very far from Mount Sinai, but only one month
gone. Now, there are several stations at which they stopped before reaching
Sinai, and they could be at Sinai and waiting three days, devoting the time
to preparation, and making the giving of the law on the fiftieth day. The
argument can be made out so that the time covered from the leaving of
Rameses in Egypt to the arrival at Sinai would be less than two months, as
fifty days does not equal two lunar months; there must be fifty-six days to
get two lunar months, even.

21. The next question bears on the stipulations of the covenant. Where do
we find the stipulations of what God would do for his part?

Ans. – What God proposes to do is expressed in Exo_19:5 : "Ye shall be a


peculiar treasure unto me above all people, and ye shall be unto me a
kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." Then in Exo_23:20 he enumerates
what he will do. "I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way, and
to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. . . . Mine angel shall go
before thee . . . and I will cut off the opposing nations . . . and ye shall serve
Jehovah your God, and he will bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take
sickness away from the midst of thee . . . I will drive these nations out from
before thee. . . . And I will set thy border from the Red Sea even unto the
sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness unto the river [i.e.,
Euphrates]." In other words, he will do what he promised to Abraham he
would do, as to their boundary. That is what he proposes to do.

22. What must the people do?


Aug. – Keep those three parts of that covenant, having fear and reverence
toward God, and toward his angels and toward Moses, the mediator. That is
their part of the covenant.

23. Cite the passage to prove that the people agreed to enter into the
covenant when proposed, and cite the passage showing their acceptance of
it when stated. Pause Key (Key: Enter!)

Ans. - The covenant having been stated in all of its parts, God propounds to
the people the plain question: "Will you accept it?" thus: "Moses told the
people all the words of the law," i.e., the Decalogue, with the judgments, or
the civil law, and the law of the altar, or the way of approach to God. And
Moses wrote these words and said to the people, "Will you do them?" They
said, "We will." It is very plain that after they had heard they accepted. And
the next thing is the ratification.

24. Describe the ratification.

Ans. - I quote it: "Moses rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar
under the mount, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
And he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings,
and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto Jehovah. And Moses took half of
the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the
altar. And he took the book of the covenant [wrote those in a book; what
both parties had obligated themselves to observe] and read in the audience
of the people; and they said, All that Jehovah hath spoken will we do, and
be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and
said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which Jehovah hath made with you
concerning all these words" (Exo_24:4-8). That was the ratification.

25. What are the developments in the rest of the Pentateuch from each of
the three parts of the covenant?

Ans. - The last chapter of Exodus, all of Leviticus, a large part of Numbers
are devoted to the development of the Law of the Altar, Deuteronomy, to
the Ten Commandments; a large part of Exodus and some of Deuteronomy,
to the Civil Code.

26. In what part was the gospel germ?

Ans. - In the Altar, or Law of Approach to God.

27. What three books are specially commended?


Ans. - Boardman's Lectures on the Ten Commandments; Butler's Bible on
the Giving of the Law at Sinai; and the) Presbyterian Catechism on the Ten
Commandments.

28. What is the sign, or token of the covenant? Cite scripture.

Ans. -- Circumcision. Gal_5:2.

29. How long after the call of Abraham and the promise to him, was this?

Ans. - Paul says, "Four hundred and thirty years." See Gal_3:17.

XIII

THE COVENANT AT SINAI (Continued)


Scripture: Same as in preceding chapter

1. The first question is based on Exo_24:7 : "And he took the book of the
covenant." What is this book of the covenant?

Ans. – All that part of Exodus 19-24-11. Moses wrote it then.

2. How may this book be regarded and what is its relation to all subsequent
legislation in the Pentateuch?

Ans. – You may regard the book of the covenant as a constitution and all
subsequent legislation as statutes evolved from that constitution. The United
States adopted a constitution of principles and the revised statutes of the
United States are all evolved from the principles contained in that
constitution. So that this book of the covenant may be regarded as a
national constitution.

3. Why, then, is the whole of the Pentateuch called the law?

Ans. – Because every part of the Pentateuch is essential to the


understanding of the law. The historical part is just as necessary to the
understanding of the law as any particular provision in the constitution, or
any particular statute evolved from the constitution. The history must
commence back at creation and go down to the passage over into the
Promised Land. Very appropriately, then, do the Jews call the Pentateuch the
torah, the law.
4. What other Pentateuchs?

Ans. – The five books of the Psalter. When you come to study the psalms, I
will show you just where each book of the psalms commences and where it
ends. They are just as distinct as the five books of Moses. Another
Pentateuch is the fivefold Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul;
and as Moses' Pentateuch is followed by Joshua the man of deeds, the
Gospel Pentateuch is followed by Acts, which means deeds.

5. Where and when was a restatement and renewal of this covenant at


Sinai?

Ans. – In the book of Deuteronomy. There not only had been a breach of the
covenant in the case of the golden calf, which was forgiven, but there came
a more permanent breach at Kadesh-barnea when the people refused, after
God brought them to the border, to go over into the Promised Land, and
they wandered until all that generation died. Their children are brought
where their fathers would have been brought, and it became necessary to
renew that covenant. You find the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy just
as you find them here.

6. State again exactly the three parts of the covenant.

Ans. – (1) The Ten Commandments, or moral law (Exo_20:1-17); (2) the
law of the altar, or the way of approach to God, in case the Ten
Commandments were violated; (3) The judgments, or the civil law. Now
from those three parts, the constituent elements of the covenant, are
evolved everything, you might say, in all the rest of the books of the Bible.
Leviticus is all evolved from the law of the altar; very much of Numbers and
Deuteronomy is evolved from the civil law. Now before I consider Part I, that
is, the Decalogue, I want to make a brief restatement of some things in the
preceding chapter. The first is the covenant. A covenant is an agreement or
compact between two or more parties with expressed stipulations showing
what the two parties are to do. The parties to this Sinai covenant are: God
upon the first part, and the people on the second part, with Moses as the
daysman or mediator. In the preceding chapter we had the following outline:

A proposition upon God's part for a covenant and the people's acceptance of
that proposition; A preparation for entering into that covenant; The
covenant itself as expressed in three parts; The stipulations of the covenant
as shown in the last chapter; The covenant ratified; The Feast of the
Covenant.
Now we take up Part (1) the moral law; and we are to consider that moral
law first, generally, then specifically. I can, in this chapter, get into only a
part of the specifics of it.

7. What do we call Part I of this Covenant?

Ans. – We call it the moral law; or, using a Greek word, the Decalogue.

8. What are the three scriptural names?

Ans. – The Bible gives (1) "the ten words"; that is what "decalogue" means,
"the ten words spoken." God spake all these words. (2) "The tables" or
"tablets," whereon these words were written, and (3) "the tables of the
testimony." When this written form was deposited in the ark of the
covenant, from that time on they are called "the tables of the testimony."

9. Give the history of these tablets.

Ans. – They were written on tables of stone by the finger of God; that was
the original copy. Moses broke them when the people made a breach of the
covenant in the matter of the golden calf. God called him up into the
mountain again and rewrote these Ten Commandments; that was the
second copy. Both of these God wrote. These two tables that God wrote on
were deposited in the ark when it was constructed, and that, too, before
they left this Mount Sinai. The last time they were seen, you learn from I
Kings 8, was when Solomon moved that ark out of the tabernacle into the
Temple which he had built. He had it opened and in there were the two
tables of atone on which God had written. The probable fate of them is this,
that when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, he may have taken
the ark of the covenant with the things in it as memorials of his victory, just
as when Titus destroyed the Temple he took away the sacred things of the
Temple; the seven-branched golden candlestick was carried in triumph into
the city of Rome.

10. Divide these ten words first into grand divisions, and then into
subdivisions.

Ans. – The grand divisions were two tables, one of them were the
commandments relating to God, i.e., man's duty to God, and the other were
the commandments expressing man's relation to his fellowman. The
subdivisions are these: all that part of Exodus from Exo_20:2-17 is divided
into ten parts. Those are the subdivisions of the two tables. We will note
them precisely a little further on in the comments for Exo_20:1-6.
11. What is the Romanist method of subdivision and what are the objections
thereto?

Ans. – The Romanists make one out of the first two commandments, and
two out of the last. We say that the First Commandment is, "Thou shall have
no other gods before me," and they say the first command is: "I am the Lord
thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house
of bondage, etc.," to the end of the Second Commandment.

12. What other ten words and how do you compare them?

Ans. – The ten words of creation and the ten Beatitudes spoken by our Lord.
We compare them by a responsive reading.

13. How and where does Moses compress the ten into two?

Ans. – I will give the compression. In one place Moses says, "Thou shall love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy
strength." In another place Moses says, "Thou shalt love their neighbour as
thyself," compressing the first table into one and the second table into one
(Deu_6:4 f; Lev_19:18).

14. What was the occasion of Christ's quotation of Moses compression?

Ans. – An inquirer came to him propounding this question: "Which is the


great commandment in the law?" Jesus, quoting Moses, says, "This is the
great and first commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. And a second like unto it is
this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments
the whole law hangeth, and the prophets."

15. What New Testament scripture shows the solidarity of the law?

Ans. – The solidarity of a thing means the inability to touch any part without
touching it all; and if you violate one commandment you violate all the
Decalogue, and if you are guilty of one you are guilty of all. The place in the
New Testament where it is said, "He that is guilty of one point in the law is
guilty of all," is Jam_2:10. That passage expresses the solidarity of the law.

16. How does the New Testament compress the ten into one?

Ans. – This passage is: "All the law is fulfilled in this one word, love,"
(Gal_5:14).
17. Is this giving of the law, orally or in writing, the origin of the law? That
is, was there no law before? Was it the origin of the law; and if not, what is
it, and why is it?

Ans. – This is not the origin of the law, but it is an addition. The Scriptures
say, "The law was added because of trans-gression."

18. Then, what is law?

Ans. – Law is that intent or purpose in the mind of the Creator, concerning
any being or thing that he causes to be. Now, the intent that he had in his
mind, the purpose, when he made man, is the law of man. The intent or
purpose that he had in mind when he created the tree is the law of the tree.
That law may not be expressed. It inheres: it is there in the nature of the
thing. It may be expressed in the spoken commandment or in the written
one. But you do not have to wait until the word is spoken or till the spoken
word is written in order to have law. For example, Paul says, "Death reigned
from Adam to Moses." But death is the penalty of the law, and "where there
is no law there is no transgression." Now, if law didn't exist before given on
Mount Sinai, why did those people die?

19. If the spoken or written law at Sinai was added because of


transgression, show more particularly and illustrate its purpose, both
negatively and positively. Now, if a law exists in God's mind and in the
nature of the things that he creates, why did he afterward speak that law
and have it written?

Ans. – (1) Because of transgression. We now show the mean ing of that, and
illustrate it. We have the answer in this form: The purpose of speaking this
law and of having it written negatively, was not to save men by it. They
were lost when it was developed. But first it was to discover sin. Sin is
hidden and there was a law, but it was not written or spoken. Now, God put
that law in writing so that it could be held up by the side of a man, and his
life, and his deeds to discover sin in him. Paul says, "I had not known sin
except by the law." (2) This sin by the law is discovered to the man in order
to convict him of this sin. Paul says, " I was alive without the law once [that
is, before I knew it I felt like I was all right], but when the commandment
came sin revived and I died. I saw myself to be a dead man." In the next
place, (3) it was to make the sin, which looked like something else before
the man had the law, appear to be sin, as Paul says in his letter to the
Romans, and also, to make it appear to be "exceedingly sinful." Now to
illustrate: Suppose on a blackboard we were to trace a zigzag turning line.
That is the path a man walks; he is in the woods and thinks he is going
straight, and he feels all right. Now you put a rule there, which is exactly
straight, and just watch how that zigzag walk of his is sometimes on one
side and sometimes on the other. The rule discovers the variations; it makes
it known. Now here is (4) another purpose of the, Law: To incite to sin in
order that the heinousness of the exceeding sinfulness of sin may be made
manifest. Now, maybe you don't believe that. Paul says it is so, and I can
give you an illustration that will enable you to see just how it is so. I never
saw one of the Baylor University boys put his foot on top of the mail box at
the street corner, but if the faculty should pass a law that no boy should put
his foot on that mail box, some boy's foot would go on top of it, certainly.
Now, that boy may have imagined all along that he was law abiding. But put
a standard there and he wants to test it right away. I illustrate again: A little
boy once saw a baldheaded man going along up the side of a hill, and the
boy said, "Go up, thou bald head! Now trot out your bears." He had been
told that if he was irreverent toward an old, baldheaded man, as the boys
were toward Elisha, the bears would tear him to pieces.

20. Explain carefully the Christian's relation to this law.

Ans. – It is a part of the old covenant, you say, and we have a new covenant
now. Then is a Christian under obligations to keep this law? Is the law
binding on you not to kill, not to lie, not to steal, not to commit adultery? We
certainly would be extreme antinomians if we were to say that as an
obligation that does not rest on us. It does rest on us, but it does not rest on
us as a way to eternal life. You see the distinction? The time never will come
when it will be right for a man to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, to covet,
and no matter who does any one of these things, whether saint or sinner, it
is sin. But the keeping of the Decalogue is an obligation upon the Christian
because it is in the nature of his being, as when it was spoken at Sinai, yet
that is not the Christian's way to obtain eternal life.

21. What is the form of the statement of the ten words?

Ans. – Negative and positive. For some of them: "Thou shalt not"; for
others, positive: "Honour thy father," etc.; but whether the form be positive
or negative – if it is negative, it has a positive idea attached, and if it is
positive it has a negative idea. If it is an affirmation, it is also a prohibition.
No matter what the form, it does prescribe certain things and it does
proscribe certain things.

Exodus 19:1-25

THE TEXT OF EXODUS


TRANSLATION

19 In the third month after the children of Is-ra-el were gone forth
out of the land of E-gypt, the same day came they into the
wilderness of Si-nai. (2) And when they were departed from Reph-i-
dim, and were come to the wilderness of Si-nai, they encamped in
the wilderness; and there Is-ra-el encamped before the mount. (3)
And Mo-ses went up unto God, and Je-ho-vah called unto him out of
the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and
tell the children of Is-ra-el: (4) Ye have seen what I did unto the E-
gyp-tians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you
unto myself. (5) Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and
keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from
among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: (6) and ye shall be unto
me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words
which thou shalt speak unto the children of Is-ra-el.

(7) And Mo-ses came and called for the elders of the people, and
set before them all these words which Je-ho-vah commanded him.
(8) And all the people answered together, and said, All that Je-ho-
vah hath spoken we will do. And Mo-ses reported the words of the
people unto Je-ho-vah. (9) And Je-ho-vah said unto Mo-ses, Lo, I
come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I
speak with thee, and may also believe thee for ever. And Mo-ses told
the words of the people unto Je-ho-vah. (10) And Je-ho-vah said
unto Mo-ses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-
morrow, and let them wash their garments, (11) and be ready
against the third day; for the third day Je-ho-vah will come down in
the sight of all the people upon mount Si-nai. (12) And thou shalt set
bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to
yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of
it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: (13)
no hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot
through; whether it be beast or man, he shall not live: when the
trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount. (14) And
Mo-ses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified
the people; and they washed their garments. (15) And he said unto
the people, Be ready against the third day: come not near a woman.

(16) And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning,
that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the
mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people
that were in the camp trembled. (17) And Mo-ses brought forth the
people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether
part of the mount. (18) And mount Si-nai, the whole of it, smoked,
because Je-ho-vah descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof
ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked
greatly. (19) And when the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and
louder, Mo-ses spake, and God answered him by a voice. (20) And
Je-ho-vah came down upon mount Si-nai, to the top of the mount:
and Je-ho-vah called Mo-ses to the top of the mount; and Mo-ses
went up. (21) And Je-ho-vah said unto Mo-ses, Go down, charge the
people, lest they break through unto Je-ho-vah to gaze, and many of
them perish. (22) And let the priests also, that come near to Je-ho-
vah, sanctify themselves, lest Je-ho-vah break forth upon them. (23)
And Mo-ses said unto Je-ho-vah, The people cannot come up to
mount Si-nai: for thou didst charge us, saying, Set bounds about the
mount, and sanctify it. (24) And Je-ho-vah said unto him, Go, get
thee down; and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aar-on with thee: but
let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto Je-
ho-vah, lest he break forth upon them. (25) So Mo-ses went down
unto the people, and told them.

————————————

EXPLORING EXODUS: CHAPTER NINETEEN


QUESTIONS ANSWERABLE FROM THE BIBLE

1. After careful reading propose a short topic or theme for the chapter.

2. In what month did Israel come into the Wilderness of Sinai? (Exo_19:1)

3. On what day of the month did they arrive? (Exo_19:1)

4. Where did Israel make its camp? (Exo_19:2)

5. Where did Moses go from the camp? (Exo_19:3)

6. Why was Israel called the “house of Jacob”? (Exo_19:3; Exo_1:1-7;


Gen_46:1-4)

7. How had Israel been borne along on their journey? (Exo_19:4;


Deu_32:11)
8. To whom had Israel been brought? (Exo_19:4)

9. What conditions did Israel have to fulfill to become God’s people?


(Exo_19:5)

10. What would Israel be unto God? (Exo_19:5-6)

11. What is a “kingdom of priests”? (Exo_19:6; Compare 1Pe_2:9)

12. To whom did Moses first report God’s words? (Exo_19:7)

13. What was the response of the people? (Exo_19:8)

14. Where did Moses go after hearing the people’s acceptance?


(Exo_19:8)

15. In what manner would God come to Moses and Israel? (Exo_19:9)

16. How would God’s coming affect the status of Moses? (Exo_19:9)

17. What preparations were the people to make before God’s revelation of
Himself? (Exo_19:10; Exo_19:14)

18. When was God coming down? Who would see God come down?
(Exo_19:11)

19. What was to be built around the mount? (Exo_19:12)

20. What was to be the punishment for touching the mount? (Exo_19:12-
13)

21. How were mountain-touchers to be handled? (Exo_19:13)

22. What was to be the signal for them to draw near the mountain?
(Exo_19:13)

23. What restriction was imposed upon the people before God came down?
(Exo_19:15)

24. What was the appearance and the sound on Mt. Sinai as God came
down? (Exo_19:16; Exo_19:18)

25. What was the reaction of the people as God came down? (Exo_19:16)

26. What did Moses do when the cloud came down? (Exo_19:17)
27. What voice came from the mount? (Exo_19:19)

28. What warning was given to Moses? (Exo_19:21) Why the repetition of
the command? (See Exo_19:12)

29. What priests are referred to in Exo_19:22?

30. What protest did Moses make about God's warning concerning the
people's breaking through? (Exo_19:23)

31. Was the warning really needed? (Exo_19:24-25)

————————————

EXODUS NINETEEN: ISRAEL READY FOR GOD’S COVENANT

(ISRAEL AT THE DOOR OF NATIONHOOD)

1. The journey completed; Exo_19:1-2.

2. The divine offers; Exo_19:3-6.

3. The personal pledges; Exo_19:7-8.

4. The sanctifying preparations; Exo_19:9-16.

5. The descent of God; Exo_19:16-25.

————————————

THE LORD’S OFFER TO HIS PEOPLE (Exo_19:3-6)

I. BACKED UP BY GOD’S PAST ACTS: (Exo_19:3-4)

1. What I did to the Egyptians.

2. How I bore you on Eagles’ wings.

3. How I brought you to myself.

II. CONDITIONED UPON OBEDIENCE: (Exo_19:5 a)

1. Obey my voice.

2. Keep my covenant.
III. BRINGS RICH HONORS: (Exo_19:5 b–6)

1. You will be my own possession.

2. You will be a kingdom of priests.

3. You will be a holy nation.

————————————

SANCTIFIED TO MEET GOD (Exo_19:10-15)

1. Wash garments; (Exo_19:10; Rev_7:14)

2. Set bounds about the mount; (Exo_19:12)

3. Abstinence; (Exo_19:15)

————————————

WHEN GOD COMES DOWN!! (Exo_19:16-25; Joh_6:38; Joh_3:13)

1. Nature demonstrates; (Exo_19:16-18; Mat_8:27)

2. God’s men are summoned; (Exo_19:19-20; Mar_3:13-14)

3. Men must keep their distance; (Exo_19:21-24; Act_5:13)

————————————

EXPLORING EXODUS: NOTES ON CHAPTER NINETEEN

1. What is in Exodus nineteen?

The chapter tells of the things that occurred just before God gave the
covenant of the ten commandments. We call the chapter READY FOR
GOD’S COVENANT. The people were made ready by (1) their arrival at
the destination, Mt. Sinai (Exo_19:1-2); (2) God’s promise to take them
as His own (Exo_19:3-6); (3) Their public promise to obey God
(Exo_19:7-8); (4) The Lord’s last-minute instructions (Exo_19:9-15); (5)
The Lord’s descent upon the mount (Exo_19:16-25).

The Greek version of Exo_19:1 contains the word exodos, from which
we get the name Exodus, meaning “going out.”
2. When did Israel arrive at Sinai? (Exo_19:1)

They arrived in the third month after going forth from Egypt. Moses
had kept a log book. See Num_33:2. They had left Egypt on the
fourteenth day of the first month (See Exo_12:6; Exo_12:51). and
arrived in the third month. On the “same day” they came to the
wilderness of Sinai. If this expression means “the first day of the month,”
their trip had taken about forty-five days. But the Hebrew simply says “in
this day.” It is by no means certain that this means Israel arrived at the
desert of Sinai on the first day of the month. Later traditions affirmed
that the giving of the law was fifty days after the Passover. We feel that
this is about correct, but it cannot be proved from the text. Exo_19:11
indicates that the Lord came upon Mt. Sinai on the third day after their
arrival. These three days, plus about forty-five days for the journey, give
a total of approximately fifty days.

God’s promise to Moses about Israel’s serving Him “in this mountain”
(Exo_3:12) was fulfilled upon their arrival there.

3. What place is the Wilderness of Sinai? (Exo_19:1)

We think that the name refers here to the plain of Er-Rahah at the
north edge of Mt. Sinai, at the foot of the peak Ras Safsafeh. Ras
Safsafeh is 6540 feet high, and is part of an oval-shaped ridge with a
second (and higher) peak – Jebel Musa, or the Mt. of Moses – at its south
end. Jebel Musa is 7647 feet high.

The name Wilderness of Sinai is sometimes applied to the entire


southern area of the Sinai peninsula covered by granite mountains. But
here the term seems to be restricted to the area just beside Mt. Sinai.

There is a small plain at the south side of Jebel Musa called Wady es-
Sebaiyeh. This has been often said to be the plain of Israel’s
encampment. But travellers in the area report it is only about 7000 feet
long and four to six hundred feet broad; and its whole surface is covered
with sharp rough stones. There is scarcely a good place for three tents to
be pitched together; and its whole area is about 145 acres.[291]
Furthermore, a small hill lies between es-Sebaiyeh and Jebel Musa, so
that there was no possibility of the people coming up to the Mount
without a previous process of hard climbing or a long walk around. See
Exo_19:12; Exo_19:21. Es-Sebaiyeh is in no wise fitted for a major
camping ground.

[291] S. C. Bartlett, From Egypt to Palestine (New York: Harper,


1879), pp. 270–271.

On the other hand the plain er-Rahah on the north of Ras Safsafeh
comes up to the very foot of the mountain. It is two miles long and
one-half broad, and slopes gradually down from the plateau to the
north. The slopes of the enclosing mountains afford further space and
seating for an almost unlimited multitude. The Wady (valley) Leja,
which opens into er-Rahah on the west, is an extensive recess about a
mile and a half long and three-fourths broad. This would add
substantially to the camping ground.[292]

[292] Bartlett, op. cit., p. 272.

No other district in the premises affords such excellent pasturage as


the immediate neighborhood of Mt. Sinai. There are four streams of
running water there and several springs and cisterns.

4. What place had Israel left just before reaching Sinai? (Exo_19:2)

They had left Rephidim. Rephidim had been a place of several events—
water from the rock, war with Amalek, Jethro’s visit, a system of judges set
up. Now they leave Rephidim. It was not far from there to the “mount of
God” (Sinai), probably only one day’s journey of about ten miles. See
Exo_17:6; Exo_18:5.

5. From where did the LORD call Moses? (Exo_19:3)

Jehovah called Moses from the mount. The text implies that Moses
heard the voice of the LORD (Jehovah) as he was ascending the mount
unto God. We are not told why Moses went up into the mountain. It
probably seemed to be the obvious thing to do inasmuch as God had said,
“Ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” (Exo_3:12)

The expression “house of Jacob” is not found elsewhere in the


Pentateuch, but it is very appropriate in the light of God’s promises to
Jacob (Gen_46:4).

Note that Moses went up unto God (the general term for God as
creator and ruler), but the LORD (Jehovah, or Yahweh) called unto him.
Jehovah is God’s covenant name, used when dealing with His people. We
can almost always detect reasons for the use of the one name or the
other.

6. What had the Israelites seen God do? (Exo_19:4)

Three things: (1) What He had done to the Egyptians; (2) How He
bore them on eagles’ wings; (3) How He brought them unto Himself!

The expression “upon the wings of eagles” is a figurative but vivid


description of the strong and loving care of God. The mother eagle will fly
beneath her newly feathered eaglet as it makes its first attempt to fly.
The eagle may refer to the Palestinian vulture.

Deu_32:11 : “As an eagle that stirreth up her nest, that fluttereth over
her young, He spread abroad his wings, he took them, and bare them on
his pinions.” The mother eagle will tear up her nest and thus force the
eaglets to fly. In a similar way God had impelled Israel to leave Egypt.
Then He protected them in their spiritual immaturity as they journeyed.

The reference in Exo_19:4-5 to eagles’ wings and the conditional


nature of God’s covenant reminds us of Deuteronomy, which stresses the
same points. How consistent is God’s revelation through it all!

Note God’s purpose in delivering Israel: He brought them unto


Himself!

Exo_19:3 begins a great block of divine teaching that stretches clear


into Numbers ten.

7. What did God want Israel to keep? (Exo_19:5)

He wanted Israel to keep his COVENANT, and to become His own


covenant people.

This word covenant refers to a formal arrangement of relationship


between two parties. Covenants can be made between individuals or
groups. A national constitution is a covenant. So also is a peace treaty,
and a will (or testament).

The principle of covenant has always been the basis of God’s dealings
with his people. God made a covenant with Noah (Gen_9:9), and with
Abraham (Gen_15:18), and others. Unless we grasp the idea of covenant,
we simply will not understand Exodus.
The law which God gave through Moses to Israel is presented as a
covenant (Exo_24:7-8; Exo_34:27). Exodus chapters nineteen through
twenty-four tell of the giving of the covenant and its ordinances. Exodus
32-34 tell how the covenant was broken by making the golden calf and
then how the covenant relationship was restored.

There are two main types of covenants:

(1) Parity covenants (or treaties), between parties of equal


importance.

(2) Suzerainty treaties (covenants), by rulers for the subjects beneath


them.

In the first type of covenant the contracting parties each agree to do


certain things, and the covenant is in effect only if both parties keep their
bargains. Abraham and Abimilech made such a covenant together
(Gen_21:27).

God’s covenants are more like the second type of covenant. God as a
ruler makes certain promises and then demands particular acts of
obedience. The covenant is imposed by the superior upon the inferiors.
Such covenants may be basically offers of grace to an undeserving
people; God’s covenants are always such. A will, or testament, is a
covenant of the second type because the blessings promised to the heirs
after the death of the testator are offered solely upon the basis of the
wishes of the testator.

Archaeologists have observed that the suzerainty treaties (covenants)


made by ancient Hittite and other kings with their vassals follow the same
general format and literary pattern as God’s covenant with Israel.[293]
These generally contain a preamble (like Exo_19:3), a historical
introduction (Exo_19:4), general principles for future conduct
(Exo_19:5), specific stipulations (Exodus 20-23), divine witnesses
(Exo_24:9-11), and curses and blessings (Exo_23:22-31).

[293] Davis, op. cit., p. 193. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and the
Old Testament (Chicago; Inter-Varsity, 1966), pp. 90–96.

The similarities between the treaties of men and the covenant of God
prove very little, except that God has chosen to express His proposals in
terms familiar to men; or that the essential features in any complete and
logical covenant are similar.

The ancient covenants of human kings which have been preserved


show a slight difference in form between those made in the second
millennium B.C. (the time of Moses), and those made in the first
millennium B.C. (after 1000 B.C.). The fact that the form of the Mosaic
covenant more closely corresponds to the form of the covenants of the
second millennium than to those of the first millennium supports our
belief that the Exodus covenant was indeed written in the time of Moses,
rather than by several unknown “sources” (J, E, D, P) living centuries
later, as many critics allege.

K. A. Kitchen lists several differences between covenant forms of the


first and second millenniums. (1) In late second millennium forms, as far
as preserved, the divine witnesses almost always come between the
stipulations and the curses, whereas in first millennium covenants, so far
as known, they never do. (2) A historical prologue is typical of late
second millennium covenants, but is unknown in our first millennium
examples.

8. What did God propose to make of Israel? (Exo_19:5-6)

Three things: (1) Mine own possession; (2) A kingdom of priests; (3) A
holy nation. All of these titles are now applied to the people of Christ’s
church (1Pe_2:9).

“Mine own possession” means my own special (or peculiar) treasure,


one belonging privately to a king. The same expression is found in
1Ch_29:3; Deu_7:6; Ecc_2:8. How we guard and protect our treasures!
Israel was very precious to God. The expression “mine own possession”
sounds more partial than it really is. There was no thought of favoritism
in God’s choice of Israel (Deu_7:6-8). Israel had not been called to
privilege and rulership, but to being an example and rendering service.

God owns all the earth (Exo_9:29). God could exalt any people by
choosing them, but no people could exalt and elevate God. God is by
nature supreme and ultimate. What man says or does cannot change
God’s power, glory, or authority. Man can neither cause God to be
glorious nor diminish His glory. Thus for God to choose one people as HIS
people was a great favor, one demanding a grateful response.

God’s ownership of Israel has an exact parallel in the church. We are


now a people for God’s own possession (1Pe_2:9; Act_20:28; 1Co_6:20).

“A kingdom of priests” means more than merely a nation of priests


governed by Jehovah. It implies that the people had kingly qualities as
well as priestly qualities. This is evident by the fact that the Greek O.T.
translates the phrase as a “royal priesthood,” and the inspired apostle
Peter adopted the Greek translation as the true meaning of the verse.
See 1Pe_2:9. The Israelites were a royal people, who would devour the
nations that were their adversaries and crush their bones in pieces
(Num_24:8; Deu_33:29). Similarly, Christians have a royal as well as a
priestly character. Christians shall have authority over the nations and
rule them with a rod of iron (Rev_2:26-27). They shall sit down with
Jesus upon His throne.

The fact that Israel was a kingdom of priests suggests that their
individual and collective purpose was to function as a go-between
between God and men of all nations. They were to be living examples of
what God would do with and for obedient mankind, and were to teach the
ways of God to men, and otherwise help men come to God.

The “fly in the ointment” (Ecc_10:1) in this glorious honor for Israel
was that Israel was as sinful and as far from God as the nations to whom
they were to be priests and light! (Rom_2:19)

The same self-contradictory situation exists in the cases of worldly,


covetous, lustful, disobedient, lukewarm “Christians” (?). While they may
consider themselves as being the light of the world, the light that is in
them is darkness.

Israel was to be a holy nation. The primary meaning of holy is not


separated, but “to be pure, splendid, untarnished.”[294] The meaning of
holy is not to be weakened by saying that a thing is holy only insofar as it
is the exclusive property of God. Sin opposes holiness, and the sinner
resists sanctification. God intends that holiness shall prevail and the
unholy be destroyed if they will not repent. Holiness means being like
God! (Lev_19:2; 1Jn_3:3). That means more than belonging to an
exclusive clique labelled Holy (or Private Property).

[294] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, Vol. II in The


Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1956), pp. 99–100.
The concept of Israel’s becoming a NATION looms large in Exodus.
God had promised Abraham that He would make him to become a great
NATION (Gen_12:2). But when Israel left Egypt, they were hardly a
nation! They were a band of escaped slaves without homeland, national
constitution, an established system of government, judges, or priests.
The story of how Israel became a NATION is really the grand theme of
the book of Exodus. The events at Mt. Sinai brought Israel into
nationhood.

9. How did Israel respond to God’s covenant offer? (Exo_19:7-8)

ALL the people answered TOGETHER, “All which Jehovah hath


commanded we shall do.” Their spontaneity and unity rejoice us, until we
recall how quickly they forget their promises.

Israel’s religion was openly presented by God. There were no secret


doctrines to a favored class, no books of mysteries, but a divine offer to
rich and poor, young and old, learned and unlearned. Though it could
never be earned, it had to be personally accepted. It was not an imposed
religion.

Note that the statement is made twice that Moses told the words of
the people unto the LORD (Exo_19:8-9). Probably there is a hint in this
that Moses rejoiced to report their good words to the Lord. Maybe he felt
that the people had finally been converted.

Regarding the elders, see Exo_4:29-30.

The Hebrew Jehovah (Yahweh, LORD) in Exo_19:7 is translated God


(theos) in the Greek, instead of Lord (kurios) as usual. See footnote on p.
378.

10. In what manner would God come unto Moses? (Exo_19:9)

He would come in a thick cloud.

This verse makes quite plain the fact that God spoke primarily with
Moses rather than with Israel. God said, “I come unto thee . . . that the
people may hear when I speak with thee.” God, of course, foreknew that
the people could not long endure hearing His voice (Exo_20:19). Their sin
was such that they were both incapable and unwilling to hear God’s voice.

One major purpose of the miraculous display of cloud, smoke, etc. was
to certify Moses unto the people as God’s mediator, “that they may hear
when 1 speak with thee and believe thee for ever.” We still must accept
Moses as God’s spokesman of that time.

God’s appearances are often associated with clouds and smoke. See
Isa_6:1-4; Isa_19:1; Num_11:25; 1Ki_8:10; Psa_97:2; Rev_1:7.

There is no way that anyone can prove that God came down upon Mt.
Sinai in a cloud and lightning and thunder and earthquake. This is a
matter of faith. We accept this record because we have faith in Jesus,
who said that the Old Testament was all true (Joh_10:35; Luk_16:17).
We accept it because the fulfilled prophecies of the O.T. give us faith, We
rejoice that we can live by faith in what God’s word says.

11. What preparations were to be made for Jehovah’s coming down?


(Exo_19:10-11; Exo_19:15)

The people were (1) to wash their garments, and (2) to abstain from
sex relations, and (3) to set bounds, that is, a fence or barrier, around
the foot of the mountain.

The washing of clothes before holy ceremonies was a fairly common


practice in Bible times. Levites washed their clothes as part of their
consecration (Num_8:7). Those who touched the dead washed their
garments (Num_19:19). The reasons for washing of garments seem
obvious: all nations have sensed the outward joys of cleanliness, and its
symbolic resemblance to the cleansing of mind and heart. See Rev_7:14.

“Sanctify” (or consecrate) means to separate, make holy, pure, and


set apart for God’s use.

“The third day” in Exo_19:11 obviously meant two days after the day
God spoke. This expression can illustrate the Jewish way of speaking of
time, and is helpful in understanding the time meant when our Lord said
He would rise on the “third day” (Mat_16:21).

“Against the third day” means “for the third day” or “on the third day.”

Abstinence from sex relations prior to God’s descent upon Mt. Sinai
does not indicate that this is evil or even questionable. Both the O.T. and
the N.T. approve of sex relations of married people as good, necessary,
protective, and enjoyable. See Pro_5:18-20; 1Co_7:2-5.
Nonetheless, as we sometimes fast from eating lawful food as a means
of devoting our total energies and mind to God, so on some occasions sex
relations are to be left off, See 1Co_7:5. Thus it was at Mt. Sinai. In the
same way David was permitted to eat the showbread reserved for the
priests “if the young men have kept themselves from women” (1Sa_21:4-
5). According to Lev_15:18 a man was regarded as ceremonially unclean
“until evening” after lying with a woman. Certainly no such uncleanness
was to be present at the grand forthcoming appearance of God.

Note that Jehovah was to “come down” upon the mount in the sight of
all the people. When a covenant is made, the parties must meet. Man
cannot ascend to heaven.[295] This is the heart of the Biblical concept of
revelation. God comes down to man. “No man hath ascended into
heaven, but he that descended out of heaven,” Jesus said of Himself in
Joh_3:13.

[295] Ramm, op. cit., p. 123.

Certainly it was a condescension on the part of God to localize His


appearance at Mt. Sinai, seeing that He fills heaven and earth
(Jer_23:23-24). But God has done this often for man’s sake, even
sending His own son into the world in human form.

12. How were the people to be kept away from the mountain?
(Exo_19:12-13)

By two means: (1) A bound, or fence, was placed about the foot of the
mountain; (2) Quick execution was threatened if they even touched the
mount.

It was possible to set a boundary about the north end of Mt. Sinai
because the rock mass of the mountain rises rather abruptly from the
plain beside it.

The people were neither to go up into the mount or even to touch the
edge of it while God was appearing upon it. Death by stoning or shooting
with arrows was the penalty for this.

This command was quite terrifying to the people. “They could not
endure that which was commanded, that if so much as a beast touch the
mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart” (Heb_12:20).
The reason for this stern restriction was very basic: Sinful mankind
cannot approach near God’s presence, and God’s presence was upon Mt.
Sinai. Moses did not even dare come too close to God’s presence at the
burning bush (Exo_3:5). Flesh and blood, such as we are now, cannot
inherit the kingdom of God (1Co_15:50). We should not seek
explanations in some ancient concepts of taboo. It seems unfounded to
offer explanations such as that because the mountain had become “holy,”
then anything that touched it became “holy” also; and that for living
creatures this meant sacrifice and death.[296] If that were true, then
carrying “holy” flesh (or meat) would endanger the bearer (Hag_2:12),
but it did not.

[296] Cole, op. cit., p. 147.

“Touch it” in King James version is better translated “touch him.”

13. What would the trumpet sound signal? (Exo_19:13)

“When the trumpet (Heb. yovel, or ram’s horn trumpet) sounds a long
blast, they shall ascend to the mount.” This is a difficult verse. We
suppose that the “they” spoken of are the people, but that is not without
question. Only Moses and Aaron went up (Exo_19:24). The close
connection of this statement to the command about not coming onto or
touching the mount makes it a surprising switch of thought.

Probably the verse merely refers to what is related in Exo_19:17 : At


the blowing of the trumpet Moses brought forth the people out of the
camp to meet God, and they stood at the lower part of the mountain.

The Greek O.T. reads, “When the voices and trumpets and the cloud
departs from the mountain, they shall come up on the mount.”[297] This
meaning is very clear, maybe so clear as to be trite. However, there were
probably numerous people who would feel that even after God’s
revelation of himself at the mount was completed, the mount was still too
“holy” to climb up into. We could question whether that was a relevant
issue at that particular point of time.

[297] We are always reluctant to adopt the Greek reading in


preference to the Hebrew when they differ. However, in some cases the
Greek reading is preferable. Thus in Rom_10:18 Paul quoted the Greek
(“sound”) of Psa_19:5 rather than the Hebrew “line.”
Regarding Exo_19:14-15, see notes on Exo_19:10-11.

14. What happened when God descended upon the mount? (Exo_19:16;
Exo_19:18)

There were thunders, and lightnings, and a thick cloud, and the voice
of a trumpet (Heb., shofar, a horn or cornet), and an earthquake.[298]
The whole mountain smoked, for Jehovah descended upon it in fire
(probably lightning; see 2Ki_1:12). The smoke rose like smoke from a
furnace (that is, a kiln or melting furnace). Compare Gen_19:28 where
Sodom and Gomorrah appeared burning with the same appearance.
Deu_5:4 : “The Lord spake to you face to face at the mountain from the
midst of the fire.”

[298] Exo_19:8 says “The whole mount quaked greatly.” The Greek
and several Hebrew manuscripts read this “The people quaked greatly”
(or “were exceedingly amazed”).

Observe that it was morning when God descended on the mount.

The people trembled at this spectacle. What Israelite could doubt that
God was there when he saw this display! God intended that His fear
should be before their eyes (Exo_20:20). That surely took place.

This was no ordinary thunderstorm on Sinai. Thunderstorms are not


uncommon there in winter; but the Israelites arrived in early June, when
the season for these was past. Besides that, no thunderstorm was ever
like the appearance of God’s coming.

The awesome events at the giving of the law are referred to in


Heb_12:18-19 as a contrast to the less spectacular and gentler giving of
the gospel. The contrasting modes of giving the law and the gospel
illustrate the contrasting characters of the law and the gospel. “Ye are not
come unto a mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and
unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet,
and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that no
more word should be spoken unto them.”

15. Where did Moses assemble the people? (Exo_19:17)

Moses brought them to the lower (nether) part of the mount, but not
where they could touch it. Their encampments surely extended out quite
some distance (several miles) in front of the mount and in the adjoining
valleys. But Moses directed them into a compact group.

16. What signal called Moses to the top of the mount? (Exo_19:19-20)

The voice, or sound, of a trumpet continued and waxed (grew) very


strong. Then Moses spoke. We do not know what he said. Perhaps he
asked the Lord what he should do. The Lord answered him with a voice.
The Hebrew word for voice may also be translated thunder, as in
Exo_9:23 and 1Sa_12:17. But the voice (or thunder) was intelligible; and
Jehovah called Moses to the top of the mount and Moses went up.
Compare Joh_12:28-29.

The trumpet definitely appears to have been a supernatural trumpet of


God rather than a trumpet of man. This trumpet will sound again at our
Lord’s second coming (1Th_4:16; 1Co_15:52). The Hebrew word for
trumpet here (as in Exo_19:16) is shofar, not yovel, as in Exo_19:13.
However, shofar and yovel are used synonomously in Jos_6:5, and
probably are so used here also.

Neh_9:13 : “Thou comest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest
with them from heaven, and gavest them right ordinances, and true laws,
good statutes, and commandments.”

17. Why is the command about keeping the people from the mountain
repeated in Exo_19:21-24?

We think it was necessitated by man’s perverse desire to look upon


forbidden things and by God’s determination to keep the people off the
mountain. The command to keep off the mountain had indeed already
been once given, and the barricade had been set up about the mountain
(Exo_19:12). But just as Eve longed for the forbidden fruit, and the men
of Beth-Shemesh looked into the ark of the covenant when they certainly
knew better (1Sa_6:19), so some Israelites on this occasion were
thinking about taking a little peek beyond the fence.

Moses thought that everything was secure (Exo_19:23). But God had
a deeper knowledge of what was in man than Moses did. Some were
tempted with the plan to “break through” and “gaze” (Exo_19:21).

Unbelieving critics have taken aim at Exo_19:21-25, declaring it to be


a “secondary passage”[299] from a different source, and unnecessary
and repetitious. This attitude arises not from any concrete evidence that
such sources ever existed, but from a lack of spiritual comprehension and
meekness toward God’s word.

[299] Noth, op. cit., p. 160.

18. Who are the priests referred to in Exo_19:22?

Certainly they were not the sons of Aaron (Exo_28:1), nor were they
the firstborn of every family (Num_3:12-13). The exact identity of these
priests is not made clear. We can only say that they were the ones who
had been discharging the duties of the priestly office according to rights
and customs previously employed.

Exo_24:5 tells of the young men of the sons of Israel offering burnt
offerings and sacrificing young bulls and peace-offerings to the LORD.
Perhaps they were the “priests” referred to in Exo_19:22. Others suggest
that the elders were the priests; or that the heads of families served in
that function. See Exo_19:7; Exo_6:14.

The repetition of the command for all the people, priests included, to
stay off the mountain shows their unholiness. Like the people the priests
were to “sanctify themselves.” Compare Exo_19:10. They were NOT
exempt from the commands of God to all the other people. Nor were they
too holy to yield to the temptations that attracted other people.

19. Who was to accompany Moses back up on the mount? (Exo_19:24-25)

Aaron was to go with him. Aaron did not go up the mount until after
Moses himself had received the laws of Exodus 21-23. See Exo_20:21.
Then God called Moses to come up with Aaron, and Aaron’s sons Nadab
and Abihu, and seventy elders (Exo_24:1). But even then these were to
worship afar off, and only Moses came near to Jehovah (Exo_24:2).

Exo_19:25 ends rather abruptly. The words of Moses to the people are
not recorded, but they surely consisted of God’s repeated warning in
Exo_19:21.

As we come to the end of chapter nineteen, we should be in eager


expectancy. All things are ready for the declaration of the covenant of the
law. The awesome appearance at the mount shows the greatness of the
occasion. The miracles of the deliverance from Egypt and the wilderness
journey all point toward this great moment. We shall not be disappointed
as we proceed into chapter twenty!