“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
GOD’S deeper meanings! We are apt to see a malicious meaning; are we equally apt to detect the Divine and benevolent one? Our enemies are many, and they hate us with perfect hatred; they are ever laying their plots, and working their unholy purposes. But there is a greater and wiser than they, who, through all these plottings, is prosecuting His Divine purpose.
There is another and deeper meaning than appears to the short sight of sense.
Let us believe that there is a Divine and deeper meaning in the adversities of our lives. — Joseph might be forgiven for not doing so; but with his history and that of many others before us, we have no excuse for despair in the face of crushing sorrow. Whether it comes from man or devil, all creatures are under the Divine control, holding to our lips cups which the Father’s hand has mixed. He has no complicity with their evil, but they unconsciously perform His will. Even if you cannot see the Divine meaning, dare to believe that it is there.
Await the disclosures of time. — Even here we sometimes reach an eminence from which we detect the meaning of the path by which we have been conducted. It may have been rough and circuitous, but there was a reason in it all. Often God rewards patient trust by allowing us to see and know.
And for the full revelation of eternity. — One day God will call us to His side in the clear light of eternity, and will explain His meanings in life’s most sorrowful experiences; and we shall learn that we suffered, not for ourselves only, but for others, and, as part of His great remedial scheme, “to save much people alive.”
“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.”
IT was a very unequal struggle on which Pharaoh had entered; for he opposed not the Hebrews, but Jehovah. It is thus that the great ones of this world have ever spoken and acted. “Let us build us a city and a tower;” “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” “Against thy holy child Jesus, . . both Herod and Pontius Pilate ... were gathered together.” In every case, He that sits in the heavens has laughed at the boast of human pride.
His cause and His people’s are one. Yet times of affliction have always been on times of multiplication.
In the history of the Church. — When has she made her greatest number of adherents? When her pulpits have been filled with eloquent preachers, and her aisles crowded with fashion and wealth?
No; but when she has been driven to the dens and caves of the earth, and her sons have been proscribed outcasts. The real triumphs of the early Church were in the first centuries of opprobrium and persecution; her decline began when Constantine made Christianity the religion of the State.
In the history of each earnest soul. — It is rarely the case that we make much spiritual headway when winds and currents favor us.
We do best when all is against us. We grow quickest in the dark. In times of persecution we realize the security, and comfort, and joy, which are in Christ Jesus our Lord; and as God goes the round of the world, it is in chambers of pain, sickness, and bereavement; that He beholds the multiplication of the choice graces of holy character and temper. The affliction, which is for the moment, is working out an exceeding weight of glory.
“And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”
THIS was creature-strength, wrought on by creature-passion, and ending in creature-failure. Moses stood on an eminence, and reached down to these poor brethren of his with a passing spasm of pity. He was very careful to look this way and that, go as not to invalidate his own position at court. And fear for himself carried him swiftly from the scene of his people’s woes. It was a brief effort to do the Divine work of redemption in his own energy.
Long years must pass, during which God would drain away drop by drop his strength, his resolution, and his very desire to be an emancipator; that when he had become nothing, God through him might effect His almighty will.
We sometimes smite the Egyptian within. — We rise up against some tyrant passion, and strike two or three vigorous blows. Our efforts to rid ourselves of its thrall originate and are prosecuted in our own resolve. At first the conflict seems easily our own; finally the dead weight of all the Egyptians within is more than a match for us.
We often smite the Egyptian without. — We make an assault on some giant evil — drink, gambling, impurity. It seems at first as though we should carry the position by our sudden and impetuous rush. But Egypt conquers in the end, and we flee.
No: we need to learn for the inward and outward conflict the lesson that forty years in Midian taught Moses, that only the Spirit of God in man can overcome the spirit of the world. By disappointment and repeated failure, by the silence of the desert, we are taught that we are nothing — then God becomes our all in all: and all things become possible to us as we believe.
“And 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?”
THIS is a marvelous chapter, because it is so full of God. If the previous one, in its story of human striving, reminds us of Romans 7, this as surely recalls Romans 8. There is little mention of the part that Moses was to play, but much is said of what God was about to do. “I am come down.” “I will bring you up.” “I will stretch out my hand.” O weary soul, bitter with weary bondage, groaning beneath cruel taskmasters, afflicted and tossed with tempest, the I AM has come down!
God comes down to our lowest to lift us to His highest. — This is the theme of the magnificent, and of Hannah’s song. God comes down to the dust for the poor, and to the dunghill for the needy. You cannot be too lonely or broken in spirit for Him to notice and help.
In proportion to your humiliation will be your exaltation.
He comes down to our saddest to lift us to His joy fullest. — How great the contrast between the cry of the Hebrews, because of their taskmasters, and the exultant note that smote on the rocks of the Red Sea! Such shall be your experience also. If you suffer in the line of God’s will and providence, you are sowing the seeds of light and gladness. Oh, anticipate the harvest!
He comes down to our helplessness to succor with His great might. — Israel could not help herself; but the resources of I AM were sufficient for every need, and they will be for yours and mine.
This is God’s blank check; fill it in! Insert after these majestic words, wisdom, or courage, or love, or whatever you need most.
And He will be all this, and more also not for a moment, but always; not spasmodically, but unchangeably.
“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.”
THIS is what we all say. We think more of the words than of the message; more of our eloquence or slowness of speech than of the King’s seal and signature. Moses had learned many wholesome lessons through his long sojourn in Midian; but he had to learn this last one, that God does not want excellency of speech or of language in His messengers, but the unction and power which come on those who speak after direct audience with the Eternal. Aaron, who came to meet Moses, could speak well; but he was a weak man, whose alliance with Moses caused his nobler younger brother much anxiety and pain. However, God determined to send Aaron with him, to be his colleague and spokesman. Better a thousand times had it been for Moses to trust God for speech, than be thus deposed of his premiership.
Be sure to get thy message from the King. — Wait before Him in the inner shrine, till He says the word which thou shalt speak. This will give thee the real eloquence of the heart.
Look up for the right words. — The Apostle said that the Corinthians were enriched in all utterance; and he said that he spoke the Divine mysteries in words which the Holy Spirit taught. Ask for these, and you will not be disappointed.
Rely on the Divine co-operation. — There is another force at work, more subtle and penetrating than the most eloquent words of man — the power of the Holy Ghost. Seek for His Divine demonstration and co-witness. And it shall come to pass, that mysterious influences shall move over the hearts of those that listen to thy words, which shall attest the mighty fellowship and co-operation of One whom the natural man cannot detect.
“And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?”
BEFORE God can use us, He must bring us to an end ourselves. When Paul was summoned to the greatest epistles and labors of his life, his strength was drained to utter weakness, and he despaired even of life. So in the case of Moses and Israel.
Moses, for forty years, had been undergoing the emptying process; but perhaps when God called him to this great enterprise, there may have been a slight revival of confidence in himself, in his mission, his miracles, the eloquence of Aaron’s speech. So in the rebuff he received from Pharaoh, in the bitter remonstrance of the elders of his people, in the sad consciousness that his efforts had aggravated their condition, the lesson was still further taught him — that of himself he could do absolutely nothing.
Israel also had begun to hope something from his mission.
Through the brickfields the story ran of his early years, his uncompromising speech to Pharaoh, of his miracles; and the wretched slaves cherished faith in him and Aaron as their heavensent deliverers. They had, however, to learn that all such hopes were vain, and to see that the brothers, at the best, were as weak as themselves. Then the way was prepared to lean only on God.
Ourselves. — By repeated failures all along our life-course God is teaching us the same lesson. We fail to justify and then to sanctify ourselves. Our efforts to serve and please Him only end in increasing perplexity. The tale of bricks is doubled; the burdens augment; the strength of our purpose is broken; we are utterly discouraged; and then, when the soul is utterly desolate, the heavenly Bridegroom draws near and says, “I will do all; I am Alpha and Omega; I am thy salvation.”
“Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:”
WHEN all human help has failed, and the soul, exhausted and despairing, has given up hope from man, God draws near, and says, I AM. It is as though He said, “All that can really help you resides in my nature as in its native home. I have weaned you from all beside, that you might seek in Me what you had been wont to seek in men and things and self-help.”
Thus God with Israel. The people had come to relish the dainties of Egypt — the leeks and onions, the fleshpots and sensual delights; therefore the need for this cruel bondage to wean them, and prepare them for marriage union with Himself. Moreover, they placed great hopes in Moses, and such appeals as might be made to move Pharaoh’s pity; from these too it was necessary to withdraw the people’s heart, that they might look for all to their heavenly Lover, and find in Jehovah their infinite supply.
Affliction is always needful in the first stage of the Christian’s deepening experience. The world, with its vainglory, pride, and envy; the delights of the flesh; the praise and good opinion of our fellows — these take the place of Christ in his disciples. We must be taught to despise these things, and feel their vanity and insufficiency to satisfy.
Failure is often necessary to teach humility and patience; so that we may have no confidence in anything we can call our own, and be prepared to find all our satisfaction and delight in Jesus only.
Revelation then becomes possible, of all that God can be and do. He draws near with His sevenfold “I will.” He looks on us with infinite delight, and commences to bring us into such blessedness that we forget all else, and behold our Bridegroom only.
“And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.”
IN God’s dealings with His people He purposed to reveal Himself to Egypt: so that when He led forth Israel’s hosts, in redemption power, from the brickfields of slavery on to resurrection ground, there might be afforded such a display of His love, and pity, and power, as the world had never before witnessed. Egypt and all surrounding nations should know the character of God in the Exodus, as the Lover and Redeemer of His own.
So with the Church. — The Apostle tells us that redeemed men are to be the subjects of angelic contemplation and wonder. In the Church, principalities and powers shall discern the manifold wisdom and grace of God. When God has brought all the ransomed hosts up from the Egyptian bondage of the world to stand in the radiance of the eternal morning, then the universe shall ring with the ascription, “Great and marvellous are thy works. ... just and true are thy ways.”
So with each individual believer. — Each one of us has been formed for Jesus Himself, that we might show forth His praise. In growing purity and sweetness, in our deliverance from the clinging corruptions of the world and flesh, in our patience under tribulation, our submission and steadfast hope, in our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others, let us be revelations of what Christ is, and of what He can make sinful men become.
Believers are the world’s Bibles, by studying which men may come to know the Lord Himself. Let us see to it that we be clear in type, unmistakable in our testimony, pleasant to behold, thoughtful and helpful towards all, commending the blessed Bridegroom whom the world sees not.
“And I will put a division between my people and thy people: tomorrow shall this sign be.”
THIS division is as old as eternity. — In the council chamber of the Godhead the Father chose Jesus and all who should believe in Him unto eternal life. We cannot understand the reason of that Divine choice; we can only affirm it, that in those ages of the unfathomed past, Christ and His seed stood out from the rest of mankind, the people of God’s own possession and inheritance.
It was effected by the Cross of Jesus. — By it we are crucified to the world, and the world to us. The cross, with its outstretched arms, stands sentinel between the Church and the world which cast out her Lord. The grave, like a great gulf, yawns between those who gather round the risen Master on resurrection ground, and all men else. From the moment that Jesus ascended, the rallying center of the Church was removed from earth to heaven, from the cross to the throne.
It is wrought out by the daily grace of the Holy Ghost. It is right, of course, to come out and be separate in our outward walk and behavior. But, deeper than this, if only we will let the Spirit of God work unhindered, He will effect an inward division. Our tastes and desires, our hopes and aims, will become different, and we shall be aware of a growing dissimilarity between ourselves and the world.
Then to the separate soul the Bridegroom comes. He says tender and loving words. In one hour He teaches more than all human teachers could; and sheds forth by the Holy Ghost the torrent of Divine Love. There may be darkness without, but there is light in the dwellings of Goshen: there may be plague and pestilence in the world, but there is peace, joy, and bliss, in the separated soul.
“Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.”
THOSE who are included in the provisions of the covenant are sealed. The storm may sweep around them, but the great angel, who ascends from the east, cries with a great voice to the angels to whom it is given to hurt the earth, and the sea, and the trees, saying, Hurt them not till we have sealed the servants of God in their foreheads (Revelation 7:3).
The only spot in which the soul is safe is within the encircling provisions of the covenant. Israel stood there, and was safe — not only from the hail, but from the destroying sword. The invulnerable walls of that sacred enclosure were the oath and promise of God to Abraham. God had bound Himself by the most solemn sanctions to be a God to this people, and deliver them; it was necessary, therefore, that He should be their pavilion and canopy, catching the hailstones on His outstretched wings and securing them from hurt.
The covenant is entered, not by merit nor by works. There was neither the one nor the other in that race of slaves; but they stood there simply because of their relationship to the Friend of God.
So we enter the blessed safety of the better covenant, through our relationship with the Lord Jesus, who is the Beloved of the Father, the one glorious and blessed Man. Without beauty or merit, the soul attaches itself by faith to Him, and discovers that it was loved before the worlds were made.
Ah, blessed Lover of souls, we see how the storm swept thy heart, that it might never touch us. Thou art our hiding-place, our shield, our deliverer, our strong tower. Without dismay we can anticipate the storms of death, judgment, and eternity, sure that wherever Thou art there can be no hail.
“They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”
WITHOUT, darkness that might be felt; within, light. This should be the condition of each believing heart. The sun may have gone down, and the moon withdrawn herself in the firmament of the world; the darkness of perplexity and trouble may envelop Pharaoh and all his chosen counselors; all things may wear the aspect of approaching dissolution: but with the Lord as our everlasting Light we walk in the light of life.
Light is purity. — The soul which is exposed to the indwelling of God, purifies itself even as He is pure; and walks as Jesus did, with white and stainless robes. He that says he has fellowship with the Holy God, and walks in the darkness of his own lusts, lies. Where God is really hidden in the heart, the beams of his lovely purity must irradiate and beautify the life.
Light is knowledge. — There is a wisdom, an insight, an understanding of the Divine mysteries, which the mere intellect could never give, but are the product of the Divine indwelling in the holy soul. All around men may be groping aimlessly after truth, trying to discover the secret of the Universe, whilst to the loving, childlike soul, in which God has taken up his abode, these things, which are hidden from the wise and prudent, are unveiled.
Light is love. — It steals so gently over the world, blessing flowers and birds, little children and invalids. Everywhere it is the symbol of the beneficent work of its Creator. His eldest daughter!
Thus amid the selfishness of the world, let Jesus dwell deep in thee, that thou mayest be rooted and grounded in the love of God, which shall illumine thy dwelling, and ray out to the world.
“Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.”
THE Egyptians knew very well that they would never see their jewels again; and the people of Israel were thus, to some extent, compensated for their unpaid toils. The Lord gave them such favor with the Egyptians that they gave them whatever they asked; so that “they spoiled the Egyptians.”
These jewels were employed afterwards in the adornment and enrichment of the Sanctuary. They flashed in the breastplate of the High Priest, and shone in the sacred vessels. In this they remind us of the treasures which David gathered by his conquests from neighboring nations, and which were afterwards incorporated in the Temple of Solomon. They recall also the glowing predictions of the prophet, that the kings of the earth shall bring their treasures into the New Jerusalem.
The jewels of the Church, whether they stand for her graces or her choice children, have often been obtained from the midst of Egypt. Was not Saul of Tarsus just such a jewel? The world counted him one of her rarest sons; but God set him as a jewel in the breastplate of Immanuel.
Let us ever seek jewels from the land of our captivity and suffering. It will not do to come away empty. It is not enough merely to bear what God permits to fall on us for our chastisement; but to go further, and extract from all trials, jewels. Let every trial and temptation enrich you with the opposite grace. There are Egyptians in your life, which have grievously tormented you with their heavy whips, yet even these shall yield wealth “jewels of silver and jewels of gold”; which you shall consecrate to holy service, and which shall shine in the fabric and worship of the New Jerusalem.