The Present Truth : August 27, 1896
Forty years passed by after that first ill-advised attempt, when the Egyptian was killed, before the Lord was ready to deliver His people by the hand of Moses. It took that length of time to fit Moses for the important work. We read of Moses, at a later period of his life, that he was meek above all other men; but that was not his natural disposition. An education at court is not calculated to develop the quality of meekness. From the way in which Moses at the first proceeded to settle the labor troubles of his people, we see that he was impulsive and arbitrary. The blow closely followed the word. But the man who should lead the children of Abraham into the promised inheritance must have very different characteristics.
The inheritance promised to Abraham was the earth. It was to be gained through the righteousness of faith. But the righteousness of faith is inseparable from meekness of spirit. “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2.4. Therefore the Saviour said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5.5. “Hearken my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?” James ii. 5. The promised inheritance, to which the Israelites were to be led, could be possessed only by the meek, and therefore he who should conduct them on the way must necessarily possess that virtue. Forty years’ retirement in the wilderness as a shepherd, wrought the desired change in Moses.
“And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” Exodus 2.23, 24
This covenant, as we have seen, was confirmed in Christ. It was the covenant, which God made with the fathers, saying unto Abraham, “And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” Acts 3.25. And this blessing consisted in turning them away from their iniquities. It was the covenant which God remembered in sending John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who should deliver His people from the hand of their enemies, so that they might “serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him” all the days of their lives. It was the covenant, which assured to Abraham and his seed the possession of land, through personal faith in Christ.
But faith in Christ does not assure any man an earthly possession. Those who are heirs of God are the poor of this world, rich in faith. Christ Himself had not a place of His own on this earth, where he could lay His head; therefore, none need think that following Him in truth will assure them worldly possessions. It is more likely to be the contrary.
These points are necessary to be borne in mind as we consider the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their journey to the land of Canaan. They should be borne in mind in the study of the entire history of Israel, or else we shall be continually making the same mistake that was made by His own who received Him not when He came, because He did not come to advance their worldly interests.
“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. 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. 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. 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. And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and 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 Amorites, 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. Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” Exodus 3.1-10
We do not need to go into the details of the refusal of Moses, and of his final acceptance of the Divine commission. Now that he was actually fitted for the task, he shrank from it. It is sufficient to note that in the commission the power by which the deliverance was to be affected was made very clear. It was such a deliverance as could be accomplished only by the power of the Lord. Moses was to be simply the agent in His hands.
Notice also the credentials, which Moses carried. “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? And 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.” Exodus 3.13, 14
This is “the glorious and fearful name” of the Lord, which no man can ever comprehend, because it expresses His infinity and eternity. Look at the renderings that are given in the margin of the Revision: “I am because I am,” or “I am who I am,” or “I will be that I will be.” No one of these renderings is complete in itself, but all of them together are necessary to give something of an idea of the title. Together they represent “The Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1.8
How fitting that when the Lord was about to deliver the people, not simply from temporal bondage, but from spiritual bondage as well, and give to them that inheritance which could be possessed only by the coming of the Lord and the resurrection, He should make Himself known not only as the self-existent Creator, but as The Coming One, the same title by which He reveals Himself in the last book of the Bible, which is wholly devoted to the coming of the Lord and the final deliverance of His people from their great enemy, death.
“And God said, moreover, unto Moses. Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the Lord 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 for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.” Exodus 3.15. Continually are we reminded that all this deliverance is but the fulfillment of the promise made through Christ to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Notice also the significance of the fact that some of the most powerful Gospel sermons recorded in the New Testament, refer to God as the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, an evidence that He is to be known to us by the same title, and that the promises made to the fathers hold good to us, if we will but receive them in the same faith. “This is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.”
With this name for his support, with the assurance that God would be with him and would teach him what to say, armed with the power to work miracles, and comforted with the assurance that Aaron his brother would join him in the work, Moses set out for Egypt.