The Present Truth : September 3, 1896
“And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel; and Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that He had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.” Exodus 4.29-31
But they were not yet ready to leave Egypt. They were as yet but stony ground hearers of the Word. They received it with joy at the first, but as soon as persecution arose they became offended. If they could have left Egypt without any hindrance, and could have had an easy passage to the Promised Land, they doubtless would not have murmured; but “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” (Acts 14.22), and those who do enter in must learn to rejoice even in tribulation. This lesson the Israelites had yet to learn.
The message to Pharaoh, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let My people go,” of which we shall speak more particularly later on, resulted in a still more grievous oppression of the Israelites. This was really a necessity for them, that they might be the more anxious to leave, and afterward have less desire to return, and that they might see the power of God. The plagues that came upon the land of Egypt were as necessary to teach the Israelites the power of God, that they might be willing to go, as they were for the Egyptians, that they might be willing to let them go. The Israelites needed to learn that it was not by any human power that they were delivered, but that it was wholly the work of the Lord. They needed to learn to trust themselves completely to His care and guidance. And as “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” (Romans 15.4), we should learn the same lesson as we read the story.
It is not at all to be wondered at that the people complained at the first when persecution increased as the result of the message brought by Moses. Moses himself seems to have been perplexed by it, and went to ask the Lord about it. “Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand shall he let them go and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah; and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by My name Jehovah I was not known to them. And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojourning, wherein they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am Jehovah, 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; and I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it to you for an inheritance; I am Jehovah.” Exodus 6.1-8, R.V.
The Gospel of Deliverance
We have learned that when God made the promise to Abraham He preached the Gospel to him; it follows, therefore, that when the time comes for the fulfillment of the promise, the seed to whom it is fulfilled must know at least as much of the Gospel as was revealed to Abraham; and we should expect to find the same Gospel preached to them. This was the case. We learn from the Epistle to the Hebrews that the Gospel, which is now preached to us, is the same that was then preached to them, and in the Scripture last quoted we find it. Note the following points: —
1. God said of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.”
2. Then He added, “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant.”
3. When the Lord says that he remembers a certain thing, He does not imply that that thing has ever passed from His mind, for that is impossible. Nothing can ever escape Him. But, as we find in various instances, He thus indicates that He is about to perform that thing. In the final judgment of Babylon it is said, “God hath remembered her iniquities.” Revelation 18.5. “And great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” Revelation 16.19. “God remembered Noah,” and caused the flood to cease, but we know that not for one moment while Noah was in the ark was he forgotten, for not even a sparrow is forgotten. See also Genesis 19.29; 30.22; and I Samuel 1.19, for the use of the word “remember” in the sense of being about to fulfill the thing promised.
4. It is evident, therefore, from the sixth of Exodus that the Lord was about to fulfill the promise to Abraham and his seed. But as Abraham was dead, that could be done only by the resurrection. The time of the promise, which God had sworn to Abraham, was very near. But this is evidence that the Gospel was being preached, since only the Gospel of the kingdom prepares for the end.
5. God was making Himself known to the people. But it is only in the Gospel that God is made known. The things, which reveal the power of God, make known His Divinity.
6. God said, “I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.” Compare with this the promise of the new covenant, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 31.33, 34. No one questions that this is the proclamation of the Gospel; but it is the very same thing that was proclaimed to the Israelites in Egypt.
7. The fact that the deliverance of the children of Israel was such deliverance as could be affected only through the preaching of the Gospel, is evidence that it was no ordinary deliverance from physical bondage to a temporal inheritance. A most wonderful prospect was opened before the children of Israel, if they had but known the day of their visitation, and had continued faithful.
Preaching to Pharaoh
It is a truth that “God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” Acts 10.34, 35. This was not a new truth in the days of Peter, but has ever been true, for God is always the same. The fact that men have usually been slow to perceive it, makes no difference with the fact. Men may fail to recognize the power of God, but that does not make Him any the less powerful; so the fact that the great mass of God’s professed followers have usually failed to recognize that He is perfectly impartial, and have supposed that He loved them to the exclusion of other people, has not narrowed His character.
The promise was to Abraham and his seed. But the promise and the blessing came to Abraham before he was circumcised, “that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.” Romans 4.11. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3.28, 29. Therefore the promise embraced even the Egyptians, as well as the Israelites, provided they believed. And it did not embrace unbelieving Israelites any more than it did unbelieving Egyptians. Abraham is the father of those who are circumcised, but only of those who “are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” If the uncircumcision keeps the righteousness of the law, their uncircumcision is counted for circumcision. See Romans 2.25-29
It should not be forgotten that God did not begin at once to send the plagues upon Pharaoh and his people. He did not propose to deliver the Israelites by killing their oppressors, but rather by converting them, if it were possible. God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3.9. He “will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2.4. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Ezekiel 33.11. All men are God’s creatures, and His children, and His great heart of love embraces them all, without respect to race or nationality.
Accordingly, at the first, the simple demand was made upon Pharaoh to let God’s people go free. But he impudently and haughtily replied, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice, to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” Exodus 5.2. Then miracles were wrought before him. These were not at the first judgments, but simply manifestations of God’s power. But the magicians of Pharaoh, the servants of Satan, counterfeited these miracles, and Pharaoh’s heart became harder than before. Yet the careful reader will see that even in the miracles that were counterfeited by the magicians, the superior power of the Lord was manifested.
The next article in this series of studies on the Everlasting Gospel will deal with that much-talked-of question of how Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.