The Present Truth : September 24, 1896
Jehovah has triumphed; His people are free.”
Let us read in brief the story of Israel’s deliverance, as recorded by inspiration. “And it came to pass at midnight, that the Lord smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the first-born of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the first-born of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. Take both your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, to send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses;8 and they asked of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment; and the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
“And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” Exodus 12.29-38, R.V.
“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that way was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt. But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.” Exodus 13.17, 18
8 Many hard speeches have been uttered against the children of Israel, and even against the Lord, because of the word “borrowed,” which is found in the common version. It is a mistaken rendering of the original. The children of Israel had worked hard and long for nothing, and now they asked for something in return, and it was given them. What they received was theirs by right.
“And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” Verses 20-22.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon; before it ye shall encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land; the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord. And they did so.
“And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled; and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us? And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him; and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went but with an high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea.” Exodus 14.1-9
“And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid; and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord. And they said unto Moses, because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore has thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt; is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you to-day; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them no more again for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Verses 10-14.
With the manner of their deliverance, everybody is familiar; how at the command of the Lord the sea went back and left a path through the midst of it, so that the children of Israel went through dry-shod, and how when the Egyptians attempted to do the same thing, the sea rushed back and swallowed them up. “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.” Hebrews 11.29. Let us note a few lessons that we are to learn from this history.
1. It was God that was leading the people. “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines.” Moses no more knew what to do, or which way to go, than the people did, only as the Lord told him. God could tell Moses, because “Moses was faithful in all His house.”
2. When the people murmured, they were murmuring against God, instead of against Moses. When they said to Moses, “Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” they were really denying the agency of God in the matter, although they had well known that it was God who had sent Moses to them.
3. At the first sight of danger the faith of the people oozed away. They forgot what God had already done for them, and how powerfully He had wrought for their deliverance. The last judgment upon the Egyptians should have been sufficient of itself to teach them to trust in the Lord, and that He was abundantly able to save them from those of the Egyptians who yet remained alive.
4. God did not design that the people should do any fighting. He led them through the wilderness, in order that they might not see war. Yet He knew that if they went the way that they did, the Egyptians would surely pursue them. The children of Israel never had any greater need of fighting than they did when the Egyptians closed in on them by the Red Sea; yet the word then was, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” It may be said that the reason why the Lord did not wish them to see war was because they were as yet unprepared for fighting; but we must remember that on other occasions when they had many trained warriors, God often delivered them without their striking a blow. When we consider the circumstances of their deliverance from Egypt—how it was all accomplished by the direct power of God, without any human power, their part being only to follow and obey His word—we must be convinced that it was not according to the plan of God that they should do any fighting, even in self-defense.
5. We are also to learn that the shortest and the apparently easiest way is not always the best way. The route through the land of the Philistines was the shortest, but it was not the best one for the Israelites to take. The fact that we get into difficult places, where we cannot see our way out, is no evidence that God has not been leading us. God led the children of Israel into that narrow place in the wilderness, between the mountains and the sea, just as surely as He led them out of Egypt. He knew that they could not help themselves in such a trap, and He led them there deliberately, in order that they might see as never before that it was God Himself who was responsible for their safety, and that He was fully able to discharge the task which He had undertaken. Their trouble was designed to give them an ineffaceable lesson of trust in God.
6. Lastly, we must learn not to condemn them for their unbelief. “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” Romans 2.1. When we condemn them for not trusting the Lord, we show that we know that there is no excuse for our murmuring and fear. We have all the evidence of the power of God that they had, and a great deal more besides. If we can see clearly how foolish their fear was, and how wicked their murmurings, then let us see to it that we do not show ourselves still more foolish and wicked. There is one more lesson that we must note in this connection, and it is of so much importance that special attention must be called to it, for it includes all the others. We learn it from the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. That chapter gives in few words the whole story of the Gospel, from the birth of Christ till the final deliverance of the saints in the kingdom of God, and the destruction of the wicked.
“The Second Time”
There is one more lesson that we must note in this connection, and it is of so much importance that special attention must be called to it, for it includes all the others. We learn it from the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. That chapter contains in few words the whole story of the Gospel, from the birth of Christ till the final deliverance of the saints in the kingdom of God, and the destruction of the wicked.
“There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins.” Isaiah 11.1-5
Compare the first part of the above with Luke 4.16-18, and the last part with Revelation 19.11-21, and we shall see how much it covers. It brings us down to the destruction of the wicked. It covers the entire day of salvation. “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and His rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Verses 10-12.
Here again we have the deliverance of God’s people brought to view. It is the second time that God sets His hand to the task, and it will be successful. He set His hand to the task the first time in the days of Moses; but the people entered not in because of unbelief. The second time will result in the everlasting salvation of His people. Notice that the final gathering of His people is through Christ, who is the ensign for the nations; for God is visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. They are to be gathered “from the four corners of the earth;” for “He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24.31
That this deliverance is to be in the last days, even at the very close of time, is apparent from the fact that He gathers “the remnant” of His people, that is, the very last one of them. And now note this promise and reminder: “And there shall be an highway for the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, like as it was to Israel in the day that the came up out of the land of Egypt.” Isaiah 11.16
Bear in mind the fact that the work of delivering Israel from Egypt began a long time before the day that they left that land. It began the very day that Moses reached Egypt and began to tell the people about the purpose of God to fulfill the promise to Abraham. All the display of the power of God in Egypt, which was but the proclamation of the Gospel, was a part of the work of deliverance. Even so will it be in the day when the Lord sets His hand the second time to deliver the remnant of His people. That day is now, for “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6.2. All Israel shall be saved, because “There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Romans 11.26. The work of delivering God’s people from the bondage of sin is the same as the final deliverance. When the Lord comes the second time He “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.” Philippians 3.21. The power by which our bodies will be change—the power of the resurrection—is the power by which our sins are subdued, and we are delivered from their control. It is by the same power that was displayed in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1.16. Whoever wishes to know how great that power is, has only to look at the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and the dividing of the Red Sea, to see a practical example of it. That is the power that will accompany the preaching of the complete Gospel until the coming of the Lord Jesus.