Fighting Discouragement with Gospel Promises
Fighting Discouragement with Gospel Promises34
Fighting Discouragement with Gospel Promises
Main Idea: When obedience results in suffering, we can be encouraged by reminding ourselves of the gospel promises of our sovereign God.
- Discouragement (5:1-22)
- Moses speaks to pharaoh (5:1-3).
- The king refuses to listen (5:4-9).
- An awful situation: bricks without straw (5:10-14)
- You have made us stink (5:15-21).
- Moses cries out (5:22).
- Gospel Promises (6:1-7:5)
- God is in control (6:1).
- God keeps His covenant (6:2-5).
- God saves (6:6-7:5).
- Acting on the promises
So far we have seen Moses go from royalty in Egypt to humble shepherd in the wilderness. Then he met the great I AM. This holy, eternal, self-sufficient God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—commissioned Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring out the children of Israel from Egypt. Moses made a series of excuses for not following God’s plan. He asked, Who am I? and What shall I say? and What if they will not believe me? After God answered each of these questions magnificently, Moses had two “Oh Lord!” moments. He said, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent” (4:10), and “Please, Lord, send someone else” (4:13). It is only after God gave Moses his companion, Aaron, as a cospeaker, that they returned to Egypt. Upon their return, they spoke to the elders, and the elders believed, just as God said they would.
Now in chapters 5-6, they approach Pharaoh to fulfill their mission. What follows is a very important pattern for all who attempt to obey God. Obedience to God’s call does not mean everything will be easy. It may mean hardship, suffering, and persecution. There may even be times you say, “Why, Lord?” When Moses met with Pharaoh and had no success, he asked, “O Lord, why have You caused trouble for this people?
35And why did You ever send me?” (5:22). When Moses followed God, things actually seemed to get worse!
Have you ever suffered hardship even though you are obeying God? Maybe you are a young Christian kid in high school who is seeking to follow Jesus. Is it easy? Have some of your peers tempted you to follow their sinful lifestyles? Have they labeled you a “holy roller” or a “geek” or just a “weird kid?” When you follow God’s Word, do others mock you? That is a tough place to be.
Maybe you are a single lady who desires to be married, but you have certain standards for a husband based on Scripture. Have others ever tried to get you to lower your standards and go out with some guy who is wealthy and/or attractive, even though he is not committed to following Jesus? Obeying Jesus in your singleness is difficult.
Have you ever been an employee that has known about someone breaking a company policy or even the law? Did you report this? If so, when you did the right thing, did people think better or worse of you? They might have labeled you a troublemaker.
I know of adoptive couples that have experienced waves of trouble after adopting children. Some are now dealing with behavioral issues, attachment issues, academic issues, and many other challenges. I know of a few couples that experienced great financial trouble postadoption because the father has lost his job. These couples pursued God’s will, did what they thought was right, yet they are facing hardship.
Recently, I heard of a young kid playing baseball who had an accident. Those present thought that he broke his arm, but they later discovered that he actually had a tumor. Before this tragic discovery, several of his family members had become Christians. The joy in this family over these conversions quickly turned to grief.
I know of many pastors who followed God’s call to pastor a particular church but have met great opposition since arriving. Some pastors have preached the Bible faithfully but have seen little response and no growth. “Why did You ever send me, Lord?” might enter the mind of such pastors.
What about this example: You and your family leave your life behind in the States and head for the mission field. When you get there, your wife contracts a rare disease. Maybe you would wonder, “Why Lord? Didn’t You send us here?”
Obeying God is not a pain-free life. It does not mean you will be popular. It does not mean you will be immune from awful problems36 in a fallen world, like cancer. It does not mean you will not encounter serious spiritual warfare and times of despair. You can expect problems. So the question is not, “Will we ever have moments of discouragement?” The question is this: “How can I deal with deep discouragement?” When I seek to live out God’s Word and things do not work out the way I expect, where do I go for help, strength, and sanity? The answer to this practical, real-life question lies in Exodus 5-6. We will learn that we fight discouragement with Gospel promises.
Moses was in the center of God’s will, yet he met serious opposition. So after a period of grief and questioning, God spoke to Moses in chapter 6 providing him with some awesome promises that strengthened him for the task ahead. One key section in this passage, indeed in all of Exodus, is 6:6-8, where God gave Moses a number of “I will” promises. These promises are about God’s amazing grace.
Before we examine this, we should be reminded that the gospel is not just for unbelievers. It is definitely for unbelievers, but it is for Christians also. Paul wrote in Romans 8 about God’s promises of redemption in the context of human suffering. You fight discouragement, despair, and suffering with promises. Paul ended Romans by saying, “Now to Him who has power to strengthen you according to my gospel” (16:25). God strengthens us by the gospel. You cannot go anywhere else to get the type of strength you need.
Moses Speaks to Pharaoh (5:1-3)
At the start, we find Moses and Aaron obeying God’s instruction. They asked for a “festival ... in the wilderness” (v. 1) This initial request was modest, reflecting a Near Eastern approach, although more was being sought (Stuart, Exodus, 161). More importantly, they were following God’s call in Exodus 3:18. Then Pharaoh asked, “Who is Yahweh?” (v. 2). The book of Exodus answers this question. “I am Yahweh/the Lord” is a major theme in the book. God acted so that people knew He is the great I AM (6:7; 7:5). Pharaoh’s question shows not only an acknowledgement problem, it also shows an attitude problem. The second part of the question is “... that I should obey Him?” In other words,37 he asked, “Who is your god that I should take Him seriously?” Pharaoh is about to experience firsthand why he should take Yahweh seriously.
Despite his questions and audacity, Moses and Aaron persisted. They said, “God ... has met with us” (v. 3). They made their plea, asking that they “may sacrifice.” Here we again see the language of worship being used. They also added, “or else He may strike us with plague.” It seems that they were implying that if Pharaoh did not let the people go, the consequences would be horrific for both Egypt and Israel. This, of course, is manifested in the coming plagues. Here Pharaoh received his warning! But he refused to obey the Lord’s word.
Moses and Aaron were bold with their request before Pharaoh. The phrase “God ... has met with us” reminds us of a passage in Acts 4:13:
When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus.
Where did the apostles’ boldness come from? It came from being with Jesus. Think of Hebrews 11:27:
By faith [Moses] left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for he persevered, as one who sees Him who is invisible.
In a similar fashion, we endure by relying on Him who is invisible. The early church gathered for prayer and as a result they “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Does this not occur for believers today as well? We have the Spirit of God living in us. This reality should bring holy boldness. Unfortunately for Moses, after he spoke boldly and the results were not what he expected, he got dejected. And the Lord had to keep reminding him of the promises. Do not forget the Lord’s promises.
The King Refuses to Listen (5:4-9)
Pharaoh would not listen, despite what Moses and Aaron had said. Instead, he thought this whole thing was a distraction. He was incensed by the whole proposal. As a result, Pharaoh decided to make things worse for Israel. He now said (1) they would not be given straw (5:7), yet (2) they must produce the same number of bricks. Pharaoh did not think they were working hard enough, so he gave them more to do, thinking that they would not have idealistic dreams of going into the 38wilderness to worship if they were busy working. In fact, he not only gave them more to do but also made the conditions worse. He told the taskmasters and the foremen to make it worse and to ignore their cries.
An Awful Situation: Bricks without Straw (5:10-14)
Israel was already in bondage. They were slaves. They had built great cities and worked on agricultural projects. They were oppressed socially, economically, and politically. Now it went from bad to worse. They were in great need of mercy.
In verses 10-13 we see the slave drivers doing as Pharaoh demanded. The people were scattered throughout Egypt to find straw for bricks. Egyptians used sun-dried mud bricks for all kinds of things, so the requirement was great. Ancient historical pictures display great brick making in Egypt.
Now in verse 14 the foremen, who were apparently Israelites in middle management, were beaten because the people had not supplied as many bricks as before. Can you imagine this lifestyle? It is incredibly hot, with temperatures often over a hundred degrees. They are wearing little aprons. They have no hats and few water breaks. They are stuck in the muck all day. Many surely died of exhaustion, dehydration, or heat stroke. This is an awful picture of slavery!
You Have Made Us Stink (5:15-21)
As the story continues, the foremen turned to Pharaoh in protest because they did not understand why they were being beaten. They were caught in the middle. Perhaps they thought the slaves should be beaten instead of them. Pharaoh refused to listen, and the foremen were in despair. You can see why the foremen would go to Pharaoh, but it seems like they should have instead turned to God for deliverance. It was His face they should have been seeking, not the one who put them in bondage in the first place. Do you take your problems to God in prayer? Cry out like the psalmist:
Lord, hear my prayer; listen to my plea for mercy.
I call on You in the day of my distress, for You will answer me. (Ps 86:6-7)
Not only did they go to Pharaoh instead of God, they also lashed out at their leaders. They said, “You have made us reek in front of Pharaoh” (5:21). The beat-up foremen were looking to blame someone,39 so why not Moses and Aaron? This is a common theme throughout the Pentateuch: Israel complained against leadership. Ultimately, the people will do the same to Jesus, the greater prophet, and they will crucify Him (Acts 7:51-53).
Moses Cries Out (5:22)
Because the people rejected Moses, he cried out to God wanting to know why this was happening. He did not understand why obedience made things worse. Moses was rightly disappointed, but he should not have been shocked for God told him that Pharaoh would not listen (3:19; 4:21). Nevertheless, he was discouraged because of the terrible situation. From verse 22, notice how Moses is beginning to question (1) God’s goodness (“why have You caused trouble for this people?”), (2) God’s purpose (“why did You ever send me?”), and (3) God’s actions (“You haven’t delivered Your people at all”). Moses reminds us of ourselves. Moses was an imperfect sinner, like us. He was a man in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace, like us. Here, he is at a crisis of belief.
On a positive note, at least Moses was addressing God. He cried out to God. It was an honest groaning before the Lord. Moses’ complaint is like the prayers in the Psalms, as people lamented and cried out (see Ps 77). It is okay to cry out with questions. Even Jesus, while on the cross, cried out, “Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46). These questions are not sinful. They just need to be humble, honest, and faithful. Ask God your questions! But do not ask sinfully or rebelliously. And remember, God does not have to answer our questions (He never answered all of Job’s!), but He does hear our questions.
So that is what chapter 5 is all about. At times, life brings deep discouragement, pain, trouble, questions, and harsh slavery. It can be a stinking mess. Moses was following God, but things actually got worse. How do you fight this discouragement? You fight it with promises. That is what chapter 6 is about.
Promises provide us with hope of what is to come. In the midst of darkness, promises remind us of the glory of God. Here we find that God gave Moses three awesome reminders. These truths are timeless. As a result, we need to dwell on them daily as well.
God Is in Control (6:1)40
As the story continues, God assured Moses that there is only One sovereign, and it is not the man with the snake on his head. God never answered the question “Why?” He simply reminded Moses that His plan would not be thwarted. He reminded Moses that He is in control. Many believers believe in God’s sovereignty theologically, but practically they are emotional train wrecks! They have not worked this truth down deep into their hearts.
God is working all things for His people’s good. He is always using circumstances to shape us into His Son’s image. We do not always know what He is doing. The Israelites were enslaved for four hundred years. Should Moses think that God should act immediately? God could have sizzled Pharaoh any time, but He has His own ways of doing things in His own time.
This story reminds me of my dad. For the majority of his life, he was an unbeliever. I prayed for him regularly. Then at age 59, after a period of reading and searching, my dad stood up in front of his congregation and said, “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.” Then I had the privilege of baptizing him. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. He began attending a small group, going over to the pastor’s house, and reading Christian books. After about six months, he said, “I’ve read the whole Bible.” He is continuing to grow as a new believer.
A few months later he called me, with obvious concern in his voice, and said that his factory was closing down. My dad worked in this factory my whole life—35 years. He only missed two days of work this whole time. He was devastated. In a small town without many good paying jobs, the whole town was devastated. The management decided to move the factory to make more money, taking virtually no one with them. My dad was concerned not just for himself but also for everyone else. He was one of the senior guys in the plant and was about two years from retirement.
When we were visiting during Thanksgiving, he was telling me what he did on that day he received the news about the shutdown. He said, “I went outside, I sat on the porch, and I opened the Bible to Psalms, and I read Psalm 55:22.” It says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” He said, “That verse hit me right between the eyes. I knew everything was going to be okay.”
41Six months earlier my dad would have never done this or said this. But God changed his life. Nevertheless, following this awesome experience of grace, he faced a difficulty he had not faced in 35 years! What truth comforted him? This truth: God is in control. He sustains us. Fight discouragement with this truth.
God Keeps His Covenant (6:2-5)
God kept repeating these things. God wanted His people to remind themselves of His promises. For us, this is the idea of preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. Once again, God mentioned these two great motives of redemption: (1) His covenant and (2) His knowledge of the oppressed (cf. 2:23-25; 3:6-7).
God said that He would keep His unbreakable promise of salvation. The psalmist said, “[God] remembers His covenant forever” (105:8). One can trace this glorious theme throughout Scripture. Ultimately, God kept His covenant in Jesus. In Christ, we are part of an eternal covenant, established by Christ’s own blood. Because of this, we can find peaceful rest during life’s discouraging times. We have a Savior who died, rose, ascended to the Father, and now intercedes for us. He is forever faithful to His people. Remember His covenant.
God Saves (6:6-7:5)
We should pay careful attention to the “I will” statements in 6:6-8 and 7:3-4. They can be grouped into five gospel words or five words of salvation. I want to pair these five gospel words with New Testament references. What I love about Exodus is that it is so visual. We are watching theology unfold. God is going to do all of this. All He asks His people to do is know that He is Yahweh. Salvation is all of God.
The first truth we should note is liberation. “I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them” (6:6). This is a picture of salvation. God is going to bring His people out of slavery. He is going to deliver them. God liberated the people from bondage through the mediator Moses. This would be accomplished by grace through faith for it was not something that they had earned. The purpose of this liberation was that they might worship the Almighty God. And, as we will see in Exodus 15, the people celebrated their liberation. Of course these gospel truths are taught in the New Testament as well. In Exodus, we see a picture of what is to come. For instance, Paul42 said Jesus “gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age” (Gal 1:4). On a similar level God set us free, from spiritual slavery and our inability to keep the law, through the mediator Jesus Christ. This occurs only by grace through faith, for we have not earned this. The purpose of our release is worship as well. We were made to worship, and only though this liberation can we truly worship.
There is an “already-not yet” dimension to our salvation. Israel was looking forward to these promises. For us, in one sense, they have happened to us “already,” but we also look forward to the “not yet” when Jesus will set us free for good and forever from this age. Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). God gives us a word that we will suffer in this life. Do not be surprised when you get cancer. Do not be surprised when you lose your job. What God has promised us is resurrection from the dead. We are set free, but we still dwell in this body in a fallen world, and we are awaiting ultimate, final liberty.
The next gospel concept we should recognize is redemption. In 6:6 it says, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.” What a gospel word this is! Tim Keller says, “There is no more basic word in the Bible than redemption” (“Getting Out”). With the exception of Jacob’s blessing in Genesis 48:16, this is the first occasion that the Bible uses the language of redemption (Wright, Mission, 266). Later it is also used in Exodus 15:13, where they are singing of God’s redemption. In both cases it is the Hebrew verb gaʿal. The participle form of the verb is goʿel. God is the “Redeemer.”
The word carries the idea of “purchasing,” but there is more to it than that. “Redeem” in Hebrew often communicates that there is a privilege or duty of a close relative. The goʿel was a member of the wider family who acted to protect the family when they were in some particular types of situations. The goʿel was the “kinsman protector” or “family champion” (Wright, Mission, 266). This was seen in many situations. If a member of the family was murdered, the goʿel would see to it that the guilty person was brought to justice (Num 35). If a kinsman fell into debt and was forced to sell land, a better-off kinsman (a kinsman protector) would take the responsibility to purchase the land in order to keep it in the family. If the situation was so bad that the debtor had to offer himself and his family into bonded labor, the kinsman protector would act to rescue them from servitude (Lev 25). If a man died without 43a son to inherit his name and property, it was the kinsman’s job to take the deceased man’s widow and seek to raise an heir (Deut 25:5-10; Ruth 3:12-13; 4:1-12).
God is the ultimate goʿel, the family protector, the family champion! God is an eligible goʿel! He is going to gaʿal (redeem) His people. In Exodus, God was coming to the aid of His people. His relatives were in bonded labor, spiritual slavery, and He was coming to defend, intervene, avenge, and rescue them. He was coming to redeem them with justice. As the text says, “[God] will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment” (Exod 6:6). He was also coming to ensure that the ultimate family heir would be preserved. Ultimately, this people would bring forth Messiah, the ultimate Redeemer.
In Galatians, Paul put redemption and the family dimension of adoption together. He said in 4:4-7,
When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
In your discouragement, remember that you have a Redeemer! Jesus, your kinsman protector, your family champion, has intervened in your misery. He has paid the price to relieve you from your greatest debt, from your most desperate situation. He paid it with His own blood, with His own life. And now we will sit at His table. We will live in His place forever. Soon, we will know the riches of our redemption. When our goʿel, Jesus, comes again in majesty to complete the final act of redemption, all of our problems that we encountered here will seem as nothing.
The third gospel concept for us to consider is adoption. “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Yahweh your God, who delivered you from the forced labor of the Egyptians” (Exod 6:7). This verse shows us the familial nature of salvation. It reminds us of the doctrine of adoption. God was going to take Israel as His people. He had already called them His “son” (4:22). This is a display of God’s matchless love. Paul said of God’s choice of Israel, “to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises” (Rom 9:4). In redemption, God has rescued44 us from a dreadful situation, but there is more! Through adoption, God brings us into His family. This is privilege! John said, “Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are!” (1 John 3:1).
My friend Dennis Omondi and his bride live in Kenya. Their adoption story was recently on MSNBC. They told the story of Benjamin. Benjamin was thrown into an 18-foot hole in a Nairobi slum. This hole was the public toilet. A passing stranger heard his cry and spent two hours digging down into the muck to rescue him from death. Benjamin was taken in by New Life Home Trust and eventually placed into the loving family of Dennis and Allison.
What a picture of what God did for Israel! What a picture of what He has done for us! We were in a pit and are now in the arms of the Father, who “redeems your life from the Pit; He crowns you with faithful love and compassion” (Ps 103:4). “He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (Ps 40:2-3). I encourage you to meditate on your sonship daily. God has brought you out of a pit and placed you in His eternal family. Bless His holy name!
The fourth gospel concept is inheritance. “I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession” (Exod 6:8). God was promising His people that they would possess a country. This promise was first mentioned to Abraham (Gen 12:7). Later, in the book of Joshua, we will see the people entering, conquering, and inhabiting the land. These people had nothing. They were slaves in Egypt. But God is going to give them an inheritance. He is going to give them the promised land—all by His grace. They did not earn it.
The New Testament applies this idea of inheriting the promised land to the believers’ hope in the new heavens and new earth. By Jesus’ resurrection, we have “inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Pet 1:4). Peter said this inheritance is awesome (“imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading”) and assured (“kept in heaven for you”). Jesus told us the meek will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5). One reason we should live generously in this life and not covet is that our heaven is later. Do not covet—you own the earth!
45In your difficult hour, savor the gospel like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Just 24 hours before Bonhoeffer was executed, he gathered some prisoners and held a worship service. He chose as one if his texts 1 Peter 1:3-12, which speaks of the believer’s “living hope” (Metaxas, Bonhoeffer). What an example for all of us of meditating on the gospel in our dark hours!
John Newton said that the way the Christian might endure trials is by considering the doctrine of glorification, which includes inheritance. Newton said the Christian should not complain, murmur, or despair in light of all that is coming. He said we should imagine a man who inherited a really large estate, worth millions, and he had to go to New York City to get it. As he journeyed there, his carriage broke down, leaving him to walk the last one mile. Can you imagine that man saying, “My carriage is broken, my carriage is broken,” kicking and complaining in disgust when he has only a mile to go to receive a million? Christian, we only have a few miles to go! (Piper, “Children, Heirs, and Fellow Sufferers”). Rest in God’s promises and faithfulness!
We have just examined four wonderful aspects of salvation: liberation, redemption, adoption, and inheritance. God made all these promises saying, “I will save you.” He has sent His Son to do everything we need to be saved. Paul said, “For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him” (2 Cor 1:20). God revealed Himself to the Israelites and to us. All that was left for Israel was to know and trust the Lord as Savior. Have you done this?
Despite these amazing promises, Moses and the people struggled to believe (Exod 6:9-13, 26-30). The people of Israel were unmoved. It says it was because of their “broken spirit and hard labor” (6:9). We can sympathize with them. Ryken says, “They were so broken that they would not listen to the promise of freedom” (176). Spurgeon said, Some cannot receive Christ because they are so full of anguish, and are so crushed in spirit that they cannot find strength enough of mind to entertain a hope that by any possibility salvation can come to them.... the mere struggle to exist exhausted all their energy, and destroyed all their hope.... I do not wonder that a great many are unable to receive the gospel in this city of ours, because their struggle for existence is awful. I am afraid that it gets more and more intense, though even now it passes all bounds. If any of you can do anything to help the toil-worn workers, I pray you, do46 it.... And yet, dear friend—if such a one has come in here tonight—I pray you do not throw away the next world because you have so little of this. This is sheer folly. If I have little here, I would make sure of the more hereafter. (“Saddest”)
Sometimes people are so wounded it is hard for them to put everything together. It is hard for them to hear. Sometimes people are so mentally and emotionally crushed, they cannot get it. We have been applying Israel’s situation to victims of human trafficking. Many are crushed by physical slavery, so much so that they will have a hard time believing. We need to deliver them physically and spiritually.
In verses 10-13 God told Moses to go back to Pharaoh, and Moses’ response was one of unbelief and despair. Moses responded to God with confusion. He could not understand how Pharaoh would listen if the Israelites would not. He believed he was a “poor speaker,” possibly implying that he had a speech problem or that he considered himself unclean to speak. Moses is like many of us who are tempted to give up. But once again, God persisted. God commanded them to listen and obey. Once again, after this genealogy, there were more gospel promises that fueled him to action.
Next we find an excursus (6:14-25). Notice that this section is framed with the phrase “the heads of their fathers’ families” (vv. 14, 25). Genealogies always show us the importance of individuals. God knows our names. This particular section is provided to allow the reader to know who Moses and Aaron are and where they came from. It provides us with a list of only three of Jacob’s sons: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. Moses and Aaron are not the sons of the firstborn, Reuben, but of Jacob’s third son Levi. Likewise, Moses was not the firstborn son, yet God chose him to lead the people out of Egypt, with his older brother Aaron serving as his own prophet. Thus, Moses was chosen in God’s grace and election. He was not one who deserved the birthright or the blessing, but he received it from God Almighty nonetheless. Remember, the tribe of Levi was not given the inheritance but instead were scattered (Gen 49:5-8).
It was through Moses and Aaron that eventually God would call the Levites back to His service as priests and ministers over the people of Israel and the tabernacle (Num 3:1-10). There was nothing in and of themselves that brought them there, only God’s own election and appointment of them. They served and worshiped day and night (1 Chr 9:33), often doing tasks that might at times seem mundane or insignificant. What a word for us who serve in the church: from helping set up to47 cleaning up to welcoming guests or serving in child care, it all matters! And as the Levites show, it is worship to God!
The fifth and final gospel concept is judgment and mercy. “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.... I will put My hand on Egypt” (Exod 7:3-4). To counter Moses’ discouragement, God reminded Moses of who was in control. Verses 1-5 are about the fact that God is the only God. It was essential for Moses to know and walk in this truth. In verses 1-7 Moses was fulfilling the role of a mediator. He was God’s representative. Pharaoh considered himself to be “god,” but here God put Pharaoh in his place by saying Moses was “like God to Pharaoh.” This does not mean that Moses was divine. Instead, he represented God. Moses prepared the way for Jesus, who was God, the true Mediator. Jesus was called the prophet greater than Moses (Deut 18:18; Acts 3:22; 7:37; Heb 3:3). Aaron was like the “prophet’s prophet.” Similarly, when Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave us the prophetic ministry of speaking His gospel. We are His ambassadors. And remember, all of this was happening while Moses was a senior citizen (Exod 7:7)!
Then, in verses 4-5, we read an “I will” statement. In the middle of this promise, God said He would lay His hand on Egypt in judgment. Why was He doing this? That they might “know that [He is] Yahweh” (v. 5). God’s glory would be seen in His judgment and in His mercy. Notice there are two ways to “know Yahweh.” First, you may know Him by experiencing His mercy in salvation (6:6-8). Second, you may know Him by experiencing His wrath in judgment (7:4-5). Everyone will eventually acknowledge that He is God (Phil 2:10-11). God will deal with His enemies either by “drowning them” or by redeeming them through the cross. Here in Exodus the Egyptians were rejecting God’s word. In Isaiah 19 there is a promise that Egypt will one day be God’s people. This is what we want for God’s enemies. We want them to know the real God as Savior. We do not want to have the attitude of James and John when the Samaritans refused to believe (Luke 9:54) or Jonah’s attitude toward the Ninevites (Jonah 3:10-4:1). We want God’s enemies to become God’s people.
Now, there is a period of time in which God is waiting for those of you who do not know Him. God will have mercy on you. Trust Him as Savior today! Believe in the God who mercifully frees sinners, redeems sinners, adopts sinners, and promises an inheritance to sinners.
The text shows us that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. We see a tension here in Exodus. On the one hand, the Lord is sovereign over48 everything that was going on here. On the other, Pharaoh is held responsible for refusing to listen. We need to remember that the Bible warns us about hardening our hearts to God’s word. Psalm 95 used this idea to warn Israel in its worship (95:8), and the book of Hebrews used Psalm 95 to call the church to continue in the faith (Heb 3:7-4:13). Do not harden your heart. Hear the Gospel. Believe the Gospel. Trust in Christ.
Acting on the Promises
After preaching the gospel to yourself, go act. That is the picture in the next scene, which we will look at in the next passage. Moses and Aaron did not make excuses. Rather, the text says, they “did just as the Lord had commanded” (Exod 7:10). What a picture for us! Are you discouraged? Preach this gospel to yourself and go act by faith in our great God. God is in control. God keeps His covenant. God liberates, redeems, and adopts sinners. He gives them an inheritance and makes them objects of His mercy. Now sing the gospel, pray the gospel, meditate on the gospel, and hear the gospel. Fill your mind with it, work it down deep, and act courageously for the glory of God!
Reflect and Discuss
- When have you been tempted to think that not following God would be easier or better?
- How should our relationship to God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit make us bold in our witness and mission?
- Have you ever seen someone who is suffering become bitter, turn against the church and its leaders, and appeal to other sources for relief? How can you encourage such a person to remain true to God?
- Compare (1) questioning God, (2) doubt, and (3) unbelief. What has been your attitude when you approach God?
- How have you seen God’s sovereignty demonstrated in the past? Which is more encouraging for you, remembering such events or reading the promises in the Bible?
- Which aspect of salvation—liberation, redemption, adoption, or inheritance—is the most dear to you? Why?
- How would you respond to a non-Christian who said, “I’m barely getting by in this life—how can I even think about the afterlife?”
- 49How is it encouraging to see that God’s choice of Aaron and Moses was not based on who they were or what they had done?
- What did the king of Israel (2 Kgs 6:18-23), Jonah (Jonah 3:10-4:1), and James and John (Luke 9:54) need to learn about the judgment and mercy of God?
- How do you go about preaching the gospel to yourself—in songs, prayer, meditation, Bible reading, or conversation with other Christians?