Fighting Discouragement with Gospel 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.

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 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.

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,

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.

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!

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