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Exodus 5:1-23 - Homilies By G. A. Goodhart

The people of Jehovah detained and oppressed by the representative of the prince of this world; no doubt as to the strength of the latter—is it possible for his spoils to be wrested from him? The strong man armed has thus far kept his palace ( Luke 11:21 ), and his goods (cf. Revelation 18:13 ) have been in peace, so far as outward disturbance is concerned. Now comes one who claims to be the stronger. What may be expected to. happen?


1 . The tyrant. Picture the king. Wholly self-satisfied, worshipped as a god, absolute ruler over the lives of thousands. Surrounded by obsequious servants—none to contradict him, none to disobey. Enthroned in palace. Enter—

2 . The envoys. Two men—one grown old in slavery, one for forty years a shepherd, looking now at all this pomp as a man who dimly recalls some dream. Does he think of what might have been, perhaps he himself seated upon the throne (cf. Hebrews 11:24 )? Greater honour to be the unknown envoy of Jehovah than to be the Pharaoh who receives his message.

3 . The message. Strange words for such a king to hear

4 . The reply. The demand met by a contemptuous refusal Who is Jehovah? I know not Jehovah!" If the message is authoritative, yet the envoys are sufficiently humble—they even plead with him that, for the sake of the people, he will grant them permission and opportunity to sacrifice ( Exodus 5:3 ). All to no purpose; the strong man is secure in his possessions and means to keep them in his grasp.

II. HOSTILITIES COMMENCED .—Pharaoh, was not quite so indifferent as he seemed. If there is to be war, he will gain such advantage as may be gained by making the first hostile movement. His slaves at any rate shall be taught that rebellion is not likely to be successful. Effect of his policy:—

1 . On people. So long as he had been undisturbed his goods were in peace; now that he is disturbed the miserable peace of his chattels is disturbed too. [Man in prison, treated with greater rigour on the rumour of an attempted rescue.] Early spring, just after the corn has been cut; chopped straw needed to mix with the clay in brickmaking; let these discontented rebels gather their own. Israelites obliged to scatter themselves over the country; all complaints stifled with blows. Result, Exodus 5:20 , Exodus 5:21 , great discouragement and distrust of Moses and Aaron. " This comes of interfering." Six months' worse tyranny than ever.

2 . On himself. Six months to realise the success of his policy; feels more secure than ever; heart is harder; pride greater (cf. Romans 2:4 , Romans 2:5 ).

3 . On Moses. Exodus 5:22 , Exodus 5:23 . Disheartened, but only for a little; repulsed by Pharaoh, suspected by the people, he is driven back on God; like the giant who gained strength each time he clasped the ground, so becoming more invincible with each new overthrow, finds God his refuge and his strength also. God is pledged to secure final victory. The slaves must be freed; not because they can win freedom, but because God has promised to free them. Apply , from our Lord's parable, Luke 11:21 , Luke 11:22 , Satan the strong man who has many slaves. His power seems at first to increase when moved by the rumour of redemption we attempt to follow the dictates of our Deliverer (cf. Romans 7:9-11 ). Content with slavery, there is quietude; trying after freedom we find trouble and affliction. [ Illustr. A habit, not hard to endure , but hard to break. The chain of sin is easy to wear; they only know how fast it holds who try to struggle free of it.] Cf. again Romans 7:1-25 . with St. Paul. as with Israel; the bondage seemed worse than ever when the hope of freedom was the most alluring. In either ease the ground of hope, not in the sufferer, but away outside him. God prompts to the struggle against the oppressor, but he does not let victory depend on us; that rests with him. The promise to deliver is contained in the call to freedom. It is not, " I will help you when you are strong," nothing said about our strength at all; confidence rests on the fact that God. is Jehovah, the changeless One (cf. Exodus 6:2 ; Malachi 3:6 ). Let Israel obey Moses, and God must redeem them from Pharaoh. Let us obey Christ, and God must redeem us from the power of Satan.— G .

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