By Edward Dennett
MOSES was no less than forty years in the wilderness, learning the lessons he needed for his future work, and being qualified to act for God as the deliverer of His people. What a contrast to his former life at the court of Pharaoh. There he was surrounded with all the luxury and refinement of his age; here he is a simple shepherd, keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. Forty is the number of probation, as seen, for example, in the forty years in the wilderness of the children of Israel ; also in the forty days' temptation of our blessed Lord. It was therefore a time of testing - testing what Moses was, as well as a time for him to prove what God was; and these two things must ever be learnt before we are qualified for service. Hence God always sends His servants into the wilderness before employing them for the accomplishment of His purposes. Nowhere else can we be brought so fully into the presence of God. It is there, alone with Him, that we discover the utter vanity of human resources, and our entire dependence upon Himself. And very blessed is it to be withdrawn from the busy haunts of men, and to be shut in, as it were, with God, to learn in communion with Himself His own thoughts concerning ourselves, concerning His interests and service. Indeed it is a continual necessity for every true servant to be much alone with God; and where this is forgotten, God often brings it about, in the tenderness of His heart, by the disciplinary dealings of His hand.
The time at length arrives when God can begin to interfere for His people. But let us recall the connection. In the first chapter the people are seen in their bondage; in the second, Moses is born, and introduced into the house of Pharaoh. Then he casts in his lot with the people of God, and in the warmth of his affection seeks to remedy their wrongs; but, rejected, he flees into the desert. After forty years, being now eighty years old, he is to be sent back into Egypt. The third and fourth chapters contain the account of his mission from God, and of his unwillingness to be thus employed. But before this is reached, there is a short preface at the end of the second chapter - which really belongs to the third as to its connection - which reveals the ground on which God was acting for the redemption of His people. First, it tells us that the king of Egypt died, but his death brought no alleviation of the condition of the children of Israel. On the other hand, they "sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God, by reason of the bondage." They were thus reduced to the lowest extremity. But God was not insensible, for He "heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob: And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them" ( 2:23 -25). Their condition touched the heart of God, drew forth His pitying mercies, but the ground on which He acted was His own sovereign grace, as expressed in the covenant He had made with their fathers. It was this same mercy, and His faithfulness to His ward, which both Mary and Zacharias celebrated in their songs of praise in connection with the birth of the Saviour, and of His forerunner John. "He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever." And again, He "hath raised up an horn of salvation for us... to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; the oath which He sware to our father Abraham," etc. (Luke 1:54,55,68-73). It is impossible that God should forget His word, and if He delay to accomplish it, it is only for the brighter display of His unchanging grace and love.
Having, then, laid the foundation in these few words, the next scene brings before us the dealings of God with Moses.
"Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed" (3:1,2).
It is most interesting to trace the appearings of God to His people, and to note how the manner of each is related to the special circumstances of the case. (See Gen.12, 18, 32; Joshua 5, etc.) Here it is strikingly significant as connected with the mission on which Moses was about to be sent. There are three parts to the vision thus vouchsafed - the Lord, the flame of fire, and the bush. Observe, first, that it is said the angel of the Lord appeared unto Moses (v.2); and then the Lord saw that he turned aside, and God called unto him out of the midst of the bush (v.4. Compare Gen.22:15,16). The angel of the Lord is thus identified with Jehovah, yea, with God Himself; and there is no doubt that in all these appearings of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament Scriptures, we behold the shadowing forth of the coming incarnation of the Son of God, and hence that, in all these cases, it is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity - God the Son. The flame of fire is a symbol of the holiness of God. This is shown in various ways, especially in the fire on the altar, which consumed the sacrifices; and in the epistle to the Hebrews we have the express statement that "our God is a consuming fire;" i.e. testing everything according to His holiness, and thus consuming everything which does not answer its requirements. The bush was meant to be a figure of Israel. There is nothing more easily consumed by fire than a bush; and it was chosen on this very account to represent the nation of Israel - the nation of Israel in the furnace of Egypt - the fire burning fiercely round about it, and yet not destroying it. It was therefore a consolatory assurance to the heart of Moses - if he could read it aright - that his nation would be preserved however fiercely the fire might burn. In the language of another, "it was meant to be an image of that which was presented to the spirit of Moses - a bush in a desert, burning, but unconsumed. It was no doubt thus that God was about to work in the midst of Israel. Moses and they must know it. They too would be the chosen vessel of His power in their weakness, and this for ever in His mercy. Their God, as ours, would prove Himself a consuming fire. Solemn, but infinite favour! For, on the one hand, as surely as He is a consuming fire, so on the other the bush, weak as it is, and ready to vanish away, nevertheless remains to prove that, whatever may be the siftings and judicial dealings of God, whatever the trials and searchings of man, yet where He reveals Himself in pitifulness, as well as in power (and such it certainly was here), He sustains the object, and uses the trial for nothing but good, no doubt for His own glory, but consequently for the very best interests of those that are, His."
Moses was attracted, as well he might be, by " this great sight," and "he turned aside to see" (v.4). Then it was that God called to him out of the bush, and called him by name. But he must be reminded of the holiness of the divine presence. "Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (v.5. Compare Numbers 5:1-3; Joshua 5:15, etc.). This is the first lesson which all who approach God must learn - the recognition of His holiness. True, He is a God of grace, of mercy, and also that He is love; but He is all these because He is a holy God, and He could never have manifested Himself in these blessed characters, had it not been that in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. But unless our feet are unshod - remembering the holiness of Him with whom we have to do - we can never receive the gracious communications of His mind and will. Hence the very next thing we find here is that He reveals Himself to Moses as the "God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (v.6). This revelation was designed to act upon the soul of Moses, and it does - for he is bowed in heart before Him who spake - and he "bid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God" (See 1 Kings 19:13 ). Thereon Jehovah announces the purpose of His manifestation to Moses.
"And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters: for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto Me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt " (v.7-10).
The order of this communication is most instructive. (1) God reveals Himself as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. His own character is the foundation of all His actings. It is exceedingly strengthening to the soul to learn this lesson - that God ever finds His motive within Himself. It is on the ground of what He is, and not on the ground of what we are. (Compare Eph.1:3-6; 2 Tim.1:9,10). (2) The occasion of His action was the condition of His people. "And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows," etc. (v.7 seq.) What infinite tenderness! There is not a word to show that the children of Israel had cried to the Lord. They had sighed and cried by reason of their bondage, but it does not appear that their hearts had turned to the Lord. But their misery had touched His heart, He "knew their sorrows, and was come down to deliver them." So "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom.5:8). (3) His purpose was to deliver them out of Egypt, "and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites" (v.8). There is nothing here between Egypt and Canaan. The wilderness does not appear. In like manner, in Romans we read, "Whom He justified, them He also glorified." We thus learn, as has been often remarked, that the wilderness is no part of the purpose of God. It belongs to His ways, and not to His purposes; for it is in the wilderness that the flesh is tested, that we learn what we are as well as what God is. (See Deuteronomy 8). But as far as God's purposes are concerned, there is nothing between redemption and glory. So in the actual fact, there were only eleven days' journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea (Deut.1:2), but the children of Israel were forty years through their unbelief in accomplishing the distance. (4) Moses is thereon commissioned as their deliverer. The Lord had heard the cry of the people, though not addressed to Himself, and seen their oppression, and therefore He will send Moses unto Pharaoh that he may bring them forth out of Egypt (v.9,10).
We now come to a most sad exhibition of failure on the part of Moses. When in Egypt he ran before he was sent; he thought that, in the energy of his own will, he could emancipate his brethren, or at least redress their wrongs. But now, after forty years spent in "the flesh-subduing solitudes" of the desert, he not only is unwilling to be employed upon the magnificent mission with which the Lord would entrust him, but he raises objection after objection until he wearies the tender patience and long-suffering of Jehovah, and His anger is kindled against Moses (4:14). But every fresh failure of Moses proves the occasion for the display of greater grace - even though in the event Moses suffered through his whole life from his backwardness in obeying the voice of the Lord. Miserable history of the flesh! Now it is too forward, and now it is too backward. There is only One who was ever found equal to all God's will - who always did the things that pleased Him - and that was the perfect servant, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us glance at this series of difficulties which Moses raises.
"And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt ?" (v.11).
"Who am I?" It is quite right that we should have the sense of our own utter nothingness; for we surely are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves. But it is also right that we should think much of God. For when He sends it is not a question of what we are, but of what He is - and it is no small thing to be invested with His authority and power. David had learnt this lesson when he advanced against Goliath; for, in reply to his taunts, he said, "I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied" (1 Sam.17:45). This objection therefore was nothing but distrust. This is distinctly shown out in the answer he received, " CERTAINLY I WILL BE WITH THEE: and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (v.12). The presence of the Lord was to be both the warrant for his mission and the source of his strength. As the Lord said in after days to Joshua, "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage" (Josh.1:5,6). The Lord knows the need of His servant, and provides for his weakness by giving a token which should reassure him - should the subtlety of his heart lead him into doubt, - so that he might be able to say, "Now I have a proof of my divine mission." Surely this was enough to scatter his hesitation and fear. Listen to his answer:
"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name? what shall I say unto them?" (v.13).
God had already revealed Himself to Moses as the God of his fathers - and this might have been enough, but nothing can ever satisfy doubts and fears. And what an incidental glimpse is thus given of the condition of Israel, so as to render the supposition possible that they might not know the name of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob! God bears in grace with his feeble, hesitant servant, and replies, "I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you" (v.14). This is the expression of the essential being of God - His name as the self-existent One; and thereby affirms His eternal being. It was this name the Lord Jesus claimed when He said to the unbelieving Jews, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58 ). But this is not all. Having revealed Himself as to His essential existence, He adds, "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations" (v.15). This is pure grace on the part of God. "I AM, is His own essential name; but as regards His government of, and relationship with, the earth, His name - that by which He is to be remembered to all generations - is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. This gave Israel, now visited and taken up of God under His name, a very peculiar place." It points indeed to their election by the sovereign grace of God, and to their being beloved for their fathers' sake; and at the same time reveals the fact that Israel shall be for ever the centre of God's ways, and the key to His purposes upon the earth. Hence, as long as Israel is under judgment, scattered throughout the world, the period of earthly blessing is still postponed.
It was consequently in this name that God was come down to deliver; for as soon as He assumes it, He graciously allows that the people, whom He has thus brought into relationship with Himself, have a claim upon His mercy and compassion. Hence the detailed instructions which are now given to Moses (v.16-22), in which the whole history of God's controversy with Pharaoh is given, with its final issue in the redemption of His people. First, Moses is enjoined to assemble the elders of Israel, that he may announce to them, that the Lord God of their fathers had appeared to him, and communicated to him the purposes of His grace towards them, in bringing them up out of the affliction of Egypt unto a land flowing with milk and honey (v.16,17). He is foretold that they would hearken to his voice, and that he and they should no together unto Pharaoh, to ask for permission to go three days' journey into the wilderness, that they might sacrifice unto the Lord their God (v.18). He then is forewarned of the stubborn opposition of Pharaoh; but he is likewise told that God would Himself deal with the Egyptian king, and compel him to let them go; and, furthermore, that when they went out they should not go empty, but that they should spoil the Egyptians (v.19-22).1 These instructions are important for all time; for they place beyond a doubt the exact foreknowledge of God. He knew with whom He had to deal, the resistance to be met with, and how it was to be overcome. He saw all things from the beginning to the end. How consolatory to our feeble hearts! Not a difficulty or trial can befall us which has not been foreseen by our God, and for which in His grace provision has not been made! Everything has been prearranged in view of our final triumph, and of our victorious exit from this scene, through the display of His redeeming power, to be for ever with the Lord? Surely Moses might now have been contented.
"And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee" (4:1).
Could unbelief be more presumptuous? The Lord had said, "They shall hearken to thy voice." Moses replies, They will not believe me." What wonder if the Lord had utterly rejected His servant when he thus dared to contradict Him to His face? But He is slow to anger and of great mercy; and truly this scene is full of beauty as revealing the depths of the tenderness and long-suffering of His patient heart. He will therefore bear with His servant, condescend still more, and give even miraculous signs to strengthen him in his weakness, and to dispel his unbelief. "And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And He said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee" (4:2-5). Two more signs are even added. His hand, on putting it into his bosom and taking it out, became "leprous as snow;" and on repeating the act "it was turned again as his other flesh" (v.6,7). Then, in case they should not hearken to the first, or to the second sign, a third was added. He was to take water out of the river, and pour it upon the dry ground, and it should become blood upon the dry land (v.9). These signs are significant, and especially so, it should be observed, in relation to the matter in hand. A rod in Scripture is the symbol of authority - power. Cast down, it became a serpent. A serpent is the well-known emblem of Satan; and hence it was power become Satanic, and this was exactly what was seen in Egypt in the oppression of the children of Israel. But Moses puts forth his hand, at the word of the Lord, and takes the serpent by the tail, and again it becomes a rod. The power that had thus become Satanic, resumed by God, becomes a rod of chastening or judgment.
Hence this rod, in the hands of Moses, becomes henceforward the rod of God's authority and judicial power. Leprosy is a figure of sin in its defilement, sin in the flesh breaking out and defiling, with its pollutions, the whole man. The second sign therefore presents us with sin and its healing, effected, as we know, only by the death of Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin. Water represents that which refreshes - source of life and refreshment as coming from God; but, as poured out on the earth, become judgment and death. Armed with such signs, Moses might surely return and convince the most hardened doubter. Nay, he is not yet himself convinced; and hence he now replies,
"O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue" (v.10).
This objection shows most conclusively that self was the beam in his eye that obstructed the vision of faith. For was it his eloquence or the Lord's power that would effect the emancipation of Israel ? He speaks as if all depended upon the persuasive words of human wisdom, as if his appeal was to be made by human art to the natural man. How common the mistake, even in the Church of God ! Hence eloquence is that which even Christians desire - giving it a place beyond the power of God. The pulpits of Christendom are thus filled with men who are not of a slow tongue, and even the saints who in theory know the truth are beguiled and attracted by splendid gifts, and take pleasure in their exercise apart from the truth communicated. How different was the thought of St Paul. "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God." And again, "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor.2:1,4). It is on this account that God often uses the "slow of speech" far more than those who are eloquent; for there is no temptation in such cases to lean upon the wisdom of men, all beholding that it is the power of God. It is this lesson - a lesson which contains at the same time a withering rebuke - that Jehovah now teaches Moses. "Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say" (v.11,12). The servant could not require more; but the danger lies in forgetting that the mode in which the Lord may employ us may not bring honour to ourselves. On the contrary, we may be regarded as the apostle was, as weak in bodily presence, and in speech contemptible (2 Cor.10:10); but what of this if we are made the vehicles of the power of God? The servant must learn to be nothing that the Lord alone may be exalted. But Moses evidently desired to be something himself, and overwhelmed by the prospect, and, it may also be, borne down by the sense of his incompetency, notwithstanding all the grace and condescension of the Lord, he desires to be excused from so difficult a mission. He therefore says,
"O my Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of whom Thou wilt send" (v.13).
That is, "Send any one, but not me." Five times did he thus raise objections to the Lord's commands, presuming upon His forbearance and long-suffering. But now "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses; and He said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, where with thou shalt do signs" (v.14-17). Thus the halting of Moses was overcome, but not until the anger of the Lord was kindled against him on account of his unwillingness to obey His word; but he lost much. Aaron was henceforward to be associated with him, and indeed was to have the most prominent place before man; for he was to be the spokesman of his brother. In tender grace, however, the Lord reserves to His servant Moses the chief place before Him, giving him the honour and privilege of being the medium of communication between Himself and Aaron. Aaron was to be a "mouth" for Moses; Moses was to be to Aaron "instead of God;" i.e. he was to impart to Aaron the message to be delivered. The purposes of God cannot be frustrated; but we may suffer from our obstinacy and disobedience. It was so with Moses. How many times afterwards, during the forty years' sojourn in the wilderness, must he have bewailed the unbelief that led him to refuse the trust which the Lord desired to commit to his hands alone! Finally, the rod of authority is given to Moses - the rod wherewith he was to display the power of God in miraculous signs as an attestation of his mission. This rod plays a most important part throughout the career of Moses, and it is most instructive to trace the occasions of its appearance and use. Here it becomes, as it were, the seal of his mission, as well as the sign of his office; for in very truth he was invested with the authority of God to lead His people out of the land of Egypt.
Moses now returns to seek the permission of Jethro to return into Egypt. God had prepared the way, and hence Jethro consents, saying to Moses, "Go in peace:" (v.18). The Lord watches over His servant, notes the feelings of his heart, and even anticipates his fears by saying, "Go, return into Egypt : for all the men are dead which sought thy life." (Compare Matt. 2:20). "And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt : and Moses took the rod of God in his hand" (v.19,20). Thereupon the Lord further instructs him, and even reveals to him the character of the final judgment through which He would compel Pharaoh to let His people go. Even more: He now teaches him the true relationship into which He had by grace taken Israel. For the first time is this revelation made: " Israel is My son, even My firstborn;" and it is this which decides the character of the stroke which should fall upon Egypt. "And I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn" (v. 22,23; compare Num. 8: 14 -18).
One thing now only remains to qualify Moses for his mission. There must be faithfulness within the circle of his own responsibility before he can be made the channel of divine power. Obedience at home must precede the display of power to the world. This explains the following incident: "And it came to pass, by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So He let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision" (v.24-26). Moses had neglected, from what cause we know not - it may be through the influence of his wife - the circumcision of his child; and hence the Lord had a personal controversy with him, which must be settled before he could appear before Pharaoh with divine authority. The Lord thus laid him low, dealt with him, brought his failure to remembrance that he might judge it, and return to the path of obedience. To borrow the language of another: "God was going to put honour on Moses; but there was a dishonour to Him in the house of Moses already. How came it that the sons of Moses were not circumcised? How came it that there lacked that which typifies the mortifying the flesh in those who were nearest to Moses? How came it that God's glory was forgotten in that which ought to have been prominent in a father's heart? It appears that the wife had something to do with the matter.... In fact she at last was obliged to do what she most hated, as she herself said in her son's case. But more than that, it endangered Moses; for God had the controversy with him, not with his wife. Moses was the responsible person, and God held to His order." The words we have ventured to italicise convey a most important principle, and explain fully the ground of God's dealing with Moses. But he received grace to bow before His chastening hand; and most blessed is it where we are enabled to acknowledge with St Paul, "We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead" (2 Cor.1:9). The two parts of Moses' qualification, then, were divine authority and personal condition; and these two ought never to be disjoined. For all who would speak in the name of the Lord, or be employed by Him in any service whatever, it is of the utmost importance that they should remember this. Nothing can compensate for the lack of condition of soul. Herein lies in fact the secret of our feebleness in service. If our ways, or, as in the case of Moses, our houses, are unjudged, the Spirit of God is grieved, and as a consequence we are not used for blessing. It is not enough therefore to have the words of God in our mouth; but we must be walking with their power in our own souls, if we are to speak with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
All is now ready; and accordingly we have a beautiful scene at the end of the chapter - a scene which must have gladdened the heart of Moses, and, with the blessing of God, nerved him for the arduous path on which he had entered. First, however, the Lord sent Aaron "into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him:" (v.27,28). The place of their meeting is most significant. It was in the mount of God (3:1), i.e. Horeb, that the Lord appeared to Moses; here now Aaron meets him; and it was in this same place that Moses afterwards received the two tables of stone, with the Ten Commandments written with the finger of God. Leaving this, however, now, it may be remarked - for it contains a most practical lesson - that it is ever most blessed when relatives can meet in the mount of God. Then, as with Moses and Aaron, the conversation will be upon "the words of the Lord," and the meeting will issue in blessing. If, on the other hand, we descend to a lower level, as is too often the case, our communications will be rather concerning ourselves and our own doings, and this will result neither in glory to God nor in profit to ourselves.
Remark, too, that it is from the mount of God they proceed on their mission. Blessed are those servants who go directly from the presence of God to their labours. Coming into Egypt, they "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" (v.29-31). The word of the Lord was thus fulfilled. Moses had said, "They will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice." But the people did believe, according to the word of the Lord; and touched by His grace, as they heard how He had visited them, and looked upon their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshipped. True that afterwards, when their difficulties increased, they murmured in their unbelief; but this cannot diminish from the beauty of the picture before us, wherein we see the word of the Lord, in all its freshness and power, reaching the hearts of the elders, and bowing them in adoration in His presence.
1) As there has been some controversy upon the statement, here and in v.2, that the Israelites were commanded to borrow the valuables of the Egyptians on the eve of their exodus, it may be well to point out that the word has been wrongly translated. There is no idea of "borrowing" in it. It means simply "to ask." The context shows that owing to God's manifest interposition the children of Israel would be in "favour in the sight of the Egyptians;" and being made to feel that they had suffered wrong at their hands, they gladly gave them whatever they desired - it may be as a kind of propitiation - with the full knowledge that they would see the Israelites no more. What they gave was therefore an unconditional gift.