Series on Exodus, II The community of god's people, A The Salvation of the Community. Text: 5:1-7:5-Title: Deliverance in Difficulty.


We have been looking at the life of Moses and his preparation as a servant of the Lord. In chapter 4 we saw Moses comforted with the promise and presence of the Lord. The last thing we would expect, therefore, would be a troublesome, embarrassing, complicated and perplexing situation. We probably expect him to sail through. But as God prepared to save his people and form a community He made the way difficult so that it would be clear that He is the one who is responsible for their deliverance. Considering then today the difficulties and then the deliverance let us enumerate what the difficulties are which are found in our text.

I Difficulties

The difficulties may be enumerated as discouragement, distrust, and deficiency

A Discouragement

Discouragement is recorded in the opening verses of Exodus. 5 in verses 1-21. The scene is set in verses 1 and 2, Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’’’ Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD (Yahweh) and I will not let Israel go.” Then we read that Pharaoh's opinion of the request to let the people go is that they are lazy, and he makes their slavery more miserable. Instead of making the bricks for building out of materials provided, they must go and gather their own straw. The taskmasters are beating them for not meeting their quota without any sympathy. They are worse off. As the saying goes its always darkest before the dawn. The biggest problem is with the Hebrew supervisors who are caught in the middle and they unload on Moses and Aaron in verses 19-21,  The Israelite foremen realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Moses sees this is not going to be easy. He didn't want to do it and now he wants to even less. Most of the worthwhile tasks in life are like this. We need to be discouraged before we can be encouraged. Immediate victories are rare. In fact we might view God’s plan as full of detours. Moses was detoured in the wilderness for forty years. Paul was detoured into Arabia for three years. Phillip was detoured from a revival in Samaria to a lonely Ethiopian eunuch in the desert of Gaza. All of these were God reminding us that it is His work and not ours. Oswald Smith was turned down for missionary service in 1920, but he became the pastor of the People’s Church in Toronto which became famous as the most prolific missionary sending church of its generation. God is going to deliver his elect so that nobody else can take the credit.

B Distrust

This leads of course to sinful distrust. In chapter 6 God tells Moses he will surely deliver the people. He says He has heard their groans 6:5, but in 6:9 it is precisely the groans which they think he has not heard because they have been promised deliverance and it is delayed, “Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’” Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage. Moses’ conclusion in verse 12 is that if his own people won't listen, why should Pharaoh? But Moses said to the LORD, If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips? In other words when we serve the Lord we may be surprised that he not only delays the success of our mission, but others begin to wonder whether we really represent God or not. We need to learn to trust God. I'm sure that Noah faced a similar situation. In fact if you read the catalog of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, that is the point. These are people who believed the promises even though they had not yet received the fulfillment. They are just the sort of people you might wonder about. It might be somebody today who says let's launch out into the deep and others distrust them and say you're not practical. An old German deacon who ran an upscale furniture business in New Britain, PA, once told me that most people think when business is down they can’t afford to advertise. He said, that’s when they need to advertise the most. I discovered through many years of ministry that the same principle could be applied to the church. Most of the time, though prospects were dim, we kept raising the budget of the church. Time and time again God surprised us and we made it. The only times we had financial difficulty was when the trustees were afraid to trust God for the increase. The primary reason people don’t give more to the work of the Lord is that they don’t trust God. When it comes to the kingdom of God, appearances can be deceiving.

C Deficiency

The deficiency of Moses becomes apparent first in the genealogy given in Chapter 6 which concludes with the threefold statement of the author in verses 26 and 27, It was this same Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said, “Bring the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.” They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. It was the same Moses and Aaron. in other words at the same time they are identified as being true children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, truly members of God's people, they are also being identified as being no more than mere men. Of the people so to speak, and this ordinariness is complicated by Moses declaration in 6:30, But Moses said to the LORD, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” This is a repetition of what he had already said to the Lord in verse 12. It is a source of enormous speculation as to exactly what Moses’ problem was. The word used in 4:10 is “heavy” and means insensible, dull, or difficult. Here in Chapter 6 the word is “uncircumcised” in both instances. Many people have suggested that Moses had a physical impediment in his speech. I think that is unlikely. I suspect that he was saying he was unqualified to speak because he had spent so much time away from his people in the palace of Pharaoh and in Midian, but I think he saw this as being not only a physical limitation, but a spiritual one as well. He was divorced from the culture, the life, the religion, even the ordinances of his people, Uncircumcised implies that he spoke with a heavy accent, or in some way that was not pure unaccented Hebrew. Remember his son was not circumcised. He saw himself as unqualified to be a leader. He was deficient. But you see God uses deficient people, people who are unpopular, people who are distrusted and disliked to accomplish his purpose. He does this so that it may be clear that God himself is the real deliverer. Dwight L  Moody said, “Moses spent forty years in Pharaoh’s court thinking he was somebody, forty years in the desert learning that he was nobody, and forty years showing what God can do with a somebody who found out he was a nobody”

II The Deliverance

As the Lord first announces the mighty deliverance he will bring in our text in 6:2-4 He says to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.” By this he does not mean that the patriarchs were altogether ignorant of the name because, clearly in the Genesis accounts of Abraham both God and Abraham use this name. What God means here is that the name signifies that he is the one who will be with them and fulfill his promises to the forefathers. In dealing with the patriarchs God was known primarily as El Shaddai, the Almighty one who would accomplish what He said. But now it is the promises he made to the patriarchs that are going to be fulfilled in the Exodus from Egypt. Therefore God says I am going to show you that I am the LORD, or Jahweh who keeps his word. You will know me in a new way, not simply as El Shaddai, the one who is sufficient, but as Yahweh the one who fulfills his word of promise. Then in 7:1-5 God sends Moses to Pharaoh with his brother Aaron as his prophet, his spokesman, his mouth, Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.  And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it” God announces that He will harden Pharaoh's heart and Pharaoh will not listen, which is all part of the plan to demonstrate that the Lord alone delivers them. Thereby not only Moses and the people but even the Egyptians will know that he is Yahweh the true and living and self existent God. You may remember that in 5:2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” He says he does not know “Yahweh” meaning that he knows many gods but he has not heard of this one and why should he yield for this inconsequential tribal deity when he has all the gods of Egypt on his side. This is exactly why the true God, who is there, wants all the glory. He will prove that he is the only true God and that he is saving the Israelites out of mercy, love, undeserved grace-freely bestowed, and apart from this they will not know Him or His love. A poem by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, entitled "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight," beautifully illustrates this with a story from the time when Oliver Cromwell ruled England. A young soldier named Basil Underwood was found guilty of some offense and sentenced to die at the sounding of the evening curfew. Bessie, the young woman he was soon to have married, passionately interceded for his life to Cromwell himself, but to no avail. Finally, in loving desperation she went to the old, deaf sexton who was to toll the huge bell which would sound Basil's death-knell. As "Old Curfew," the sexton, made his way to the church where he had faithfully rung that bell for many years, Bessie tried to persuade him not to ring the bell that night: “Slowly England's sun was setting O'er the hill-tops far away, Filling all the land with beauty At the close of one sad day, And the last rays kissed the forehead Of a man and maiden fair, He with footsteps slow and weary, She with sunny floating hair; He with bowed head, sad and thoughtful, She with lips all cold and white, Struggling to keep back the murmur, "Curfew must not ring tonight." "Sexton," Bessies's white lips faltered, Pointing to the prison old, With its turrets tall and gloomy, With its walls dark, damp, and cold, "I've a lover in that prison, Doomed this very night to die, At the ringing of the curfew, And no earthly help is nigh;" "Bessie," calmly spoke the sexton, --Every word pierced her young heart Like the piercing of an arrow, like a deadly poisoned dart,-- "Long, long years I've rung the curfew From that gloomy, shadowed tower; Every evening, just at sunset, It has told the twilight hour; I have done my duty ever, Tried to do it just and right, Now I'm old I will not falter, --Curfew, it must ring tonight." Wild her eyes and pale her features, Stern and white her thoughtful brow, As within her secret bosom Bessie made a solemn vow. She had listened while the judges Read without a tear or sigh: "At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die." And her breath came fast and faster, And her eyes grew large and bright; In an undertone she murmured: --"Curfew must not ring tonight." With quick step she bounded forward, Sprung within the old church door, Left the old man treading slowly Paths so oft he'd trod before; Not one moment paused the maiden, But with eye and cheek aglow, Mounted up the gloomy tower, Where the bell swung to and fro As she climbed the dusty ladder On which fell no ray of light, Up and up,--her white lips saying: --"Curfew must not ring tonight." She has reached the topmost ladder; O'er her hangs the great dark bell; Awful is the gloom beneath her, Like the pathway down to hell. Lo, the ponderous tongue is winging, --'Tis the hour of curfew now, And the sight has chilled her bosom, Stopped her breath, and paled her brow. Shall she let it ring? No, never! Flash her eyes with sudden light, As she springs, and grasps it firmly, --"Curfew shall not ring tonight!" Out she swung--far out; the city Seemed a speck of light below, There `twixt heaven and earth suspended As the bell swung to and fro, And the sexton at the bell-rope, Old and deaf, heard not the bell, Sadly thought, "That twilight Curfew Rang young Basil's funeral knell." Still the maiden clung more firmly, And with trembling lips so white, Said to hush her heart's wild throbbing: --"Curfew shall not ring tonight!" It was o'er, the bell ceased swaying, And the maiden stepped once more Firmly on the dark old ladder Where for hundred years before Human foot had not been planted. The brave deed that she had done Should be told long ages after, As the rays of setting sun Crimson all the sky with beauty; Aged sires, with heads of white, Tell the eager, listening children, "Curfew did not ring that night." O'er the distant hills came Cromwell; Bessie sees him, and her brow, Lately white with fear and anguish, Has no anxious traces now. Shows her hands all bruised and torn; And her face so sweet and pleading, Yet with sorrow pale and worn, Touched his heart with sudden pity, Lit his eyes with misty light: "Go! your lover lives," said Cromwell, "Curfew shall not ring tonight." Wide they flung the massive portal; Led the prisoner forth to die, -- All his bright young life before him. `Neath the darkening English sky Bessie comes with flying footsteps, Eyes aglow with love-light sweet; Kneeling on the turf beside him, Lays his pardon at his feet. In his brave, strong arms he clasped her, Kissed the face upturned and white, Whispered, "Darling, you have saved me, --Curfew will not ring tonight!" The Exodus is a similar picture of our deliverance from sin and death in Christ. Like Justice, deaf to mercy's plea, the old sexton did what law demanded. Like Jesus, Who muffled in His hands on the cross, the death-knell of our eternal doom, Bessie did what love designed to save the one she loved. And, like Basil, whose liberty was love-bought, we all, though totally unworthy, may escape the just Curfew of Eternal Death through Jesus' death in our behalf. We may be fearful, doubtful and faltering like Moses, but God accomplishes his purpose through His covenant of love.