<< Exodus 5 : The Charge of Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh >>

PharMos And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in  the wilderness.--Exodus v. 1.

THE scene, the marvelous scene of the divine appearance to Moses, is represented as having taken place in the land of Midian, in the desert near the mount of God. This was a description, when spiritually understood, of that which always takes place in one form or another, when the soul is brought into contact with mighty and redeeming thoughts. But the scene upon which we are now about to enter is equally solemn, though very different.

We have Moses; after his doubts, his hesitations, the objections which he saw, or fancied he saw in his mission have been removed; after the distance between the desert, far off in Midian, and the abode of Pharaoh in Egypt, has been traversed by him; and after the difficulty that he felt in not being a good speaker, was removed by the Divine Providence associating his brother with him in the mission. The same Divine Providence directed Aaron to meet him; and while the one brother was coming up from Midian, the other was traversing the desert from Egypt. They met on the mount of God, and they kissed one another; and then Moses told his brother, from whom he had been parted forty years, the wonderful things which had happened. Aaron was delighted at finding that some way for the redemption of his people was being opened by the Almighty Being, whom they both worshiped. And then they returned together to enter upon their eventful work.

First of all, they went to the elders of the children of Israel to deliver their message, and obtain from them their acquiescence. They all adored tire God of Heaven: and, after this, Moses and Aaron went into the Palace of the Pharaohs. It is their presence in this palace, the objects which they sought to accomplish, and the special truths that come out of the discourse which occurred between them and the king of Egypt, that we wish to make the subjects of our present remarks.

And, in the first place, just think what a solemn and eventful scene it must have been for both brothers. The Palace of the Pharaohs was the very abode of magnificence; even now, the world has seen no grandeur more magnificent, no splendor of architecture surpassing that, which, at the time of this interview, embellished Memphis. Here were these two lowly men, daring to confront the mightiest monarch of the earth at that time, and one whose insolence and whose cruelty had made it no slight task to deliver their fateful demands. But Moses was no coward now. He never more quailed. He was filled with holy courage. The two delivered their simple message, The Lord God of Israel says, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. The scene is full of splendor.

The circumstance of these simple-hearted men, taking their lives in their hands as it were, and confronting the most powerful monarch of the earth at that time, has a grandeur about it that requires a little reflection even to master, but, a grandeur that teaches us this, that, if we have the truth, if we feel we are in harmony with the God of heaven, if our hearts have made acquaintance with the law of righteousness of the King of kings, neither powers nor potentates of the earth should hinder our statement of the truth, or our adherence to its dictates. It is one of the mistakes least sanctioned in the Bible, yet too often made, one which the mere votaries of wealth and dignity are constantly making; that our principles and habits should be determined by numbers, age, rank, or fashion; these imagine we should follow in the wake of power, and obey parliaments, popes, or councils, rather than the dictates of truth to the conscience, rather than the Word of the Almighty. Not so with Moses! Not so with the Prophets! The pomp of the Pharaohs, the splendor of their priesthood, the antiquity of their nation, the magnificence of the monuments amongst which he stood were nothing to Israels leader. He had heard the voice of God. He trod the path of duty.

The request of the leaders was, that the people should go three days journey in the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord their God. The manner in which Moses words it, is interesting; it contains a very beautiful shade of idea, and one which is full of important truth. He said, That we may go and hold a feast unto the Lord our God; and this is the true idea of worship. Real religion is not a yoke to shackle us,--a something to destroy our real comfort or joy; religion is to be a feast to us. The Lord our God has commanded us to say, Let my people go that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.

Oh! how strangely have they mistaken the God of heaven and the laws of religion, who have supposed that piety comes to take away the innocent enjoyments of the world, who imagine that it is irreligious to be happy, and suppose that God is extremely pleased with a gloomy visage and demeanor ever miserable, and mournfully sad; as if the Lord we worship had not placed a grand sun in the center of the solar system to shed light, life, and beauty over the whole world. Why! if those mischievous professors of religion had had the making of the universe, the sun would have been black and scowling; the flowers would have been sad; the birds would not have sung hymns of joy, but screamed out doleful notes and all this beautiful world, instead of being what it is, would have been shrouded over with a dark pall, doleful as the world below. Oh no! it is not so. Religion is not a gloomy thing; it comes to take away every cause of gloom. These things have I spoken unto you, the Lord says, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

All things teach us, if we will but learn the lesson, that the ways of religion are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound, they shall walk: in the light of Thy countenance(Ps. lxxxix. 15). And He is goodness itself, wisdom itself, beauty itself, and happiness itself. The true tone of each member of the human race is, to say in the language of the Psalmist, I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being, my meditation of him shall be sweet I will be glad in the Lord. It is in harmony with this then, that when the people are spoken of by Moses as called by the Lord to go and worship Him, it was to go to have a feast,--it was to go and be made happier than ever they had been,--to go and leave their sorrows, their oppressed condition, and their miseries behind them, and to enter upon a new course of freedom, light, and love. Let us go and make a feast unto the Lord our God.

But what were they doing then? They were under the yoke of Pharaoh; and Pharaoh replied insolently to the message, and said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord neither will I let Israel go.

In considering the spiritual lesson in the divine account before us, as well as in the whole history of the Israelites, we must reject the notion dreamed two hundred years ago, and which men called philosophy,--that the soul is an stem, a monad, a breath, a line, or something without parts, so very fine that nothing finer could be supposed. This idea became a doctrine; a doctrine which entered into false theology as well as into false science (in fact they always go pretty nearly together), and consequently, its believers arrived at the doctrine, that a soul is a something that has no substance and no form--that is to say, the very same definition that a person might give if he were asked to define nothing at all. The Sacred Scriptures portray the soul, under the representation of a kingdom,--a little universe. It is a universe in disorder.

The representation in this narrative of evil opposing the God of heaven, is that of an arrogant, defiant, and resisting sovereign and his oppressive kingdom; and this is the true description of a sinful state. It is not a subtle essence only, it is an organized arrangement of evil in the soul. It has a king--the chief power which reigns there over all the rest is represented by Pharaoh here. There is the love of self in that peculiar form of self-hood--the subtle, central, ruling sin in which the soul indulges. There are an inconceivable number of passions and evils; but that which a man loves chiefly is the king in him.

But under this ruling evil represented here by Pharaoh, there are vast numbers of subordinate sinful propensities--pride, obstinacy, envy, hatred, self-complacency, which form an inner council round this horrid king. Then he has his parliament--all those persuasions which flatter his propensities and lusts; self-conceit, self-derived intelligence, false reasoning, false science; all flatter the ruling sin. There are crowds of emotions, ideas, sentiments, and sensations, which are subjects, passing to and fro; everything obeying sin instead of obeying the law of our Divine Governor. Our Lord says upon this subject, that the kingdom of God is as when a strong man armed, keeps his palace until a stronger than he comes in and takes his goods from him, and overcomes him. That is precisely the picture presented by the Divine Word before us. There is Pharaoh,--a strong man in his own conceit. There is a king insolent against the King of Heaven.

Moses and Aaron represent the law of God. Moses, the law lighted up afresh in the soul, and now teaching what religion requires; and Aaron, the doctrine of religion, taught perhaps in childhood,--the doctrine of religion which explains and enforces the requirements of the law. These two arise in the soul; they command the soul to let all the holy principles of religion come forth. But the master-passion of sin always says like Pharaoh, Who is Jehovah that I should obey Him? Thus David says, The transgression of the wicked hath said in his heart there is no God. Precisely the same thing is said here, Who is Jehovah?

I adore no Deity. I am my own Deity. Who is Jehovah? Put into distinct language, one feels not only revolted at its blasphemy, but astonished at its absurdity: a poor worm, a creature of yesterday, a being whose every pulsation results from a life that he cannot command and cannot create, who depends upon God for every breath; that such a being should say Who is Jehovah?should set himself up as a defier of the eternal Creator and Redeemer of all things, Is most marvelous; and yet it is precisely what every sinful man does. The lust, the passion, the propensity, whatever it is that a person regards as higher than the will of God, is just such a defiant king. I have often said, that, if the self-will, if the unholy sentiment that is at the back of all rebellion (for every crime is some form of selfishness); if this feeling could be taken out of the unregenerate heart, and be shewn to a man, and we could say, now this is the thing that you are allowing to be your king, nay, your god; that you are putting instead of the authority of Him who made heaven and earth, and who keeps you in existence, are would shrink from it with horror. Those who are at all familiar with the history of the dark portions of the earth, know that there are some abominably ugly things produced as the gods whom the people worship; but if the abominable sentiment, the lust, passion, or sin that resists the commands of God in a human heart, and which the sinner is preferring to the government of Him who is Love Itself; if this could be held up and shewn to the man, he would say,--Well, this is the foulest mass of ugliness that ever existed. And yet this is it which is represented here by Pharaoh; and all the inferior arrangements of this kings palace are just representatives of the principles of evil and falsehood, which are in the human mind, and form a hideous kingdom there.

This king held the Israelites as slaves, making bricks for him. It will be interesting to those who wish to see the Word of God in all its force, and who believe that in its historical parts it is literally true, to know, that, amongst the disentombed records of Egyptian ancient grandeur, referring to the time at which these transactions must have occurred; amongst other interesting matters, there are a vast quantity of bricks made of clay mixed with straw, and also a pictorial representation, on a wall, of people with Jewish faces making such bricks,--a picture disentombed after having been buried more than three thousand years; a testimony thus, to the literal exactness of what is recorded in the divine history.

But the things recorded, and the divine account here given, are all subservient to the spiritual lesson.

Spiritually, all evil persons are engaged in making bricks for stone; first with straw, and then without straw. We will just enquire a little into the meaning of this. Stone, in the Sacred Word, and in the nature of things, is the symbol of divine truth, and hence, the Lord Himself is called the Rock of Israel, the Stone of Israel. From the use of stones we learn their correspondences. They are admirable for foundations, and for walls. The foundations for the human soul are the truths of religion. There are no other foundations upon which our hopes, sentiments, feelings, and well-being can truly rest. Hence, the apostle Paul says, No other foundation can any man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is called the Head-Stone of the Corner, the Stone which the builders rejected. Our Lord described the same correspondence, when in the parable with which He finished His glorious sermon on the mount, He said, Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock, the rock there, being a representation of divine truth. The stones got from this rock represent the principles that are derived from divine truth, which are built up into doctrines, which form defenses like walls for the soul. When truths are cemented by a love for them, they are like stones, not only rightly shaped, but well laid together, and then they make a city,--that city of which it is beautifully said in the Psalms, Jerusalem is built like a city that is compact together. No assault then can burst through the walls of the city of God. They are firm against whatever evils or enemies may strive to overthrow them.

But when persons are in love with sin, they frame excuses for its indulgences, and care nothing for truths: brick have they for stone, and slime for mortar: fallacy have they for truth, and lust for love: fancies have they instead of eternal principles: even their virtues are made to lean to vice. Now, Pharaoh commanding these people to make bricks, is representative of the work of such souls. No person falls into sin at once; he must coax himself to wrong. Religion is all very well, but in his particular case it will not do; there is something in his business, or something in his position which will not answer with strict integrity, and he must do as other people do. He is young, and its time enough to be serious; he does not go so far wrong, only a little; there will be time enough to repent, and God is merciful.

The sinner has every day a thousand reasons for delay and self-indulgence. All this is just sin causing him to make bricks. Straw helps him to do it pretty well at first, because straw or chaff in the Scriptures represents the appearances of truth--the shallow outsides of things, and those who form themselves by them.

To a young person sin seems pleasant; a sinful life seems a merry one; unprincipled gain seems the way to prosperity; insolent power seems delightful. Many seem to become powerful and great by ways that are far from being what truth and justice approve. Thus the young man is led to say,--The right thing is to gee rich; get rich if you can with truth, if not, with lies. Give yourself entirely to worldly indulgences; there is not so much danger in it, you can take care of yourself. Thus plenty of bricks are made, and there is abundance of straw; but after a while, his illusions begin to vanish; when he comes into closer contact with vice, he finds that the beings with whom he herds are coarse, brutal, disgusting creatures, with whom it is dreary to live, and dreadful to think of dying. The straw is gone altogether. He cannot now deceive himself. He finds sin a curse. He would fain leave off his brick-making, but his ruling love does not allow him. He must pretend he is all right. He must pretend he is happy. Sin commands him to make bricks, and now, without straw. He must work in the dreary round of vice, but it does not cheat him now. He knows it is wretchedness as well as wickedness. Habit drags him on; he has got into such a condition that he sins and does not delight in it. He is pulled forward by his lust, and he is cursed while he is dragged along, and he loathes himself as he goes.

On one of the most ancient tombs of Egypt, there is a representation which shows, that they understood the principles of religion then, as we understand them (only with greater fullness) now. There is a representation of the God of wisdom judging mankind. One is in front of him with scales to weigh men as they come up. One of the wicked is represented as going away, like an ape driving a pig,--the emblems of their loathsome lusts, and their ape-like folly. Others are seen striking their heads; sin punishes itself. This, then, is what is meant by the graphic declaration of the Word before us. The wicked, after having begun to make bricks with straw, are compelled to make them without straw. Happy is it if they yearn and groan under the power of evil until sin becomes intolerable. The soul has many changes and bitter feelings when it is in the condition represented here.

First of all, it tries to break its fetters, but it fails; then, in the sad wretchedness by which man learns that he cannot redeem himself, he turns round and says,--well, then, why does not religion let me alone? You, Moses and Aaron, have come, and instead of getting better I have become worse. Had not you better go away? The soul is thus tempest-tossed, and turns first to one side for help, and then to the other, and it is in this way that it is drawn to know, that help can only come from the great Redeemer-God Himself. But before deliverance, there is always this kind of distress, discouragement, and despair, which are represented here by the afflicted people turning first to one side, and then to the other. Then comes the voice of the eternal Savior, in the consolatory language of the first verse of the next chapter, which permit me, in closing, to commend to your deep consideration, Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh. You cannot deliver yourselves; it is time, for you are ground down and ruined, almost ready to die. Mans necessity is my opportunity. Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord. Whenever this state of spiritual slavery is ended, it is by the Lord our Savior,--that Divine Person who said, Ye call me Master sad Lord, and ye say well, for so I am,--descending into the sin-stricken spirit, lighting up a new lamp of faith in the intellect, acting with this divine power upon the heart, and enabling the soul to come into such a blessed state of life and light as to know how true are the words, The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.

Author: Jonathan Bayley --- From Egypt to Canaan (1869)

site search by freefind advanced


Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.