Let me remind you of what we’ve seen so far. In fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to make the number of their descendants like the stars in the sky and like the sand on the seashore, too many to count, the Israelites have become a great nation. They were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous so that the land of Egypt was filled with them. However, the Pharaoh was worried about them and about how numerous they had become. So, in an effort to prevent them from becoming too numerous, he oppressed them with hard labour; and then he gave the order that all their male children should be thrown into the Nile and drowned. That was chapter 1.
In chapter 2 we read how Moses was born and how his mother hid him in a basket to prevent him from being drowned with the rest of the male children. By chance, the Pharaoh’s daughter discovered him and she felt sorry for him and adopted him as her own son. So, he grew up in the palace, surrounded by luxury. But, whenever the Pharaoh discovered how Moses had killed an Egyptian who had been beating an Israelite, Moses had to flee from Egypt to Midian where he met and married Zipporah. Meanwhile, the people of Israel groaned in their slavery and cried out. And their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. And the Lord remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because, you see, not only did God promise Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that their descendants would be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, too many to count, but he also promised to give them the land of Canaan. He not only promised them a people; he also promised them a place of their own. And so, in order to keep his promise, he had to rescue them from their slavery in Egypt and he had to bring them to the Promised Land. That was chapter 2.
In chapter 3, Moses was minding his father-in-law’s flock near Mount Horeb, or Mount Sinai as it was also known. And the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush. And the Lord revealed his names to Moses: one name — ‘I AM WHO I AM’ — conveyed God’s complete independence and how he doesn’t need anyone or anything outside of himself for his existence. He didn’t need the Israelites; he doesn’t need us. He’s completely independent. But the other name — ‘the LORD, the God of your fathers’ — spoke of God’s commitment to his people. So, the God who doesn’t need anyone or anything for anything, has nevertheless bound himself to his people; he doesn’t need them, but he chose them. And because he chose them, he was going to act on their behalf to save them from their slavery. And he was going to save them by sending Moses who would confront the Pharaoh and lead his people out. And he promised that on the day they leave Egypt, the Egyptians’s would send them away with an abundance of silver and gold and clothes for the journey. That was chapter 3.
In chapter 4, God gave Moses signs which he could use to convince the Israelites that God had really sent him: his staff would turn into a snake and then would turn back into a staff again; his hand would become leprous and then become healthy again; water from the Nile would turn into blood. God was saying:
Show them those three signs, and they’ll confirm that I have sent you.
But Moses hesitated. He didn’t think he was the right person for the task. Send someone else! And although the Lord’s anger burned against him, the Lord agreed that Aaron, Moses’s brother, could accompany him and help him. And so, the two brothers met and they returned to Egypt; they explained to the Israelites what the Lord had said; they performed the miraculous signs; and the people believed and bowed down and worshipped the Lord. That was chapter 4.
In chapter 5, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him:
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Let my people go’.
But Pharaoh was unimpressed and he would not let them go. Instead he made their life even more miserable than it was before, because he refused to give them the straw they needed to make their bricks; and even though he wasn’t giving them the straw they need, he still insisted they should still make the same number of bricks as before. And so, not only did they have to make the bricks, but they had to go here, there, and everywhere, to look for straw. Moses had not made their life better; he had made their life worse. And the foremen cursed Moses and Aaron for what they had done. That was chapter 5.
And in the beginning of chapter 6 the Lord re-assured Moses that he — the Lord — would indeed do everything necessary to free his people from their slavery and bring them to the Promised Land. He would do everything necessary, because he had made a promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob to give to them and to their descendants the land of Canaan. But when Moses reported all of this to the Israelites, they would not listen; they would not listen because of their disappointment and their cruel bondage. Once they had been hopeful that Moses would save them; but now they did not believe.
So, that’s what we’ve seen already. And, of course, it all sounds so familiar — doesn’t it? — because in the gospel we see that God saw us in our sin and misery; and he saw how we were living under the tyranny of the Devil; and he saw how we were powerless to save ourselves. But God saw our misery. And just as God was concerned for the Israelites, so he was concerned for us And just as God sent Moses to deliver his people from Pharaoh, so God sent his one and only Son into the world to deliver us from our sin and misery and to set us free from Satan’s tyranny and to lead us to heaven where all of God’s people will enjoy peace and rest for ever. And so, in the end, in the end, all of God’s people — and we’ll be like the stars in the sky and like the sand on the seashore, too many to count — all of God’s people will be in the place he has prepared for us; and we’ll be with him for ever and for ever.
Through the events of the Exodus God was revealing to the world the gospel of Jesus Christ, who was sent into the world to free us from the dominion of the Devil and to bring us at last to our heavenly rest.
Today we’re going to cover this passage from verse 10 of chapter 6 to verse 7 of chapter 7. And I want to break in into two parts. First of all, from verse 10 to verse 27, there’s this genealogy which tells us where Moses and Aaron fit in the family tree. And then, secondly, from verse 28 of chapter 6 to verse 7 of chapter 7, God again re-assures Moses and tells him how he’s going to stretch out his hand against the Egyptians and set the Israelites free.
Let’s look, firstly, at verses 10 to 27 of chapter 6. Now, verse 9 of chapter 6 was about how the Israelites would not listen to Moses because of their disappointment and because of their cruel bondage. Their first visit had not gone well; he refused to listen to them; in fact, it was worse: he decided to make their lives even more miserable than before. And so, the Israelites were broken-hearted and had given up all hope.
The Israelites may have given up hope, but the Lord wasn’t concerned. In verse 10, he once again instructed Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites go. And Moses once again hesitated. We noted before how Moses points us to Christ, since both were sent from God to deliver his people: Moses was sent to deliver the Israelites from their slavery; the Lord Jesus was sent to deliver us from our sin. They have that in common. However, though Moses points to Christ, they’re different in that whereas the Lord Jesus was always willing to do what his Father commanded, whereas the Lord Jesus was always obedient, Moses hesitated again and again and again. And he’s hesitating again here. He said:
If the Israelites won’t listen to me, my own people, my kinsmen, why on earth would Pharaoh listen to me?
And he once again mentions his faltering lips, which doesn’t mean that he had a speech impediment, because this was a way of saying that someone else would be better suited for this task. He’s trying to get out of this.
And right there, right at this point, when you’re wondering what’s going to happen next, the action stops. It’s like a cliff hanger at the end of a TV programme. What’s going to happen next? Well, the action freezes; and you’ll just have to wait a little while longer. And while we wait, and let the tension build, here’s this genealogy to read.
We’re used to these genealogies by now, because they were several of them in Genesis. And we’ve seen how from time to time they’re inserted in the text to remind us who these people are and where they fit in the family tree, the family tree of God’s people. So, here’s another one for us.
These family trees are often truncated. They’re selective. Not every person is named and often there are gaps. And that’s the case here, because it starts off as if Moses — who wrote the book of Exodus — is going to list all the names of all of Jacob’s 12 sons. So, he mentions Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and his sons. And then he mentions Simeon, Jacob’s second son, and his sons. And then he mentions Levi, Jacob’s third son, and his sons. Well, what about Jacob’s fourth and fifth and sixth sons, going all the way up to his twelfth son? But Moses doesn’t mention them. Why not? Because he’s not really interested in them; he’s not interested in giving a complete family tree; he’s really only interested in showing where he (Moses) and Aaron are located in the family tree. So, since they’re descended from Levi, he doesn’t need to mention any of the other sons of Jacob. But having mentioned Levi, he begins to list some of Levi’s descendants. And you can see their names there in verses 17 to 25. Well, we don’t know too much about any of these people. But there are perhaps six names which stand out. Two of them are obvious: Aaron and Moses. But then there’s Korah in verse 21. There’s Nadab and Abihu in verse 23. And then there’s Phinehas in verse 25.
We come across Korah in Numbers 16 where it tells us that he rose up against Moses and led a rebellion among the Israelites. Do you remember? They came to Moses and said to him:
We’re all holy and God is with us all. Why then do you set yourself above the Lord’s assembly.
Moses hadn’t set himself above the Lord’s assembly, because it was the Lord who set Moses above them. The Lord chose Moses and appointed him to be the one who would deliver them from their captivity and lead them to the Promised Land. But Korah and the others were jealous; and they resented Moses’s authority; and they wanted to take his place. Well, do you remember what happened? The Lord caused the ground to split apart under Korah and those who were with him. And we read how they were swallowed up by the earth, and went down alive to the grave and the earth closed over them and they perished. And so the Lord punished Korah and the others for opposing Moses whom the Lord had chosen to deliver and lead his people.
That’s Korah. What about Nadab and Abihu? Well, they were sons of Aaron, and served as priests. But in Leviticus 10 we read how they tried to bring before the Lord an unauthorised offering. In other words, instead of worshipping the Lord in the way he had commanded them, they thought they were wiser than God and could make up their own worship. And what happened to them? Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them so that they died.
What about Phinehas, the other name we’re familiar with? He was completely different. We read about him in Numbers 25. The men of Israel were sleeping with the Moabite women and the Moabite women were encouraging the Israelites to worship their idols. This was such a serious offence, that Moses commanded the judges to put to death any of the Israelites who had turned away from worshipping the Lord. In fact, the Lord himself commanded that they should die. Well, one Israelite brought a Moabite woman into the Israelite camp. And Phinehas was so offended, and so concerned about the honour of the Lord, that he went into this man’s tent and killed them both. And afterwards, the Lord commended Phinehas for his zeal for the honour of the Lord.
When we read of men like Phinehas we want to pray that the Lord will raise up more and more men and women like him who will love the Lord and who will be full of zeal for the glory of his name. And when we read of men like Phinehas, we want to pray that the Lord will make us more and more like him so that even if others turn away from the Lord, we will stand firm and remain faithful and obedient to the Lord.
But when we read of men like Korah and Nadab and Abihu we need to remember how the Devil is able to get in among the Lord’s people and stir up trouble and lead the Lord’s people astray. Think of what happened in the churches in Galatia; the believers had turned away from the gospel message which Paul had preached; and instead of trusting in Christ alone for salvation, the people began to trust in other things. And so, Paul had to write to warn them; and he wrote to them about how even Peter, the Apostle, had fallen into error.
And think of the Corinthian believers who were dishonouring the Lord every time they gathered around the Lord’s Table, because they were not worshipping him in the right way. And so, Paul had to write to warn them about it; and he had to write to them about how to worship the Lord so that everything was done in a fitting and orderly way.
We read this family tree and it reminds us and it warns us of how easily the Lord’s people can be led astray. And we see the same thing in the New Testament. And so, we need to be alert; we need to be watchful; so that we’re not led astray into error, but remain full of zeal for the glory of God’s name. —
Let’s move on to the second section, from verse 28 of chapter 6 to verse 7 of chapter 7. And first, in verses 28 and 29, there’s a little summary of what’s gone before. Imagine when this was first read to the Israelites; they needed these little summarises every so often to remind them of where they’d got in the narrative. And so, Moses reminds them of how God spoke to him and commanded him to speak to Pharaoh. But Moses hesitated; he didn’t think Pharaoh would listen. And so, the Lord explained how it would work: God was going to tell Moses what to say; and Moses would tell Aaron what to say; and Aaron would tell Pharaoh what God had said.
And then the Lord went on to say in verse 3:
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you.
And then he went on to say in verse 4:
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 then there’s verse 5:
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.
So, there are three steps here. First, God will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will not listen. Second, God will then judge the Egyptians and deliver his people. Third, the Egyptians will finally understand who the Lord is.
I’ve already spoken before about how God could harden Pharaoh’s heart, because the Lord is sovereign and he rules over all of his creatures and all of their actions, so that the king’s heart is like a stream of water to the Lord and he can turn it whichever way he wants. And on this occasion, he worked in Pharaoh’s heart to harden it so that Pharaoh refused to let the people go.
But, we’ve already thought about that; and we’ll probably come back to this again in the future. But let’s focus for a little while on the second step here: according to verse 4, God was going to lay his hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment he was going to bring the Israelites out. In other words, he was going to destroy the Egyptians in order to rescue his people. And, if you know how these event unfold, you’ll know precisely what the Lord was talking about. First of all, he sent the Ten Plagues, these mighty acts of judgment. And by these plagues, culminating in the tenth and most terrible one — when every firstborn male in Egypt was killed — the Lord broke their power so that in the end, the Pharaoh let the Israelites go. And then, after the Ten Plagues, and after the Israelites had gone free, the Pharaoh’s army was destroyed in the waters of the Red Sea. And so, the Lord shattered his enemy by these mighty acts of judgment and he redeemed his people.
Once again we need to remind ourselves of how God was using these events to reveal the gospel to the world, because just as God came down from heaven in the days of Moses in order to break the power of Pharaoh, so he has come down from heaven in the person of his Son in order to break the power of Satan over us.
Do you remember what John said in 1 John 3? He said that the reason the Son of God appeared on the earth was to destroy — or to unloose — the works of the Devil. The Son of God came into the world to undo all that the Devil had done to take us captive and to keep us under his power and authority.
Or do you remember the Lord’s mini-parable in Matthew 12 about the strong man who needs to be tied up before his possessions can be taken from him? Well, the Devil is the strong man. And he’s taken possession of the whole world. And that’s the way things would have remained, if it were not for the Son of God who broke into the world in order to bind the Devil and dispossess him of all those who belong to Christ.
Or then there’s that passage in Hebrews 2 where the writer depicts this battle between the Devil on the one hand and the Son of God on the other. And we’re told that the Devil holds the power of death. And he uses it like a great big club to threaten us and to frighten us and to keep us under his power. But then the writer to the Hebrews tells us how the Son of God came into the world and shared our humanity so that he might destroy the Devil.
Just as God came down from heaven in the days of Moses in order to break the power of Pharaoh, so he has come down from heaven in the person of his Son in order to break the power of Satan over us. And now, through the preaching of the gospel, which is being proclaimed throughout the world, men and women and boys and girls are set free from the tyranny of the Devil and they’re brought into Christ’s kingdom of grace. We’re set free from the dominion of darkness and we’re brought into the kingdom of God’s Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. And in his kingdom, he will keep us safe for ever.
And, of course, one day, one day, the Son of God is going to appear again. And when he comes again, what’s he going to do? He’s going to lay his hand on Satan, his already-defeated enemy, and with mighty acts of judgment he’s going to punish him for ever and for ever. And at the same time, the Son of God is going to bring his people — all who have trusted in him — he’s going to bring his people into the new heavens and the new earth where there is perfect peace and rest for ever.
Through the events of the Exodus, when God came down from heaven and broke into this world to destroy the Pharaoh who had enslaved God’s people and who had made their lives miserable, God was revealing how he was going to come down from heaven by his Son and break into this world in order to destroy the Devil so that we and all his believing people might be set free and might one day come into God’s heavenly kingdom.
And so, we ought to bow before the Lord and praise him for his power and his mighty deeds. And we ought to give thanks to him for delivering us from Satan’s tyranny and for bringing us into Christ’s kingdom of grace. And we ought to pray to him that he will continue to work through the reading and preaching of his word to set all his people free, so that they too might be added to the church and one day be brought with us into Christ’s kingdom of glory.