A Strong Hand
One challenge of being a contractor is being able to have client’s picture what you are describing to them. You explain the great potential of the project. I was never much of a salesperson so never told them, picture yourself sitting at your new kitchen table. When we started the project called the ‘broken house,’ I told Sarah this is such a great house full of potential! I saw a house that would work great for our family, she saw a house than had been empty for fifteen years, broken windows, holes in the roof, floors missing, and many more broken pieces. I told her, we do not have to move into this house if you do not want to, but there was an aspect that Sarah had faith in what I saw and not what see saw. Today we see a passage that is meant to bring great comfort to the people of God, however, they find no comfort in God’s word because of the situation they are in now. They have a hard time seeing what is being told to them.
Moses had finished his complaint before God by making the statement “You have not delivered your people at all.” Moses explained that God had not done what he had promised, although this is not true, actually the opposite. Everything that has come to pass is exactly what God said would happen. It was not in Moses or the people’s timing. They expected Moses to go to Pharaoh and Pharaoh would just immediately let the people go. However, God had a bigger plan. One that shows his power and might to everyone. This passage is filled with promises that God make to Moses and the people of God, promises that he has made before, I will. God tells Moses that he will see what God will do with Pharaoh. That God will use Pharaoh to show forth his power and might. That in the end Pharoah will send the people out, he will drive them out of his land. Now this is a great difference from Pharaoh had just done in chapter five, Pharaoh used his power and strength to keep them from leaving, but God tells Moses that Pharaoh will get rid of you send you out of this land. We must begin to see and understand the sovereign power God is speaking about hear in these few verses, God explains what he will do to Pharaoh and that Pharaoh then sends out the Israelites out of his land. God is sovereign over all people and creatures, even the most powerful man on earth, at this time.
God tells Moses that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He speaks of his long history with his people. As Moses pointed out these are God’s people (Ex 5:23). God reminds Moses that he revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty. However, these men did not know the name of the LORD. They did not know the name of the LORD. They did not have the covenant name of God. However, they did have the covenant. Although they did not know everything about God they still knew God and his promises. I think this is an important point because underlying Moses’ complaint is that he does not know the whole plan. He has been informed of the important parts as we have mentioned before but he does not know the details. God is reminding Moses that to be a believer is to be a person of faith trusting in the Lord, with all that God has revealed to his people at that time.
The second reminder God tells Moses is that God established the Covenant with the patriarchs. That God is the one who walked through the two halves of the animals (Gen 15). God is the one that cut the covenant. But again, The Lord reminds Moses that the promise was still valid and true, that God had promised them the promise land, but they never owned it (besides a graveyard). They lived in this land as sojourners. Moses expected God to immediately deliver his people. God reminds Moses that his promises take faith, and that God is not slow to fulfill his promises as some count slowness understand slowness (2 Pet 3:9). In all of this God reminds Moses that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were men of faith that God had made a covenant with and although they did not know everything about God nor did they see the promises fulfilled in their life time they still lived by faith.
The second aspect God tells Moses is that he has heard and remembered. God tells Moses that he has heard the groaning of the people of Israel, and he has remembered the covenant he has made with their fathers. We will not belabor this point as we spend some time when we studied Exodus 2:23-25. However, it is important to note that Moses is told that they have been heard and God has not forgotten them, nor his promises. When the people and Moses expect to be saved in a moment, however God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes you do not need the answer straight away but all you would like to hear is that someone has heard you, and God comforts his people reminding them he has heard them and he has not forgotten them.
This is the largest portion of what God says to the people through Moses as he focuses on what he will do for them. Filled with statements of what God is going to do for his people it is a great reminded of the covenant of grace. When we think of all the people of God have done at this point for God, and yet the covenant of grace is not what you can do for God but what God does for his people.
The first aspect is that God tells his people through Moses that he will bring them out, deliver them and redeem them. Although these sound like the Lord is repeating the same thing there is sa progression that is important to notice here. He tells them that he is going to bring them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. This alone is a great and glorious promise, we have mentioned a couple of times the horrific conditions the people of God had undergone for the past centuries. We work jobs of 9-5 or similar hours and we might work for horrific bosses, but nothing compared to working as a slave for Pharaoh, who does not even give them the chance to go on a three-day journey, nor care for their well-being. To be able to have even an ounce of rest. Worked to death, literally. And God promises that he will bring them out from those burdens. The next step is that God will deliver them from slavery, not merely to lighted the burden but to remove the burden completely. Thirdly, God tells the people through Moses that he will redeem his people. Now this is a word lost in cultural translation, mainly that not only they are free from slavery, but God will cover all of their needs. This word is the word used in Leviticus 25:25 of the kinsman redeemer who buys back what was once the brothers which he had lost because of poverty. God promises not only to lighten their load, to free them from slavery but to give them what they had lost.
God will do this with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgement. We understand now what we will see beginning in chapter seven. Mainly that the great signs and wonders are acts of judgment upon Pharaoh and those who have treated his people horrifically. The people of God asked that God would judge Moses for placing the greater burden upon their back (Ex 5:20) but God was going to judge the one who placed the greater burdens upon their backs (Ex 5:5-9, 18). God does judge the wicked, as we saw at the end of last week. They will have their end (Ps 73:16).
The second aspect is that God tells his people through Moses that he is not merely saving them out of slavery, but he is saving them out of slavery so that they will know him. The word know speaks not merely of intellectual knowledge but intimacy (Cf Ex 1:8, 2:25). Pharaoh claims he does not know who the Lord is (Ex 5:2). God’s promise given in the covenant is that they will be his people and he will be their God. Specifically, that they would know that he is the LORD their God. God saves the people of God to have a relationship with the people of God. This is an important principle found in the Bible, we often think of salvation as the only thing in a believer’s life. However, the book of Exodus does not end in chapter 15 after they cross the Red Sea. They are saved for a purpose, to Glorify God. They are saved for a purpose that God would live with them, and they would live with God. They are saved to be a light to the nations. We can understand how Paul then explains this principle to New Testament Christians when he says “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19–20). Paul’s point is that you were saved to glorify the one who saved you.
Finally, God tells his people through Moses that they will have the land which was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God will give it to them, not only the land but they will leave with great possessions. To be a free people would have been a great and glorious thing in the mind of the people, however, God’s promise was not merely that they would be a great nation, but they would have a land in which they will be able to dwell (Cf. Gen 12:7). God had promised them a land which flowed with milk and honey (Ex 3:17).
With all of this God reminds them that he is a God of the covenant. He reminds that I am Yahweh. The God who has promised to fulfill all of what I have said I will do. I am the one whose steadfast love never ceases, who remains faithful for generations. The one who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. God swore by himself because there is nothing greater, he could swear by (Heb 6:13, cf Gen 22:16). God sets his seal as a guarantee upon his promises, and he signs his name upon it.
The sad reality in all of this is that the people of Israel did not listen to God through Moses. What a sharp change from the end of chapter four when they worshiped the Lord (Ex 4:31). Their faith had been tested, and their faith was weak. Later they will tell Moses, “Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Ex 14:12). Their faith had been shaken and will continue to be tested. Some will stand the test of refinement. All they have is God’s word, but they do not want to listen. The Geneva Study Bible puts it succinctly, “So hard a thing it is to show true obedience under the cross.”
These promises are the same we have today, the covenant of grace is the truth that God does all the work. He saves and delivers us, not merely lightening our burden but removing it, not merely removing our burden but saving us from slavery, not merely saving us from slavery but redeeming us from our poverty. God not only saves us but he also does so that we might know him. That he has purchased us with a price, both body and soul and belong not to ourselves but belong to our faithful savior Jesus Christ (HC 1). More than that he has saved us for a relationship with him that we might have the glorious possessions given to us as an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us (1 Pet 1:4). We too only have God’s word as a testimony of God’s promises. We do not get the benefit of seeing the pierced hands of Jesus as Thomas did, but we are called to live by faith and not by sight. Augustine said, “What is faith, unless it is to believe what you do not see?” Israel cannot see any of these promises at the point, but they will. Few will walk into the promised land, but many will see the salvation promised.