but He brought us from there to lead us in and give us the land that He had sworn to our fathers.
I. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO PROVOKE RELIGIOUS INQUIRY. No greater folly can be perpetrated than the attempt to repress inquiry. Inquiry is the king's highway to wisdom, and who dare block it up? God loves to hear honest inquiry. To afford instruction is the delight of the Divine Spirit, but what instruction will be valued if no spirit of inquiry is awake? Some questions which we ask can never be solved; they are beyond the range of the human mind. Some questions God will not answer, because they are vain and useless. But honest questions, with a view to practical obedience, God delights to hear. You can do the young no better service than encourage their minds to inquire after religious facts. "What mean these things?"
II. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO ANSWER FULLY CHILDREN'S QUESTIONS. It is childish folly to attempt to conceal our lowly origin. There is no real disgrace in an obscure parentage. To have been formerly enslaved, or imprisoned, or oppressed, through man's injustice, is an honor, not a stigma of reproach. There is no real shame, except such as proceeds from wrong-doing. It will do us good, it will do our children good, to see the "rock whence we were hewn, the hole of the pit from which we were digged." It will foster humility, gratitude, contentment, trust. It will lead us afresh to adore the Divine goodness, and to count ourselves and our children the servants of this mighty God. Never let true Israelites forget that all they have they owe to God! Unto this state of happy privilege a Divine hand has brought us.
III. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO OPEN UP GOD'S BENEFICENT INTENTION. If any man is too indolent to investigate truth for his own sake, he may be provoked to do it for his children's sake. We should have such a firm conviction that every arrangement and command of God was "for our good always," that we can demonstrate it to our children. Our knowledge of God and of his practical dealings should be so broad and clear that we might see and feel that his care for our good was paramount. This is the first and loftiest end he seeks - not our enjoyment, but our good. Not to demonstrate his power, or his consistency, or his determination to conquer, - these are not his foremost aims, but "our good always." His costliest deed of condescension was the yielding of his Son to death. And where shall we seek the moving principle? In his own future glory merely? No! In his love for the world! Yet his glory, and man's real good, are but the separate threads that make one cord.
IV. THE DUTY OF A PARENT TO PROMOTE HIS CHILDREN'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. "It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments." No more conclusive argument can parents use; no loftier end can they contemplate. To become righteous - this is to be the lofty ideal we set before our children. But commensurate with the grand acquisition must be the care that we promote it by proper and practicable methods. It is impossible for guilty men to regain righteousness by their own efforts or merits. But real righteousness is provided for us by the bounty of God, and is offered to us in Christ as a free gift. "He hath brought in everlasting righteousness, which is for all and upon all that believe." Our ambition for our children must be the highest - not that they be richly dowered, or learned, or placed in earthly rank, but that they may be internally and thoroughly righteous. - D.
He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in.
1. God's answer to man's question: What is the meaning of human life? Everywhere we see beginnings and advances, but where are the issues or ends? Human life in general has its beginnings or outgoings, but who can foresee its incomings? We may regard human life as a promise or as a prophecy, but to many it is also an insoluble problem. Throughout the kingdom of nature we find everything comparatively plain. We find nothing of the nature of chance or caprice. Certain causes are invariably followed by certain definite effects. "From the greatest planets to the tiniest plants, all things are under the operation of fixed laws. Everything comes to pass in its time, and with all the beauty of that "order which is heaven's first law." Things in the natural world are thus ordered in all things and sure. Are they not equally so before God in the moral and spiritual worlds? Verily He knows all our outgoings and incomings, our sittings down and risings up; He is entirely acquainted with us in all our ways. He knows the end from the beginning in every case. There are no accidents with Him, and He is never taken by surprise. God has no new thoughts, and He makes no new discoveries; the darkness and the light are both alike to Him always.
2. This reveals God's purpose. God's purposes may be far beyond the scope of human vision, but they are fixed as the laws of the material universe; they may lie far beyond the hills and mountains of man's higher thoughts and best conceptions, but they are realities and pregnant with good, and they are always being fulfilled in the experience of His own people. God has done something that man might do something else, and that something else man must either do or perish. What has God done?
3. God's work. "He brought us out from thence." It was not Moses that brought them out. Moses himself was only a weak instrument. In wisdom he might be greater than Lycurgus, in skill greater than Alfred, in efficiency more powerful than Cromwell, in patriotism greater than Washington; but the work to be done required Divine wisdom and power. Moses was an efficient agent because God's Spirit was in him to will and to do as God required.
4. Man's work. Man must ever be regarded as left to the freedom of his own will, for he was so created. When God completed the work of creation, He said in effect, "It is finished. Take the earth, Adam, as I have made it; till it, and live on it; make the best of it; have dominion over it." When God completed the work of man's redemption on the Cross, He said, "It is finished. Take it, ye children of men, and work out your own salvation." When God took the Hebrews out of Egypt, He said in effect, "Follow My servant Moses through good and evil report, and I'll take you into the land which I sware unto your fathers." In other words, God promised to save them only if they were willing and obedient. But alas l they were neither willing nor obedient, and hence we read, "they entered not in, because of unbelief." They were willing to go out, because of their bitter bondage, but they were not willing to go on because of the trials and sorrows of the wilderness. They were discouraged because of the way.
5. The Hebrews were a typical people —(1) Of true believers. Those who went out and went on and went into the land were typical of those who with the heart believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are willing to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. They have tested His promises and His character in the alembic of their own Christian experience; they have weighed His claims in the balances of Christian thought and meditation until the fire burned within them, and they felt "unspeakably obliged" to go after Him; and so they "press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Their faith and love and religion being alike practical they work towards purity, progress, and perfection.(2) Of unbelievers. Those of the Hebrews who entered not in because of unbelief, typify those who in every age confound their life with their limbs and their souls with their senses. These sceptics must ever be as "hewers of wood and drawers of water," even in this world. Success, even in this world, implies a high ideal — faith, indomitable energy, and perseverance. With these, men even of average mental powers will succeed, and without them they must abide in the wilderness of circumstances. While holding by the Bible doctrine of Divine sovereignty, we also hold by the fact that God helps those who help themselves. Only hardships can make hardy men. Brave soldiers and good sailors are manufactured by forced marches, wars, and through storms. The best and bravest men become perfect through suffering.
(J. K. Campbell, D. D.)
I. The text has direct teaching for us WHEN THE DIVINE SPIRIT LEADS US OUT OF THE CARNAL LIFE. "He brought us out from thence." The redeeming God finds us in the Egypt of the fleshly, mind and the worldly life; finds us under a harsh, debasing rule; finds us full of bitterness; and by His good Spirit He moves us to go forth to a freer, brighter life. Let us be sure that we permit Him to bring us thoroughly out of the sordid, sensual past. To a large extent it was the ruinous mistake of Israel that they never truly and fully got out of Egypt. They remembered it too frequently, they talked about it too much, they recalled far too often and too vividly its coarse pleasures. Conversion, regarded etymologically or Scripturally, means a total change, an emphatic turning of the back on the far country, the steadfast setting of the face to Jerusalem. See to it that you cast no lingering look behind; drop the entangling friendships, the compromising habits, the unseemly tempers of the old guilty, godless life. But be absolutely sure that if you heartily renounce the carnal life God will bring you into a rich inheritance. The first experiences of the wilderness were very strange to the Israelites. All their habits of life had been suddenly changed: they had lost the leeks without getting the pomegranates; and in those days of transition they became impatient and disobedient. Had they persevered a little all would have come gloriously right. It is often thus with newly-converted men and women; there is an intermediate state in which the old world has been renounced, and in which the new world has not been realised, and this intermediate state is full of peril to the pilgrim soul. Wait, trust, hope, persevere, and the inheritance shall grow upon you. It is grand enough to be worth a little waiting for. We are all familiar with a certain class of emigrants who go forth with rosy expectations to distant lands, and who soon return utterly disappointed. In starting the higher life we have need of patience, patience that will not make us ashamed. Following on to know the Lord, new interests will spring up, new friendships will inspire, new hopes will dawn, new activities absorb and delight, new charms will disclose themselves in work and worship, new and richer meanings will shine through all things.
II. The text is a message for us WHEN THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE SUDDENLY AND RADICALLY CHANGES OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. Life is continually changing, but in some periods its whole aspect is changed by some unexpected event, and we go out as Israel went out of Egypt, as their father went out not knowing whither he went. Some event occurs breaking up the business which seemed so well established, and the merchant driven from his old anchorage is in fear of quicksands amid strange waters. The working man with the least ceremony is discharged from the berth in which he has been able to secure for himself and others daily bread, and in the crowded labour market must find himself a fresh job as best he may. We are familiar with facts like these in this world of vicissitude, but who can express all the uncertainty and solicitude and sorrow they imply? It is a time of peculiar exposure, suffering, and peril to the creatures of the sea who have shed their old shell, and not yet got a new one; and birds of passage often perish in multitudes on their journey from one land to another. So the Christian, turned out of his nest, stripped of his shell, experiences a phase of life full of peril to faith and temper and character. The disruption of our circumstances is frequently followed by serious and even fatal moral and religious consequences. But be sure that if you fear God and follow His leading He has brought you out of the familiar life that He may give you a richer inheritance. "When one door shuts another opens." But you say, "Will the door that opens, open upon a situation as pleasant as the old?" It may open upon one a great deal better. Most men who have found their way to fortune owed their success to the fact that some door or other was once slammed in their face; but even should the opening door open on a more sombre situation, be sure that it opens up to you possibilities of far grander character and experience. I say, then, if God is leading you out of the old set of associations, do not be afraid; He is preparing you for something better, preparing something better for you. When God brought the Pilgrim Fathers out of this country they tasted to the full the bitter sorrows of dispossession; for dreary months they were tossed in the Mayflower, and then found it hard work to get foothold upon the strange coast. But in due time God brought them into the good land, giving them liberty of conscience and all else that makes life worth living. Whatever else may come to pass you shall finally acknowledge that disinheriting you, transporting you, God has brought you into a deeper faith, a stronger character, and set your feet in a large place of moral wealth and spiritual blessing.
III. The text is full of encouragement AS THOUGH THE DIVINE GRACE WE PASS INTO A NEW YEAR. Time is even a greater leader than Moses, conducting us out of the familiar into the unknown. "We attempt to settle ourselves in what we conclude to be a fairly happy condition of things, to adjust our ideas, interests, and hopes to a fixed and permanent environment, but it is all in vain. But let us not repine. He brings us out from thence that He may bring us in to give us the land. Dispossessed so many times, it is that we may be made meet for an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Sir Samuel Baker writes in his diary as he penetrates the great unknown land, "It is curious in African travel to mark the degrees of luxury and misery; how one by one the wine, spirits, bread, sugar, tea, etc., are dropped like the feathers of a moulting bird, and nevertheless we go ahead contented." And despite the fact of their constantly dropping the conveniences of civilised life they might well go ahead contented, for were not their eyes every day looking upon the wonders of a new land of surpassing wealth and splendour? Our earthly losses are richly compensated in the growing wealth of our spirit. Let us take care that by our discontent and unbelief and disobedience we do not permit some painful and perilous hiatus to come between the losses of the material life and the accessions of the grace and glory of the higher life; let us grow into the diviner as we grow out of the coarser.
IV. The text has gracious consolation for us WHEN THE DIVINE WILL ENDS THIS MORTAL LIFE. We do not take kindly to that last dispossession. "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out." We cannot take out as much as Israel took out of Egypt. But let not our faith fail us. He brings us out from this terrestrial life that He may bring us into the celestial. Cicero tells of a prisoner who had always lived in prison; he had never once seen the outer world. And so when he had become an old man, and they began for some reason or other to pull down the walls of his prison, he broke into bitter lamentings because they would destroy the little window through whose bars he had got the only bit of light that had ever gladdened his eyes. He did not understand that the falling of the walls would let him into a broad, bright world, would open to him the wide glories of sun and sky and summer. And so when we see the body sinking ruinous in decay it seems as if we were about to lose everything, forgetting that the senses are but the dim windows of the soul, and that when the body of our humiliation is gone the walls of our prison-house are gone, and a new world of infinite light and beauty and liberty bursts upon us.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. SALVATION IS OF GOD. Israel's redemption, from first to last, was Jehovah's doing. Notice this, will you, that the Lord our God in the matter of our salvation both brings us out and brings us in. From Him we received our first convictions; 'tis He that wakes within the slumbering soul the earliest desire for better things. And just as certainly as that God works in us those earliest aspirations and desires, so certainly does He crown the work at last.
1. Note, first, that He brings us out. How was it with these people in the early days? We have here a short record of their wonderful experience. "We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt." "The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand." They would have tarried still among the brick kilns if the Lord had not interposed on their behalf. He heard their cry. The things that accompany our salvation are not less remarkable than the wonders God wrought in the land of Ham. He has had pity, and shown His mighty power to us-ward. His compassions have not failed in our case, and He has wrought miracles that eclipse altogether the wonders that Zoan saw.
2. Equally true is it that He brings us in. Canaan was a long way from Egypt, but the Lord had determined to do the work thoroughly. It was not enough to cross the Red Sea, nor even to pass the desert; the chosen people must ford the Jordan, and enter the promised land. Oh, believe me, the Lord is prepared to do just this in the realm of spirituals for all His believing people. Whom He justifies them He also sanctifies, and whom He sanctifies them He also glorifies. He is all our salvation and all our desire. At the first He gives us by His Spirit all needed grace that we may come repentingly, look believingly, and go on our way rejoicingly. 'Tis He produces joy, and peace, and hope, and love.
II. AND THIS SALVATION IS THE RESULT OF PLANNING. God's purpose and God's power go together. As I have told you already, there was a scheme at the back of this. They did not happen or come to pass by chance; they were all devised and designed by the loving Father. I do not think that we should marvel particularly at this. We ourselves have plans and purposes. They do not always come off, it is true; too often we fail to see what we have hoped to view, and our best laid plans deceive and disappoint us. Not so with God; all that He arranges for surely comes to pass, for His power and His purpose go hand in hand. Now apply this to our case and to spiritual things.
1. Thank God there was a loving thought in His dear heart. I know not when it first sprang up. God has never been aught but love, and I cannot conceive that there could ever have been a time when He had not set His heart upon the salvation of men whom He would yet create, and who He knew would sin. You do not wonder either, that, having such a thought in His heart toward us, it found expression in words.
2. The gracious promise proclaimed the loving purpose.
3. Then came the mighty deed, the baring of HIS arm, the showing of His mighty power, the deliverance of His people from the heel of the tyrant — a deliverance so complete that they did not leave so much as a hoof behind them. Not they and their children merely, but their cattle and their chattels were all delivered from the house of bondage.
4. Then began the ceaseless care of Jehovah towards His people. He did not lead them over the Red Sea that He might forsake them in the desert, nor did He conduct them across the desert that He might see them drown in the Jordan. No, no! He led them all the way; nothing interfered with His purpose; there were obstacles, but He overcame them. He did not bring them out from Egypt merely as a demonstration of His power; as one of the great powers, for instance, will make a naval demonstration, and secure a certain result, and then it is all past and over. This was only the first step and stage in the glorious process of complete deliverance for Israel, and of the fulfilling of a gracious promise ratified by oath to Abraham. He did not bring them out that He might slay them in the wilderness, as the enemies of Israel insinuated when they heard how He punished them. Certainly He did not bring them out that they might go back again, as they themselves, alas! were prepared to do when they got into difficulties. Grace is glory in the bud.
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