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Gamle testamentet - Engelsk:

1. Mosebok
2. Mosebok
3. Mosebok
4. Mosebok
5. Mosebok
Josvas bok
Dommernes bok
Ruts bok
1. Samuelsbok
2. Samuelsbok
1. Kongebok
2. Kongebok
1. Krønikebok
2. Krønikebok
Esras bok
Nehemjas bok
Esters bok
Jobs bok
Salmenes bok
Salomos ordspråk
Forkynneren
Høysangen
Jesajas bok
Jeremias bok
Klagesangene
Esekiels bok
Daniels bok
Hoseas bok
Joels bok
Amos' bok
Obadjas bok
Jonas bok
Mikas bok
Nahums bok
Habakkuks bok
Sefanjas bok
Haggais bok
Sakarjas bok
Malakis bok
 

Nye Testamentet - Norsk:

Evangeliet etter Matteus
Evangeliet etter Markus
Evangeliet etter Lukas
Evangeliet etter Johannes
Apostlenes gjerninger
Paulus' brev til romerne
Paulus' 1. brev til korinterne
Paulus' 2. brev til korinterne
Paulus' brev til galaterne
Paulus' brev til efeserne
Paulus' brev til filipperne
Paulus' brev til kolosserne
Paulus' 1. brev til tessalonikerne
Paulus' 2. brev til tessalonikerne
Paulus' 1. brev til Timoteus
Paulus' 2. brev til Timoteus
Paulus' brev til Titus
Paulus' brev til Filemon
Hebreerbrevet
Jakobs brev
Peters 1. brev
Peters 2. brev
Johannes' 1. brev
Johannes' 2. brev
Johannes' 3. brev
Judas
Johannes åpenbaring


Smyrna Oslo

Smyrna Oslo ledes av Bibellærer og Evangelist Jan Kåre Christensen

Jan Kåre Christensen

Smyrna Oslo kan nås på

E-post

jk.chris@online.no

Telefon

+47 99 59 80 70
+47 95 12 06 60
+47 22 61 16 10

Gi gave til vårt arbeid

konto nr 0535 06 05845

Bibelkommentarer Andre Mosebok

Bibelkommentarer Andres Mosebok

Veien igjennom bibelen Andre Mosebok ligger her: 0158-0216 2 Mosebok

 

Trykk her for å se bibel oversikt for Andre Mosebok (bilde åpnes i nytt vindu)

 

Andre Mosebok, på gresk: Exodus, utgang, forteller om hvorledes Israels folk ble, etter hard trelldom, ført ut av Egypt til Sinai (2Mos 1-18). Deretter skildres hvordan pakten med Gud ble inngått (2Mos 19-24), og om Guds forordning med tabernaklet og den daglige tjeneste der (2Mos 25-31).

Boken avslutter med å fortelle om da Israel syndet med gullkalven og at tabernaklet ble reist (2Mos 32-40). Hele boken er full av forbilder. Det gamle gudsfolkets vandring fra Egypt til Kana'an, samt riksforfatningen og gudstjenesten, er alt sammen dype forbilder på det som skulle skje senere på et høyere plan med den nye pakts folk.

2Mos 1:1-22
Det løftet Gud hadde gitt patriarkene om at deres ætt skulle bli som jordens støv og himmelens stjerner, ble nå åpenbart i stor stil.

Gud hadde lovet Jakob: Frykt ikke for å dra ned til Egypt, for der vil jeg gjøre deg til et stort folk. Dette ble i sannhet oppfylt.

Folketallet hadde øket slik at det ved utgangen av Egypt var nesten 600 000 mann (2Mos 12:37), og det kan bare forklares ved at Guds allmakt grep inn.

Landet ble fylt av dem, står det. Israels folk har sikkert lært mye av egypterne i disse årene.

Egypterne var på mange måter dyktige og hadde også boklig visdom. Derfor kunne det hebraiske gjeterfolk tilegne seg mye her.

Så vidt vi kan forstå av 1Krøn 7: har deler av folket gjort streiftog til Kana'an under oppholdet i Egypt. Men det synes å ha endt med nederlag, for Herrens tid var ennå ikke kommet.

Imidlertid kom det en ny konge i Egypt. Det betyr at en ny kongeslekt kom til makten, og for ham hadde minnet om Josef ingen betydning. Han så ikke med behag på at Israels folk vokste så fort.

Det er nok en overdrivelse når han sier: Se, israelittenes folk er større og mer tallrike enn vi. Han overdrev for å egge folket mot Israel.

Siden det var et fremmed folk, mente han at de kunne slutte seg til fienden i tilfelle en krig, og kanskje selv dra ut av landet. Når Farao sier dette siste, peker det kanskje på at han kjente Israels håp. Det ville han bekjempe, og kom på den måten til å kjempe mot Herren selv.

Da det var mange dyktige arbeidsfolk i Israel, ville han nødig de skulle dra bort. Han prøvde da å kue dem både åndelig og legemlig ved hardt trellearbeid. Han brukte dem spesielt i de store byggearbeid som egypterne da var kjent for.

Byene, i v. 11: var antagelig festninger, da de lå ved grensa mot øst. De kalles "opplagssteder", og her var trolig forsyningen til hæren lagret. Israelittene måtte lage teglstein og trolig arbeide på vannkanalene ute på markene.

Gamle historieskrivere forteller om egypternes "øsehjul" til å vanne markene med, og de ble tråkket med føttene. Vi har gamle gravmalerier i Egypt som forestiller en hel del arbeidsfolk som ligner hebreere.

De arbeidet med å lage stein og bygge hus. På bildet ser vi to egyptiske slavedrivere med stokk i hånden. Hele dette trellearbeidet i Egypt minner om det slaveri vantro mennesker er i under Djevelens åk.

Dog nådde ikke Farao sitt mål ved det. Folket holdt stand, til egypternes forferdelse. De ble sterke og vokste ennå mer. Egypterne hadde en anelse om at den Allmektiges hånd var over folket.

De møtte en høyere makt, men Farao brydde seg ikke om det. Kunne han ikke ødelegge folket ved å legge på dem slit og møye, var han ikke redd for å gå en annen og ondere vei. Han tilkalte de to jordmødrene som hjalp hebraiske kvinner, og befalte dem å drepe guttebarna.

Det uttrykket som er brukt i v. 16 "fødestolen" er ikke lett å forklare. Det hebraiske ordet finnes bare en gang til i GT, nemlig i Jer 18:3. Der er det brukt om pottemakerens dreieskive.

Det betyr trolig det leie kvinnene var på under fødselen.

Men jordmødrene fryktet Gud og var lydig mot ham. Derfor lot de guttene leve.

Da Farao oppdaget det og gikk i rette med dem, svarte de at de hebraiske kvinnene som regel fødte før jordmødrene kom til, for de var kraftigere enn de egyptiske kvinnene.

Det var jo sant, selv om det også var noe menneskefrykt i dette svaret. For de nevnte ikke hovedgrunnen, at de ikke ville drepe guttene.

Nå er det også slik at til en rett visdom hører også dette: man trenger ikke si alt som er sant, selv om det man sier alltid må være sant.

Likevel må en si at jordmødrenes svar ligger nær en nødløgn. Men selv om svaret visér at de hadde en skrøpelig tro, ser vi tydelig at Herren ikke forkaster den. Jordmødrene våget i gjerning sitt eget liv for å gjøre det som rett var. Derfor velsignet Gud dem på forskjellige måter, også i det timelige. Men folket vokste fremdeles, tross alle trengsler.

I djevelsk forbitrelse befalte nå Farao offentlig for hele folket at alle guttebarn som ble født av hebreerne, skulle kastes i Nilen.

Dette ville han vel gjøre en tid for å knekke folkets motstandskraft. Politisk klokskap kan ikke forklare en så grusom handling mot et fredelig folk. Det var Djevelen som stod bak. Det var også ham som, på Herodes' tid, gav rådet å myrde barna i Betlehem.

Befalingen kunne vel neppe gjennomføres fullstendig, men mange stakkars små gutter er sikkert druknet. Guds dom kom over egypterne på grunn av alle disse barna som druknet, ved at de selv druknet i Rødehavet.

Gå til 2Mos 2:1-25
2Mos 2:1-25
På denne tida giftet en mann av Levi stamme, Amram, seg med sin faster, Jokebed (2Mos 6:20). Hun fødte flere barn (Mirjam og Aron), og til slutt kom en forunderlig, vakker gutt.

Det var på den tid Faraos fryktelige befaling var gått ut. Men barnet må ha vært ekstra vakkert, og foreldrene har vel ant at Gud ville spare det. Nok om det, i tro til Gud og hans bevarelse (Heb 11:23) våget foreldrene å skjule barnet i tre måneder. Da kunne de ikke lenger gjemme ham, og la ham i en liten kiste av papyrusrør. Det hebraiske navnet på denne lille kista er "Teba". Det brukes ellers bare om paktens ark. Og kista ble også en liten frelsesark for gutten.

Så ledet Guds underfulle hånd det slik at Faraos datter, som etter sagnet het Thermuthis og skal ha vært gift, men barnløs, kom ned til elva for å bade. Hun var sammen med sine piker og Gud rørte ved hennes hjerte slik at hun ville ta seg av barnet.

Mirjam, søster til Moses, hadde sett hvorledes det gikk broren og fikk den gode tanke å tilby seg å skaffe en amme. Så underlig leder Herren alt! Moren fikk slik gutten igjen uten at det medførte fare.

Ved denne ledelsen ble ikke bare Mose liv reddet. Han fikk også en høy utdannelse ved hoffet. Slik ble han skikket til den ene del av sin store framtidsgjerning.

Den høyeste visdom i verdslig henseende som jorden den gang hadde, fantes sikkert hos egypterne. At han fikk lov å være hjemme i sin første barndom, gjorde at han også ble fast knyttet til sitt folk og sine fedres Gud.

Hans troende mor har sikkert talt til ham om dette. Vi kan være visse på at hun av all makt har bestrebet seg på å festne den sanne og levende tro i barnets hjerte, så langt det var mulig.

Han har sikkert også fått besøke moren, som sin amme, senere. Slik har han stadig hatt forbindelse med sitt folk. Ja, alt må tjene til å føre Guds vise råd til det han vil.

Navnet Moses kommer av det egyptiske "Mo", som betyr vann, og ordet "udsche" som betyr frelst, reddet. Navnet betyr altså: den som er reddet opp av vannet.

Israelittene uttalte navnet derimot som "Moscheh" (Moses). Ved denne forandring kom ordet til å bety: den som drar opp av vannet.

Og det skulle virkelig gå i oppfyllelse. For Moses skulle redde sitt folk opp fra trengselens dyp. Da Moses var blitt 40 år gammel, ble lengselen i ham for sterk. Han kunne ikke lenger se på at han selv levde i herlighet, mens hans landsmenn og trosfeller ble ille plaget.

Valget stod for ham mellom den timelige nytelse ved hoffet under avgudsdyrkelsens skygger, og å lide ondt med Guds folk under løftets lyse morgenrøde. Han valgte det siste, som det står i Heb 11:24-26: "Ved tro nektet Moses, da han var blitt stor, å kalles sønn av Faraos datter. Han valgte heller å lide ondt sammen med Guds folk enn å ha en kortvarig nytelse av synden. Han aktet Kristi vanære for en større rikdom enn skattene i Egypt, for han så fram til lønnen."

Moses' valg peker fram mot ham som er troens opphavsmann og fullender, Jesus. "For å oppnå den glede som ventet ham, led han tålmodig korset, uten å akte vanæren" (Heb 12:2).

Slik valgte Moses, og slik valgte din Frelser. Hva velger du? Sier du med salmisten: "Jeg vil heller stå ved dørterskelen i min Guds hus enn bo i ugudelighets telt" (Sal 84:11).

Moses var 40 år gammel da han forlot Faraos borg. Han var den gang, som det står skrevet i Apg 7:22: opplært i all egypternes visdom, og han var mektig i ord og gjerning.

Men han var ennå ikke lutret av Herren. Det var ennå mye selvtillit til stede som måtte knekkes. Det viste seg da han kom til sitt folk, at hans hjerte glødet av nidkjærhet for fedrenes tro og for folkets sak. Men ikke alt var den rene og hellige ild. Da han så hvorledes en egypter mishandlet en hebreer, fikk den kjødelige nidkjærhet overhånd hos ham, og han drepte egypteren. Han glemte at hevnen hører Herren til.

Hebreerne var nok satt utenfor lov og rett ved Faraos vilkårlighet. Men Moses foregrep sitt kall og forsyndet seg mot Herren. Han mente "at hans brødre skulle forstå at Gud ville gi dem frelse ved hans hånd, men de forstod det ikke" (Apg 7:2 5). Slik går det når man foregriper Herrens time. Da merkes det på alle ting at man støter mot noe. Israels hjerte var ennå ikke formet til å ta imot ham.

Både Moses og folket skulle først gjennomgå en 40-årig skole. Og nettopp gjennom dette fallet ble Moses ledet inn i denne skolen, som skulle lutre ham til hans store gjerning.

Det er nok en smertelig måte å bli lutret på, og likevel må Herre ikke så sjelden bruke den. Han må la oss merke vår avmakt, og det kan han bare ved å ta sin hånd fra oss et øyeblikk. Da kan vi ligge i alle mulig fall.

Derfor skal Guds barn ikke si: Slikt kunne jeg ikke falle i, når man taler om andres fall i synd. Jo, hvis Herren slapp deg bare et øyeblikk, kunne du falle ennå dypere. La oss heller i ydmykhet be: Herre, bevar meg og pass på meg, led meg ikke inn i fristelse.

Da Moses oppdaget at saken var kjent, flyktet han bort fra Egypt. Hvis han hadde fornektet sine brødre, hebreerne, hadde han vel fått nåde hos Farao.

Men det ville han ikke, og derfor fryktet han for å bli i landet.

Det står i Heb 11:27: Ved tro forlot han Egypt uten å frykte for kongens vrede. For han holdt ut som om han så den usynlige.

På den måten fryktet han ikke for kongens vrede at han tvilte på Guds makt til å beskytte ham. Han visste at Herren kunne bevare ham alle steder, også i Egypt, om det var Herrens vilje. Men han følte at Herrens skjul for ham foreløpig ikke var i Egypt. Han skulle nå bort fra Egypt og søke ut i ørkenen. Derfor flyktet han.

Frykten for å bli i Egypt stammet fra bevisstheten om at Herren ikke ville beskytte ham der, men ville ha ham bort for en tid.

Farao forstod bedre enn Israels folk de tanker Moses hadde. Han ante at her kanskje kunne bli en fører for folket. Og da Moses ikke bøyde seg for ham, søkte han å slå ham i hjel.

Moses var nå i sannhet kommet i ydmykelsens skole. Han ble ikke forstått av sine brødre, og i bevisstheten om å ha falt i en kjødelig nidkjærhet, måtte han flykte ut i ørkenen.

Han drog ut til den halvøya som Sinai ligger i. Der bodde ei grein av Midians stamme. Midians etterkommere var ikke ennå ganske blottet for tro på Abrahams Gud. De hadde en prest ved navn Reul, som kjente til den levende Gud. Moses hjalp en gang prestens døtre, og ble da knyttet til hans hus og ble der i mange år. Moses fikk også hans datter, Sippora, til hustru.

Det har vært en veldig forskjell for Moses, i det ytre, med en tung hyrdetjeneste i stedet for et bekvemt liv ved hoffet. Hans hustru var visst heller ingen hjelp for ham. Hun ser ut til å ha vært en lidenskapelig kvinne (se 2Mos 4:24) som slett ikke har forstått det som rørte seg i Moses. Han gav sønnen deres navnet Gersom, som betyr utlending, fremmed.

Det må nok ha vært en lengsel i Moses' sjel, det samme sukk som fylte gamle Jakob (1Mos 49:18): "Etter din frelse bier jeg, Herre."

40 lange år gikk, og de har vært tunge for Moses, men de var nødvendige for hans oppdragelse.

I Egypt var imidlertid den gamle Farao død. Israels folk hadde visstnok ventet lettere tider med en ny konge. Det ble ikke slik, og da ble de fylt av angst. Men nøden lærte dem å rope til Herren, og Gud forbarmet seg over dem etter sin store barmhjertighet. Gud var da også trofast mot sin pakt med Abraham, Isak og Jakob. "Gud kjentes ved dem," står det. De var hans folk, hvor dårlig og ringe det så ut med dem.

Det gikk etter ordet: "Kall på meg på nødens dag, så vil jeg utfri deg, og du skal prise meg" (Sal 50:15).

Gå til 2Mos 3:1-15

2Mos 3:1-15
Førti år var gått, og Moses var fremdeles gjeter hos sin svigerfar.

Når svigerfaren kalles Jetro her, er det egentlig bare en tittel som betyr den strålende, den fornemme. Det har sikkert vært et liv som mange ganger har vært tungt for en mann som Moses.

Han hadde fått en høy utdannelse og oppdragelse ved Faraos hoff. Hans sjel var også fylt av høye åndelige lengsler. Men nå var skoletiden snart slutt.

Så hendte det at Moses kom med dyrene til fjellet Horeb. Horeb er navn på flere fjellkjeder i den sørlige del av den arabiske halvøy.

Moses drev dyrene inn i en av de grasrike dalene mellom fjellene. Her så han en dag et underlig syn. En tornebusk brann med en underlig, klar ild uten å brenne opp. Moses ble ikke forundret over at busken brann.

Det kunne nok skje ved at et lyn slo ned eller på annen måte. Men han undret seg over at den ikke brann opp. Han gikk nærmere for å undersøke saken, og da hørte han en røst som kalte på ham. Det var Herrens engel, som var lik Gud selv. I v. 4 kalles han Herren og Gud.

Med andre ord var det Guds enbårne sønn, Guds åpenbaring, som han skulle bli senere i menneskeskikkelse. Moses forstod at det var Herren og sa: Ja, her er jeg.

Når Herren åpenbarte seg her, var det fordi han senere ville inngå en pakt med folket nettopp her. For Sinai lå i Horebfjellene.

Derfor er Horeb allerede i første vers kalt "Guds berg". At Herren åpenbarte seg i en brennende tornebusk, har en dyp betydning.

Tornebusken, som er liten og ringe blant trærne, var et bilde på Israels folk i sin daværende ringhet og foraktede tilstand. Ilden var bilde på de rensende trengsler som gikk over folket. Men det betyr også at Herren hadde den fortærende domsmakt over fienden.

Slik blir han også et vern for sitt folk, som skrevet står (Sak 2:9): "Jeg vil være en ildmur rundt omkring det" (Jerusalem).

Men tornebusken brant ikke opp. Og det betyr at Herren nok tukter og renser sitt folk, men han vil ikke la det gå under i Egypt, "jernovnen" (5Mos 4:20). "Herrens miskunnhet er det at det ikke er forbi med oss" (Klag 3:22). Herren refser nok sitt folk, men han lar det ikke gå under.

Da Moses kom nærmere, lød det til ham: "Dra dine sko av føttene! For det sted du står på, er hellig grunn". Dette ordet fra Herren sier oss det samme som i den nye pakt, der det står: "Uten helliggjørelse skal ingen se Herren", og "intet urent skal komme inn i staden".

I østerland ble sandalene brukt for å beskytte føttene mot urenhet, og ingen gikk inn i et tempel med sandaler på. Herren ville vise Moses at han var ved en helligdom, for Guds hellig nærvær gjorde stedet hellig.

En synder kan bare nærme seg den hellige Gud i dyp ærefrykt. Derfor lyder det også i Fadervår: "Helliget vorde ditt navn." Må vi også i åndelig forstand, dra skoene av hver gang vi hører Guds ord, går inn i bønnens lønnkammer eller til Herrens nattverd.

Moses skjulte i hellig ærefrykt ansiktet overfor Guds hellige åpenbarelse. Vi leser hos profeten Jesaja (Jes 6:2) at også de hellige englemakter, serafene, skjulte sitt ansikt for Guds hellighets glans da de ropte til hverandre: "Hellig, hellig, hellig er Herren Sebaot."

"Jeg er din fars Gud, Abrahams Gud, Isaks Gud og Jakobs Gud." Slik lød Herrens ord. Det var et stort og veldig øyeblikk for Moses da fedrenes Gud, som han hadde hørt om fra barndommen, nå virkelig talte til ham.

Ordet kom til han, en fattig hyrde, på samme måte som til Abraham, Isak og Jakob. Og Herren sa ikke bare at han "så visst" hadde sett folkets nød og hørt deres klagerop. Han sa også dette vennlige ordet: "Jeg vet hva de lider."

I dette merker vi røsten til ham som kalles en barmhjertig yppersteprest i den nye pakt, en som har medlidenhet med våre skrøpeligheter (Heb 4:15). Han vet nøyaktig hvor mye smerte som hviler på hans folk, så vel som på det enkelte Guds barn.

Det var godt for Moses, som hadde gått med en inderlig lengsel etter å hjelpe sitt stakkars folk, å høre at tiden var kommet. Herren ville redde folket av Egyptens hånd og føre det til løftets land!

Herren kaller landet "et godt og vidstrakt land". Kana'an var ikke så stort, men der var plass for folket til å leve som et fritt folk, i motsetning til ufriheten i Egypt. Herren sier også om landet: det "flyter med melk og honning".

Det er et stående uttrykk i Skriften for landets fruktbarhet. Der var gode grassletter for dyrene og mye blomster, slik at ville bier kunne samle honning. Nå hviler Guds tunge forbannelse over det landet som før var så fruktbart. Skogene er ødelagt mange steder og brønnene tørket ut. (*Da dette ble skrevet ved århundreskiftet var det sant. I dag vet vi at landet blir dyrket opp igjen. (Overs. anm.))

"Gå avsted! Jeg sender deg til Farao." Slik lød ordet. Moses er den første Herrens tjener som får befaling om å bære budskapet til andre.

Dermed er grunnvollen lagt for det profetiske embetet.

Og Moses svarte: "Hvem er jeg, at jeg skulle gå til Farao, og at jeg skulle føre Israels barn ut av Egypt?" Hvem er jeg? Det er det ydmyke ord fra Moses.

Det var et annet sinn enn da han egenmektig slo egypteren i hjel. I 80 år hadde Gud arbeidet på å gjøre Moses skikket til den store gjerningen han ville betro ham. De første 40 år hadde Gud brukt til å utdanne ham i den jordiske visdom og dyktighet. Det må ikke ringeaktes.

Den var nødvendig for den gjerning han skulle gjøre. De andre 40 år hadde Gud behøvd for å gjøre Moses liten og ydmyk nok til å være hans redskap.

Han måtte tømme karet for all falsk tillit til egen kraft, slik at det kunne fylles med Guds kraft. "Når du ydmyker meg, gjør du meg stor."

Det kommer vi tilbake til igjen og igjen. Hvem er jeg? I dette ordet er selvtilliten knust. Den rette ydmykhet er å vite at en ingen ting er.

Men en tør likevel si med beven til Herren: Når du gjør meg sterk, formår jeg alt, som Paulus vitner: Jeg formår alt i ham som gjør meg sterk (Fil 4:13). - Sannelig, jeg vil være med deg.

Det var Herrens svar. Herren ville være hans kraft, og Herren lovet ham et tegn for å styrke ham i hans svake tro: Når folket ble ført ut av Egypt, skulle de tjene Gud, nettopp på dette fjellet der Moses stod nå.

I hans hjerte begynte tilliten å vokse. Men folket - ville de tro ham når han kom med dette budskapet? Dette kom til å tynge Moses, og han talte barnslig om det til Herren og bad ham om å få vite hans navn, som kunne gi folket lys over hvem han var. Moses forstod klart at Herrens navn ikke var tomme talemåter.

Han ville vise at han var det som navnet sa. Og Herren gav Moses det han bad om. Han gav ham dette guddommelige, dype svaret: Jeg er den jeg er.

Og han sa: Så skal du si til Israels barn: JEG ER har sendt meg.

Også før hadde Herren brukt et lignende navn om seg selv:

nemlig navnet Jahveh, som til Abraham (1Mos 15:7). Men her kaster Herren lys over den dype betydningen av navnet.

Navnet Jahveh betyr nettopp "jeg er" og betegner Gud som har sitt vesen i seg selv, uavhengig av alt annet. Alt annet er bare til ved ham.

Slik betegnes Gud også som den urokkelige, uforanderlige, den trofaste som holder sine løfter evig. Moses skulle bringe bud til folket fra Jahveh, Abrahams, Isaks og Jakobs Gud, den trofaste løftets Gud.

Og Herren legger til: "Dette er mitt navn til evig tid, så skal de kalle meg fra slekt til slekt." I dette ligger en herlig trøst for alle slekter, også for oss som nå er Guds barn på jord. Dette "jeg er", trofasthetens navn, er Guds evige navn. Selv om fjellene viker og haugene rokkes, er Herren den samme. Han er den han er. "Han er trofast som kalte dere, han skal og gjøre det" (1Tess 5:24).

Gå til 2Mos 3:16-22

2Mos 3:16-22
Moses var nå begynt å bli villig i sitt hjerte til å følge Herrens kall.

Derfor viser Gud ham nå også måten han skulle gå fram på. Ja, Herren vil ikke bare forklare saken for sine venner. Han vil også vise oss måten den skal føres fram på.

Vi behøver også hans lys med hensyn til måten, for at alt kan skje rett. Moses skulle først samle de eldste i Israel og forkynne dem det glade budskap: nå hadde fedrenes Gud åpenbart seg, nå var bønnhørelsens tid kommet.

Og Gud ville gjøre det slik at de eldste skulle høre hans røst. For 40 år siden hadde de ikke villet høre, men nettopp nå ropte de i sin nød til Herren om hjelp. Dette var med hensyn til folket.

Gud ville berede vei for Moses i folkets hjerte slik at de ville ta imot ham. Moses og de eldste skulle så gå til egyptens konge og si at Jahveh, hebreernes Gud, hadde møtt dem.

Farao skulle forstå at det var hebreernes Gud han hadde med å gjøre.

Deretter skulle de be Farao om tillatelse til å gå tre dagsreiser ut i ørkenen for å ofre til Herren, sin Gud.

Dette beskjedne ønske var ikke som noen hadde spottet og sagt, et forsøk på å føre Farao bak lyset og narre ham. Nei, det var den dypeste visdom. Herren, som kjente Faraos gjenstridige sinn, viser gjennom dette nettopp nåde mot Farao. Det skulle gjøre det lettere for kongen å bøye seg for lydigheten.

Hadde han innvilget det, ville sikkert Gud vist ham det neste og større trinn, å la folket reise og innviet ham i sitt råd. Slik gjør Herren ennå så ofte. Han legger først på oss små offer og lettere selvfornektelse. Når hjertet er kommet over det første skritt, fører han oss dypere inn på selvfornektelsens vei.

Men nettopp ved at Farao viste seg trassig ved et lite krav, mistet han enhver unnskyldning. Hans gjenstridighet kom nå så mye klarere fram enn om han straks var blitt stilt overfor det hele og fulle krav.

Fra Guds side, og ved ham også fra folkets side, skulle Farao møte det rette sinn, selv om det kunne ventes at han likevel ville vise seg som en brølende løve.

Herren vil at Guds barn skal møte også Guds rikes fiende med det rette hensyn. Det kan nok se håpløst ut, men hver munn skal lukkes og hele verden bli skyldig for Gud. Også det at Israel skulle be Farao om tillatelse til å være borte i 3 dager, var et hensyn de tok til den ugudelige kongen.

Og det til tross for at folket slett ikke var skyldig til å tjene Farao som hans slaver, da de var innbudt av en tidligere Farao.

Men Herren visste at Farao ville trasse ham og forherde seg, og Herren gjorde det kjent for Moses. Moses fikk også vite at selv om Farao ville motstå Herrens sterke hånd, skulle han vite å tvinge ham med sin makt.

Herren tilføyde at folket ikke måtte dra ut tomhendt. Israel skulle be om sølv- og gullkar og klær av egypterne, og de skulle frivillig og godvillig gi dem alt de bad om.

Vantroen har misforstått det ved å si at Israel for fram med list og svik og tok det fra egypterne. Det er tale om gaver som Herren drev egypterne til å gi de fattige israelitter, som hadde trellet for dem i lang tid.

Han som bøyer hjerter som vannbekker, ville gi folket nåde hos egypterne, slik at de forsynte de reisende med frivillige gaver. Slik er ennå skikken i østerland.

Mange år tidligere hadde Herren sagt til Abraham at det skulle gå slik (1Mos 15:14).

Ja, det er ikke siste gang at den verden som undertrykker Guds folk og vil kaste seg opp til Herre over det, har måttet tjene det samme folk med sin timelige eiendom. Men Egypts gull- og sølvkar skulle jo også brukes i Herrens tjeneste når tabernaklet skulle reises.

Slik skulle også Guds barn hellige det som blir oss til del av verdens gods. Vi skulle legge alt sammen ned for Herrens føtter og be ham vise oss hvorledes vi skulle forvalte det. Slik kan det bli til gavn både for oss selv og til ære for Ham. Slik kan vi være med å bygge hans helligdom med det han har betrodd oss.

 

Gå til 2Mos 4:1-17
2Mos 4:1-17
Selv om Moses var villig i sitt hjerte til å være Herrens redskap, våkner igjen angsten i ham.

Peter gikk frimodig på vannet på Herrens ord, men ble engstelig da han så på bølgene i stedet for på Herren. Slik malte nå Djevelen hindringene for Moses med tanke på den veldige oppgaven, og Moses ble motløs.

Herren forbarmet seg over hans svake tro og gav ham makt til å gjøre forskjellige tegn, for dermed å bekrefte sitt ord overfor Farao og folket.

Det første tegnet bestod i at Moses' stav ble til en slange når han kastet den på jorden. Og Moses flyktet forskrekket fra den. Men da han på Herrens ord grep han i halen, ble den igjen til en stav.

Dette tegnet har en dyp betydning. Hyrdestaven betyr hans gjerning som Jetros gjeter. Når denne staven ble forvandlet til en slange, peker det på hans nye kall.

I begynnelsen flyktet han fra det fordi det så farlig ut. Men at slangen ble til en stav igjen når Moses tok i den, er bilde på hvorledes Moses fikk en ny hyrdegjerning for Israels folk. Også den var stor og tilsynelatende farlig, men han begynte på Herrens ord.

Gud satte ham i sannhet til å være hyrde og vokter for Israel. Det andre tegnet var at hånden ble spedalsk når han stakk den inn på brystet. Men den ble frisk igjen når han gjorde det andre gangen. Det peker på Israels elendige tilstand, som så redningsløst ut som den hvite spedalskhet. Ved den råtnet kjøttet og det skinte med en hvit glans. At Moses skulle stikke hånden inn på brystet, taler om hvorledes folket skulle ligge ham på hjerte.

At hånden igjen ble frisk og renset for spedalskheten, peker på hvorledes Herren vil rense og frelse folket fra dets elendighet.

Mens det første tegnet hadde en åndelig betydning for Moses' eget kall, og det andre peket på Israels folks tilstand, peker det tredje på den makt Gud vil gi Moses over Egypts avguder.

Det tredje tegnet bestod nemlig i at Moses skulle øse av vannet i Nilen på marken, og vannet skulle bli til blod. Nilen var som en guddom som egypterne tilbad.

Når Moses fikk makt over vannet og kunne ta velsignelsen fra elva, var det bevis på hans makt over deres guder.

Moses er den første vi hører om i den Hellige Skrift, som får en gave til å gjøre under. Men disse store tingene var ikke nok til å ta angsten bort fra Moses. Han begynner igjen å unnskylde seg.

Denne gangen var unnskyldningen at han ikke kunne tale. Han hadde alltid vært slik, og det var ikke blitt annerledes etter at han begynte å tale med Herren. I Apg 7:22 står at Moses "var mektig i ord". Det må bety at talens innhold var dyp og ikke selve uttalen. Herren tilbakeviser også denne unnskyldningen ved å vise til sin makt over de ytre sansene.

Herren kan gi eller ta i bruk de ytre sansene. Vi har fått alt av nåde. Selv er vi bare skrøpelige leirkar. "Gå nå du" Jeg vil være med din munn og lære deg hva du skal tale." Slik lød Herrens faste løfte til den redde Moses.

Men igjen kommer en unnskyldning fra et forsakt hjerte: "Å Herre, send bud med hvem du ellers vil." Dette viser sikkert hans ydmykhet.

Det viser seg igjen og igjen at de mest ydmyke Guds barn ikke har så lett for å ta fatt på Guds rikes gjerning og oppgave som de mindre ydmyke.

For ydmykheten kjenner sin egen avmakt. Men det er også noe som heter falsk ydmykhet. Når det står klart at Herren vil det, og når Herren gjennom sin Ånd og sitt ord har gitt oss løfte om kraft midt i skrøpeligheten, da blir unnskyldningen tvil og vantro. Og det blir synd og falsk ydmykhet. Da er det ofte en godt skjult hovmodighet som ligger skjult bak vegringen.

Man er ikke så mye redd for at Herrens sak skal bli til skamme som at man selv skal bli det. Nei, da er den rette ydmykhet å si med profeten: Her er jeg, send meg! (Jes 6:8). Derfor står det også her at Herrens vrede ble opptent mot Moses, fordi han ikke var villig og hadde for liten tro på Herrens kraft. Men også her viser det seg at Herren er en barmhjertig yppersteprest, som ikke knekker det brudte rør og ikke slukker den rykende veik.

Herren tok hensyn til at Moses var skrøpelig. Han fritok ham fra å føre ordet og valgte broren, Aron, til å være hans hjelper i dette. Aron skulle føre ordet, men Moses skulle på Guds vegne legge ordet i hans munn. Det er betydningen av ordet: "Han skal være din munn, og du skal være som Gud for ham" (v. 16]).

Når Herren uttrykkelig kaller Mon levitt, betyr vel det at ordet levitt egentlig betyr en som slutter seg til, en hengiven. Med dette navnet viser Herren at Mon skulle være en trofast og hengiven medhjelper for Moses. Herren ga Moses også dette tegnet at Aron skulle gå Moses i møte, og ta imot ham med glede. Samtidig som Herren kalte på Moses, arbeidet han med Israelsfolket, og særlig med Aron. I Egypt fikk Aron et tydelig pålegg om å gå i møte med Moses.

Vi ser her noe som ofte skjer i troende menneskers liv. Når Herren vil knytte flere sammen om en sak, driver han hver av dem mot det samme mål. Vi ser også at Herren vil ha slike i sin tjeneste som ser seg selv som svake og avmektige, men som likevel går lydig og villig på Herrens ord. Herren forbereder dem med omhu og til slutt kaller han dem.

I dette kallet til Moses har vi det første kall til et embete i Guds menighet. Det indre kallet hadde Moses hatt lenge, men det er ikke nok. Hvis Moses hadde fortsatt sine forsøk på å begynne gjerningen førti år tidligere, ville han ha forløftet seg. Slik går det når man, åndelig talt, ikke er vokset opp til gjerningen og i utide vil ta den opp. Da blir man lett en åndelig krøpling, svak og motløs - slik barn blir når de bærer byrder for tidlig.

Selv om man har det indre kall, gjelder det å vente til det ytre kallet også kommer, i Herrens time.

Hele denne skildringen av Moses' mange unnskyldninger og frykt, som ikke tjener til å stille ham selv i et stort lys, er et mektig vitnesbyrd om Bibelens guddommelige opphav.

Hvilken verdslig vismann ville ha framstilt seg selv så skånselsløst i sin elendighet? Men det gjør Moses. Han gir Gud alene æren og seg selv skammen.

Hvor nær hadde det ikke ligget å gå over dette i fortellingen. Det står jo skrevet: "De hellige Guds menn talte drevet av Den Hellige Ånd" (2Pet 1:21).

Det var Guds Ånd som gav Moses det han skulle skrive. Han var "tro som tjener" (Heb 3:5).

Gå til 2Mos 4:18-31
2Mos 4:18-31
Da Moses kom tilbake til sin svigerfar, Jetro, gav han ham villig tillatelse til å dra tilbake til Egypt. Det står ikke noe om at Moses allerede da innviet Jetro i det Gud hadde åpenbart for ham. Jetro ville kanskje neppe ha forstått det. Åndelige opplevelse av så hellig karakter, skal vi være varsomme med å fortelle for mye om for tidlig. Senere (2Mos 18) forteller Moses sin svigerfar om Herrens underlige ledelse med folket.

Ennå en gang før avreisen fikk Moses en vennlig oppmuntring fra Herren. Han tok bort frykten med hensyn til den egypteren han hadde drept.

Herren sa nemlig til ham: "Nå er de døde, alle de som stod deg etter livet." Dette minner om Herrens ord til Josef (Matt 2:20) da Josef skulle dra fra Egypt til Israel med Jesusbarnet.

Så drog Moses av sted. Han førte med seg hustruen og barna på et asen. Det så fattig ut, men "Guds stav" hadde han i hånden. Den var innviet til Guds underfulle tjeneste. Moses skulle si til Farao at Israel stod høyt i Herrens øyne, som hans førstefødte sønn.

Farao skulle uttrykkelig vite at Gud hadde gitt Israels folk førstefødselsrett i Nådens rike framfor alle andre folk. Han skulle vite hvem han hadde å gjøre med i denne sak. Det var Herrens vilje han stod overfor. Derfor skulle også Moses si til Farao hva følgen ville bli, om han vegret seg. Men Herren tilføyer et merkelig og alvorlig ord: "Jeg vil forherde hans hjerte, så han ikke lar folket fare" som skrevet står: "Hvem han vil den viser han miskunn, og hvem han vil, den forherder han" (Rom 9:18).

Hvem vil da Gud forherde? Han vil forherde den som forherder seg selv. "Med det et menneske forsynder seg, med det skal det også straffes" (Visd. bok 11:16).

I det følgende står det ti ganger at Farao forherdet seg selv. På hebraisk brukes det tre forskjellige uttrykk for å betegne at han gjorde sitt hjerte fast, hårdt, uimottagelig. Det gjorde han til tross for at Herren i begynnelsen møtte ham med stor nåde og alle hensyn overfor ham, ble tatt.

Men så står det også ti ganger at Gud forherdet Farao. Slik måtte det bli med en åndelig nødvendighet. Når Gud nærmer seg et menneske med sitt kall og sitt bud, blir det aldri uten virkning. For det er makt i Guds ord, en makt som trenger inn i hjertet og banker på.

Vil man da ikke lyde, blir man nødt til å forherde seg. Det er Guds dom og straff over det gjenstridige hjerte, mens han smelter det villige hjerte. Den samme sol som hjelper den gode sæd fram, lokker også ugresset fram.

Det fryktelige, gudopprørske sinn i Farao, som til nå hadde ligget mere skjult, måtte fram. Det ble drevet fram ved Guds alvorlige kall. Det uomvendte menneske vil som oftest helst holde seg i skjul. Det vil ikke ta en avgjørelse. Men dommen fra Gud er at det må fram. Hjertets hårdhet skal bli åpenbar.

Gud virker det ved å trenge inn på mennesker igjen og igjen. Det er en fryktelig vekselvirkning i det å forherde seg selv og det å bli forherdet av Gud. Den som står imot Guds Ånd, kan ende med å rammes av forherdelsens evige dom. Da kan det ikke lenger bli omvendt.

Det gjelder for hvert menneske i tide å bøye seg for Guds nåde, ikke å stå imot, men lyde sin beste venns røst. Farao står som et fryktelig advarende eksempel til alle tider.

På veien til Egypt skjedde det i et herberge at "Herren kom mot ham og ville ta livet av ham" (v. 24). Det betyr at Moses kom i stor livsfare, enten ved en alvorlig sykdom eller på annen måte. Grunnen var at Moses hadde forsømt å omskjære sin sønn. Det var kanskje Elieser (2Mos 18:4), som vel ikke har vært så gammel på denne tid.

Blant Midians folk var omskjærelsen sikkert også en hellig skikk, da Midian stammet fra Abraham. Men Midian har kanskje fulgt Ismaels etterkommere ved å omskjære guttene når de ble 13 år.

Det var mot Herrens pakt med Abraham. Den gikk ut på å omskjære dem da de var 8 dager gamle (1Mos 17:12). Og Herren hadde utrykkelig sagt at var det et guttebarn som ikke var omskåret, skulle straffen være at folket ble utslettet, med andre ord, dø.

Enten Moses har forsømt Herrens bud eller utsatt det etter råd fra Sippora, lå ansvaret på ham. Herren kan tukte oss på mange måter, også gjennom trengsel og sykdom eller annen fare. Slikt er ikke tilfeldig. Det er Herren som møter oss gjennom det. La oss aldri glemme det! Herren gjorde det klart både for Moses og Sippora hva som var grunnen til tukten. Når Sippora selv straks omskar ham, kan det tyde på at hun følte seg skyldig i at barnet ikke var omskåret før.

For henne har hensynet til den smerte barnet ville føle, veidd mer enn hensynet til Guds vilje. En dårlig ektefelle kan virke meget sløvende på den andre ektefellen. Nå bøyde hun seg, tvunget av Herren.

Men sin uvilje overfor Herrens bud og sitt onde vesen viste hun tydelig nok da hun kastet den avskårne forhud for Mose føtter og sa: "Du er meg en blodbrudgom." Hun mente at hans liv kostet blod, sønnens blod ved omskjærelsen.

Vi ser av alt dette at Herren ikke slår av på noe overfor sine venner, ja, allerminst overfor dem.

Guds barn kan ikke tenke at Herren ikke tar det så nøye med sine hellige. Jo, barna skal først og fremst være lydige mot sin fars vilje, som skrevet står: "Du har gitt dine befalinger for at en skal holde dem nøye" (Sal 119:4).

Gud gjør ikke forskjell på folk. Sykdommen, eller faren, forsvant da gutten var omskåret. Men Moses hadde lært å bøye seg dypere i hellig ærefrykt for Guds majestet.

I 2Mos 18:2 ser vi at Moses sendte Sippora og barna tilbake, han tok dem ikke med til Egypt. Årsaken til det var kanskje denne hendelsen.

Når Moses senere etter Guds vilje så inntrengende advarte folket mot ekteskap med fremmede kvinner som stod utenfor Israels folk, da talte han altså av egen erfaring.

Blandede ekteskap er som regel bare en kilde til ulykke. Den troende lar seg lett påvirke av den vantro. Det var sikkert også tilfelle her når gutten skulle omskjæres.

Ved Guds berg, Horeb, møtte Moses sin bror, Aron. Han hadde også fått en åpenbaring fra Herren om å gå i møte med Moses.

Dette har styrket motet til Moses, og kjærligheten fra Aron har vært som en erstatning for den hjemsendte familie. Herren var med dem, slik at Israels folk trodde dem.

De priste og takket Gud fordi han hadde besøkt dem og sett til dem i deres elendighet. Begynnelsen var god, bare folket hadde forsatt i samme tillit og tro til Herren. Denne begynnelsen vitner om at løftene til fedrene ennå levde i det undertrykte folket.

Gå til 2Mos 5:1-23
2Mos 5:1-23
Farao hadde på denne tid, så vidt vi vet, sin bolig i Soan, også kalt Tanis, som lå tett ved grensa til Gosen. Han møtte Moses og Arons bønn med stor forakt.

"Hvem er Herren, som jeg skal lyde og la Israel fare? Jeg kjenner ikke Herren, og vil ikke la Israel fare." Slik var hans hånlige svar. Hedningene mente at alle folk hadde sine guder som de var forpliktet til å dyrke.

Men hedningene vurderte et folks gud etter de ytre kår hans tjenere hadde. Derfor foraktet Farao hebreernes Gud, ettersom folket var undertrykt og elendig. Verden er slik den dag i dag. Den ser på de hellige, hvor få de er, og hvor liten betydning de tilsynelatende har i verdslig sammenheng. Og derfor forakter verden også Guds ord, som vitner om de hellige.

Moses og Aron truet ikke, men til å begynne med viste de Farao all respekt.

De pekte bare saktmodig på at de selv måtte lyde sin Gud for ikke å pådra seg straff (2Mos 5:3). Men Farao lot dem forstå at han betraktet dem som mennesker som brukte religion som et påskudd for andre formål.

De ville skaffe hebreerne bedre dager (2Mos 5:4-5). Så fattet han en ond plan om å legge større byrder på hebreerne for å gi dem noe annet å tenke på enn å lytte til Moses.

"De er late, derfor skriker de: La oss gå og ofre til vår Gud." Slik var Faraos ondskapsfulle ord. Nei, de skulle ikke få helligdager eller hviledager.

Dette minner om verdens tale den dag i dag når noen vil høre Guds ord og ikke arbeide om søndagen. Da sier de: de hellige gidder ikke å gjøre noe, de er late. Nei, denne verdens fyrste, Djevelen, gir en ikke lov til å holde hviledag og helligdag.

Det er slik, nå som da; han stod foran Moses i Faraos skikkelse. Den nye byrde som farao la på folket, var slik: mens de før hadde fått utlevert halm, måtte de nå selv hente den, men likevel måtte de levere like mye stein som før.

Teglsteinen i Egypt ble ikke tørket ved ild, men i solen. For ågjøre steinene fastere, blandet de avskåret halm i leiren. Halmen tok de fra halmstubbene på åkrene som var innhøstet. Slik teglstein finnes ennå i egyptiske minnesmerker. Nå skulle folket selv skaffe halmen og fikk dermed et stort ekstraarbeid.

Da de ikke klarte å skaffe den samme mengde stein, gikk det først ut over de israelske formennene som Faraos oppsynsmenn hadde satt over Israels folk.

Oppsynsmennene tilhørte Israels folk, og de ble slått av egyptiske oppsynsmenn. Formennene beklaget seg for Farao, men han bare hånte dem: Late er dere, late. Derfor sier dere: Vi vil dra av sted og ofre til Herren. Halm får dere ikke, men den fastsatte mengde murstein skal dere komme med.

Da formennene kom ut fra Farao, møtte de Moses og Aron som ville høre hva Farao hadde sagt. Nå gikk deres fortvilelse ut over Moses og Aron og de gav dem skylden for alt.

Det var ikke lett for Moses, men han vendte seg til Herren med spørsmål om hvorledes det hele hang sammen. Han gikk ikke til Gud i trass, men i en barnslig, forknytt tro. Det så jo ut som om det gikk ut over Herrens navns ære.

Med Herrens gjerning begynner det ofte slik at det ser riktig galt ut i begynnelsen. Djevelen og verden farer opp i forbitrelse og forsøker å kvele Guds verk. Hvor ofte har det ikke sett slik ut for mangen troende prest, som begynte sin gjerning på et dødt sted?

Og når det ikke straks lykkes, kommer det ofte bitre bebreidelser. Og likevel er det slik til alle tider at Guds rikes vei går gjennom trengsel, gjennom lidelse til seier. Vi behøver å minnes ordet i Sal 27:14: "Vent på Herren! Vær ved godt mot, ditt hjerte være sterkt! Ja, vent på Herren!" Gå til 2Mos 6:1-13
2Mos 6:1-13
Herren gir ikke Moses noe direkte svar på hvorfor det så mørkt ut i begynnelsen.

Moses ville ikke ha forstått den gang. Senere, under vandringen i ørkenen, erkjente han at det var nødvendig at folket ble ført dypt ned i lidelsen. Det måtte til for å gjøre folket villig til å forlate Egypt.

De hadde ofte knurret mot Herren. At Gud viste hele sin allmakt mot Farao, ble av stor betydning for Israel og for Guds menighet til alle tider. Hvor ofte får vi ikke bruk for Herrens ord i Joh 13:7: Det jeg gjør, forstår du ikke nå, men du skal skjønne det senere.

Men Herren ga Moses likevel en stor og herlig trøst. "Nå skal du se hva jeg vil gjøre med Farao." Moses skulle få se Herrens sterke hånd.

Fra v. 2-8 stadfester Herren sine løfter. Ordet begynner og slutter med dette: "Jeg er Herren." I dette ligger trøsten at han er Herren, som ikke bare har vilje, men også makt til å hjelpe sitt folk.

Alle troende behøver å høre en slik stadfestelse av Herrens løfter. Derfor gjentar Herren ofte sine løfter. De som leser Bibelen bare med forstanden, mener ofte at slike gjentagelser betyr at det har vært forskjellige beretninger om det samme (kilder).

Men som et lite barn ønsker å høre det samme om igjen og om igjen av far og mor, slik er det også med Guds folk.

Gud sier her til Moses at fedrene, Abraham, Isak og Jakob ikke kjente ham ved navnet Jahveh. Navnet forekommer likevel enkelte ganger i patriarkhistorien. Herren kaller seg slik når han åpenbarte seg for Abraham (1Mos 15:7), og for Jakob (1Mos 28:13).

Patriarkene bruker også dette navnet (1Mos 15:8. 49:18). Men patriarkene kjente ikke den dype betydning i navnet Jahveh. Det hadde Herren først åpenbart for Moses fra den brennende tornebusken.

Patriarkene kjente Herren under navnet "den allmektige Gud" (1Mos 17:1).

Navnet Jahveh taler om Gud som den trofaste, uforanderlige, som aldri svikter sitt folk. Først nå skulle det utfolde seg etter sin dype guddomsmakt.

Israels folk skulle lære å kjenne ham som den som holder pakten med fedrene.

I v. 7 har vi dette herlige løftet: "Jeg vil ta dere til mitt folk og jeg vil være deres Gud. Dere skal kjenne at jeg er Herren deres Gud, han som fører dere ut fra de tunge byrder som egypterne har lagt på dere."

Om dette ordet gjelder folket i den gamle pakt, hvor mye mer i den nye pakt. Også vi skal kjenne at Herren vil fri oss fra byrdene som denne verdens egyptere vil legge på oss.

Ja, salig er det folk som har Herren til Gud. Herren sa til sitt gamle folk at han har oppløftet sin hånd og svoret å gi Abrahams ætt Kana'ans land. Slik har Herrens folk også nå mange løfter om arven i det himmelske Kana'an. Herren sier at han "med oppløftet hånd har sverget" dette, for han har ingen større å sverge ved (Heb 6:13).

Han har stadfestet det med en ed for å styrke løftets arvinger for at vi "skulle ha en sterk trøst... vi som har tatt vår tilflukt til å gripe det håp som ligger foran oss" (Heb 6:18). For eden er "en stadfestelse som gjør slutt på all motsigelse" (Heb 6:16).

Men da Moses kom til Israels folk med alle disse løftene, talte han for døve ører. Det står: "De hørte ikke på Moses på grunn av sin motløshet og det hårde trellearbeid."

Hvor ofte har ikke dette gjentatt seg når ordet lød til mennesker tynget av fattigdom og sykdom. Hjertene var så opptatt av den timelige nød, at Guds ord liksom sank dødt til jorden. Men liksom Herren bar over med israelittenes sløve vantro og jordiskhet, slik skal også vi overfor slike nedtrykte stakkere bare fortsette å tale Guds ord til dem.

Samtidig skal vi forsøke å lindre deres nød så mye vi kan, og peke på Herrens hjelp, bare de vil tro på ham. Det kan ofte se underlig ut for oss, slik det gjorde for Moses. Når vi synes at Guds rike burde ha god framgang, hvis bare Herren ville lette trykket på slike mennesker, legger han noen ganger enda tyngre ting på dem.

Selv om det ser ut for oss som om det heller virket mer sløvhet og hardhet, skal vi være viss om at Herren vet best den beste tid og måte til å hjelpe, og hvorledes hjertene skulle behandles.

For bedre å forstå trelldomsåket som fikk Israel i slik sjeleangst, kan det være opplysende å høre hva en fransk reisende, Dr. de Laborde, forteller fra en reise i Egypt. Han hadde vært til stede ved en kanal og sett hundretusener ulykkelige egyptere kaste jord opp. For det meste brukte de hendene. Den egyptiske regjering hadde sørget for pisker nok til å slå dem med, men bare et lite antall hakker og trillebårer. Foretagenet ble ledet av tyrkere, som igjen hadde satt oppsynsmenn over bøndene. Oppsynsmennene var ansvarlig for det dagsarbeid som var pålagt hver avdeling. Arbeiderne hadde fått løfte om betaling og kost. Betalingen ble det ikke noe av, og maten var så sparsom og usikker, at en femtedel av arbeiderne døde i elendigheten av piskeslag. De ropte forgjeves, liksom Israel i gammel tid.

Vi kan forstå hvor tungt dette ble for Moses. Da Herren igjen befalte ham å gå til Farao, kommer Moses med de samme innvendinger som ved Horeb. Han mente at Israels folk ikke ville høre på ham, og hvorledes skulle da Farao høre på ham? Han kom også med den gamle unnskyldning at han var uomskåren på leppene og hadde tungt for å tale.

Selv om Herren nettopp hadde gitt ham et bestemt løfte om trofast hjelp, ble Moses smittet av den forsakthet og tvilens ånd som hadde grepet Israel. Nå skulle han imidlertid snart få erfare Herrens sterke hånd over Farao.

Gå til 2Mos 6:14-30
2Mos 6:14-30
Før den betydningsfulle forandring skjedde, fortelles en del om Moses' og Arons slekt, v. 14-30. Vi forstår hvorfor dette nevnes her. Det er for å gjøre det klart at det nettopp er denne slekt blant Levis barn, som Gud har valgt ut til førere. De kommende yppersteprester og prester skulle også være av Arons slekt. Det hadde sin store betydning at det ble fastslått at det var disse bestemte menn av denne bestemte slekt, som skulle gå til Farao på Guds vegne og være folkets ledere.

Det viste seg senere, da det ble reist tvil om at de hadde rett til det, i ørkenen og et opprør mot dem ble satt i gang. Når det tales om overhodene for familiene, må det bety at familie er avdelinger innen slektene.

Stammene ble delt i slekter og slektene i familier (d. fedrehus).

Først nevnes Rubens og Simeons stamme, ikke fordi det her ellers er tale om dem, men for å vise at Levis stamme er nr. tre i rekken av Israels stammer.

Det er Levi stamme det kommer an på her, fordi Moses og Aron var av den. Derfor blir den skildret så utførlig. Først nevnes tre hovedslekter etter Levi, nemlig Gerson, Kahat og Merari. Fra Kahats slekt nedstammet Amran, Moses og Arons far.

Det står i v. 20 at Amran tok sin fars søster Jokebed til hustru. Et slikt ekteskap med sin fars søster ble senere forbudt. Moses befalte det på Guds vegne, 3Mos 18:12. Men da Amram ektet henne, var loven og dermed forbudet ennå ikke gitt.

At Moses forteller at han selv kom fra et ekteskap som senere ble forbudt ved loven, er igjen et vitnesbyrd om Bibelens troverdighet.

Bare Arons sønner nevnes her fordi den prestelige verdighet skulle gå i arv til dem. Moses sønner nevnes derimot ikke, for alt var knyttet til hans person alene. Hans sønner hadde ingen framtredende plass.

Når Korahs barn (v. 24) nevnes spesielt, er det vel fordi de senere under ørkenvandringen gjorde seg sørgelig kjent. De gjorde opprør mot Arons prestedømme og Moses som fører.

I slektsregisteret nevnes Aron før Moses (v. 26) fordi han var den eldste. Men når det tales om forhandlingene med Farao, nevnes Moses først som hovedperson. Etter denne utviklingen av Moses og Arons slekt, tas tråden opp igjen fra v. 12 om Herrens samtale med Moses.

Gå til 2Mos 7:1-25
2Mos 7:1-25
Herren gjentar sin befaling til Moses, uten å ta hensyn til hans innvendinger. Herren sier til Moses: "Se, jeg har satt deg som en gud for Farao."

Det betyr at Gud liksom trer tilbake og ikke straks knuser Farao med sin veldige makt. Men Moses skulle utrustes med Herrens makt og velde.

Slik fikk kampen med Farao på en gang sin menneskelige og sin guddommelige side. Derfor skred kampen trinnvis fram, men den måtte ende med seier.

Aron skulle være Mose profet. Han skulle tale det som Moses gav ham a si.

Moses' liv faller i tre store avsnitt: 40 år ved det egyptiske hoff, 40 år i Midians ørken og 40 år på vandringen mot Kana'an.

Så kom Moses og Aron igjen til Farao. Da han forlangte å se tegn og under for å tro dem, gjorde Aron tegnet med staven. Den ble til en slange og deretter til en stav igjen.

Farao forstod at her var åndelige krefter i virksomhet. Han fører kampen over på det åndelige området ved ikke å møte dem med sine soldater. Derimot møter han dem med sine vismenn og trollmenn.

Navnene på to av disse kjenner vi fra 2Tim 3:8. Det var Jannes og Jambres. Og nå begynner en eiendommelig kamp. Det var i virkeligheten en kamp mellom avgudene og den levende Gud. En avgud er ganske visst intet i verden. Det er en død ting i seg selv, 1Kor 8:4.

Men bak avgudsdyrkelsen står djevlene og bruker den i sin tjeneste. Ordet sier det: "Det som hedningene ofrer, det ofrer de til de onde ånder og ikke til Gud" (1Kor 10:20).

Egypterne kunne for en stund liksom etterligne de under som Moses og Aron gjorde. Det var ikke bare bedrag, men Satan var virksom med sin makt. Det møter vi ved alle vendepunkt i Guds rikes historie.

Jesus opplevde i sin levetid at de samme demoniske krefter var virksomme. Slik skal det også bli i de siste tider, når det siste store vendepunkt forestår.

Da skal det gå som skrevet står (Matt 24:24): "For falske messiaser og falske profeter skal stå fram og gjøre store tegn og under."

Og i Åp 13:13 står det at dyret som steg opp av jorden og hadde horn som et lam, men talte som dragen, gjorde store tegn. "Til og med får det ild til å falle ned fra himmelen på jorden for menneskenes øyne."

At de egyptiske trollmenn også fikk sine staver til å bli slanger, kan delvis forklares av den makt som de såkalte slangebesvergere kunne få over slike dyr. De kunne få dem til å bli ganske stive som en stokk, for så igjen å få dem til å bevege seg.

Men den virkelige forklaring på deres kunster kan vi ikke finne uten å ta i betraktning deres demoniske krefter. Slike krefter er til stede i alle hedenske religioner.

Vi har et slående bevis på dette i det flere grønnlandske trollmenn sa til misjonæren, etter at de hadde omvendt seg. De sa at mye av det de hadde gjort var bedrageri. Men mye av den usynlige åndeverden var også innblandet i det de gjorde. Nå hadde de avsky for det, men kunne ikke forklare det helt. Det finnes skjulte krefter nedlagt i mennesket, men til daglig er det skjult for de ytre sansene.

I visse øyeblikk kan de likevel tre fram. Herren kan vekke disse skjulte kreftene og bruke dem, som vi ser det i profetenes syner og såkalte henrykkelser. Djevelen kan også bruke dem så lenge og så mye Gud gir ham lov til det.

Mennesket selv kan også med vold liksom framkalle dem. Mye av det hypnotisørene gjør, er slike forsøk på å sette disse kreftene i bevegelse. Men det viser seg hvor uhyre farlig det er å sette disse kreftene i bevegelse når Gud ikke er med. For der Gud ikke er med, kommer djevleåndene med. Slik er det også med spiritismen, der djevelske krefter er medvirkende sammen med mye lureri.

De merket likevel straks Guds overhøyhet. Arons stav som ble til en slange, slukte trollmennenes staver. Her var plass både for tro og vantro. Troen som ville gripe sannheten, var det lys nok for, til å kjenne Guds overmakt. Vantroen som ikke ville se, kunne si at trollmennene også kunne gjøre underet.

Farao mente det og forherdet sitt hjerte. Gud tvinger ingen til å tro.

v. 14-15 skildrer nå den første av de ti plager som rammet Farao. I begynnelsen ville Gud bøye hans hjerte på denne måten, men til slutt var det bare uttrykk for Guds veldige straff. Plagene var for en stor del av en slik art at de var kjent i Egypt i mindre grad før.

Men underet lå i at de her opptrådte etter hverandre på ganske kort tid. De kom også med en hittil ukjent kraft og begynte og sluttet etter Moses' ord.

Derved beviste Gud at det var han som sendte Moses til Farao. De første ni plagene kom i tre avsnitt med tre plager om gangen. Ved de to første i hver avdeling får Farao en advarsel.

Den tredje plagen kommer uten advarsel, som et taust slag. De første tre plagene var mer alminnelige og rammet hele landet, både Israels folk og egypterne.

De neste tre rammet bare egypterne, men kom med stadig voksende voldsomhet.

Den siste dommen rullet så utover den forherdede kongen i drapet av de førstefødte og undergangen i Rødehavet.

Den første plagen skulle forkynnes for Farao ved Nilen da han gikk ut i vannet om morgenen. Det gjorde han trolig for å tilbe sin gud. Han skulle erfare hvor avmektig hans gud var overfor hebreernes Gud. Den første plagen bestod nemlig i at vannet ble forvandlet til blod. Elven luktet ondt og alle fiskene døde. Det som ellers var godt drikkevann, var nå ubrukelig. Derfor måtte egypterne grave omkring elven for å få drikkevann, for det de tok opp av elven, var blod.

Reisende har fortalt at Nilen får en rødlig farge når vannet stiger. Men da er det særlig velsmakende, så dette underet ved Moses kan ikke forenes med det.

Denne plagen varte i syv dager, men Faraos spåmenn forvandlet også vann til blod ved hjelp av mørkets krefter. På den måten forsøkte de å forsvare hedenskapet så lenge som mulig. Denne plagen gjorde bare lite inntrykk på Farao. Det står at han vendte seg om og gikk likegyldig hjem.

Farao ble ikke personlig berørt av denne plagen. Han skulle nok kunne skaffe seg drikkevann, om andre led av det.

Gå til 2Mos 8:1-32
2Mos 8:1-32
Den andre plagen bestod i en mengde frosk som vrimlet opp av elven og trengte inn alle steder, endog i sengene til folk. Ja, de trengte seg endog inn på Faraos person og hans tjenere. Farao ble advart, men forgjeves.

Også ellers pleier det å være mye frosk etter at Nilen er oversvømmet. Men her viste de seg i en overnaturlig mengde. Den art frosk som tales om her, kalles på egyptisk "Dofda". De er små og kryper som dverger og gir en egen lyd fra seg, som når to trestykker støter mot hverandre.

De egyptiske trollmennene fikk nok også ved hjelp av mørkets krefter frosker til å komme opp av Nilen. Men de maktet ikke å få slutt på plagen.

Denne gang gikk det ut over Farao selv. Det bøyde han så mye at han kalte på Moses og Aron og sa: "Be til Herren at han vil ta froskene bort fra meg og mitt folk! Da vil jeg la folket fare så de kan ofre til Herren."

Det så ut som om Farao på dette tidspunkt kunne ha omvendt seg. Moses sa at han selv kunne bestemme tiden når plagen skulle bli slutt.

Farao bestemte tiden til neste dag. Han har vel ikke våget å be om at det måtte skje straks. Og det skjedde etter hans ord. Alle froskene døde til den fastsatte tid, unntatt de som var i elven.

Folk samlet dem i store dynger, og det stinket over hele landet av forråtnelsen. Men straks Farao fikk det lettere, var han igjen den gamle og forherdet sitt hjerte.

Hvor ofte har ikke dette vist seg i historien. Vantro mennesker lovet bot og bedring i en sykdom eller når de var i livsfare. Men så snart trengselen var forbi, så snart tiden hadde utslettet sorgen og nøden, var de som før. Men det hevner seg å spotte Guds nådes kall på den måten.

Den tredje plagen kom også uten advarsel. På Mose befaling i Herrens navn, utrakte Aron sin arm med staven og slo på jorden. Støvet ble forvandlet til mygg som satte seg både på mennesker og dyr. Ordet blir også oversatt lus. Denne gangen kunne ikke spåmennene i Egypt følge med lenger.

Mørkets krefter var uttømt, eller rettere: Gud tillot ikke at de drev sitt spill lenger. Egyptens fruktbare jord ble også tilbedt som en gud.

Men nå hadde hebreernes Gud vist sin makt også over denne avguden. Denne gangen ble endog de egyptiske spåmennene redde og sa til Farao: "Dette er Guds finger!" Men Farao forherdet seg igjen.

Så kom den fjerde plagen. Og fra nå av inntrer den forandringen at plagen ikke lenger rammet Israels folk i Gosen, men bare egypterne.

Tydeligere kunne det ikke vises for Farao at hebreernes Gud var den sanne og levende Gud. Denne plagen bestod også i utøy, men var meget verre.

Det var nemlig ikke bar et enkelt slag, men mange vemmelige utøy (fluer) som på en gang veltet inn over egypterne. Farao strakte seg nå så langt at han ville tillate hebreerne å ofre til deres Gud i Gosen.

Men det ville Moses ikke gå med på. For det ville ha medført at egypterne kastet seg over dem. De dyrene som Israel ville slakte ved offerhandlingen, ble jo for en stor del tilbedt av egypterne.

Det ville ha vært altfor fryktelig for egypterne å se på disse ofringene. Det hadde de ikke tålt. Det er liksom at Farao erkjenner det, og han gav dem lov å dra et stykke ut i ørkenen. Han 'slutter med å si: Be for meg.

Moses gikk med på det, men rådet Farao til ikke å bedra han mer. Men da plagen var borte, forherdet Farao igjen sitt hjerte.

Det er Guds langmodighet som åpenbarer seg her. Dommen går langsomt fram, under stadige advarsler. Men hvor fryktelig så det ikke ut i Faraos hjerte! Det er hardt å stampe mot brodden.

Gå til 2Mos 9:1-35
2Mos 9:1-35
Den femte plagen bestod i pest over kveget, den skulle ramme alt kveg på marken. Men av Israels kveg skulle intet dø. Og det skjedde slik: Alle egyptiske dyr døde. Farao sendte bud om det virkelig var slik at intet døde hos israelittene. Og da han skjønte at det var slik, ble han ennå hårdere og ville ikke la folket fare.

Umiddelbart deretter kom den sjette plagen. Moses og Aron skulle ta noen håndfull sot eller aske fra ovnen som var så nær knyttet til byggearbeidene. Farao ville forherlige sitt eget navn ved dem. Og her hadde Israels folk vært slaver. Nå skulle Farao se hvorledes asken fra disse ovnene skulle bli til plage for ham og hans folk.

Idet Moses strødde asken utover himmelen, ble den til et giftig stoff som skapte byller og blemmer både på mennesker og dyr. Også Faraos spåmenn fikk byllene slik at deres motstand ble fullstendig brutt. Også denne støtten hadde Farao nå mistet. Når det står at det også kom byller på kveget, må vi huske på at kvegpesten bare hadde rammet de dyr som var på marken (v. 3). Noen dyr var blitt tilbake.

Denne gangen står det at Herren forherdet Faraos hjerte. Tidligere har det alltid stått at han selv forherdet seg. Her står det tydelig at nå gjorde også Herren det. For Farao hadde syndet mot Ånden.

Det var blitt en kamp for ham med full bevissthet. Det er den frykteligste straff som kan ramme et menneske at Herren forherder det. Sal 109:17 passer godt på Farao: "Han elsket å forbanne, og forbannelse kom over ham. Han hadde ingen glede i å velsigne, og velsignelse ble langt borte fra ham."

Alle ytre støtter var tatt fra ham, men den indre trass hadde festnet seg. Derfor kjempet han mot Herren med alle de krefter mørkets ånder hadde utrustet ham med. Herren sa nå til ham ved Moses at han heretter ville sende alle sine plager, slik at det skulle gå til hjerte på Farao.

Han skulle oppdage at ingen var som Herren. Herren lot ham også vite at hadde det bare vært tale om en styrkeprøve, kunne Herren ha utslettet både ham og folket i et øyeblikk.

Men når Herren hadde latt ham bli stående så lenge, var det dels for at Farao skulle se hans makt og alle unnskyldninger bli til intet. Farao skulle tvinges til å gi Herren ære. Og dels ville Herren slik holde en mektig preken for alle folk og land. Slik skulle Farao være med å forherlige Guds navn, skjønt mot sin vilje. Slik ble det også.

Allerede den gang kom det stor frykt over folkene som bodde omkring da de hørte om Herrens veldige makt. Han hadde knekket datidens sterkeste verdensrike og mektigste fyrste.

Med kristendommen har kunnskapen om disse Herrens gjerninger bredt seg utover hele jorden, til advarsel for verdensmakten og til styrke for Guds folks tro.

En døende mor sa til en vantro sønn som stod ved hennes dødsleie: "Min sønn, prøv ikke krefter med Guds langmodighet." Det var det Farao gjorde, og han fikk merke at Guds langmodighet har sin grense.

Den neste plage for Farao var stor hagl, altså et fryktelig uvær. Det skulle være så voldsomt at det ikke hadde vært slik fra den dag Egypt ble til.

Egypt var blitt grunnlagt av Kams sønn, Misraim (1Mos 10:6). Derfor kalles Egypt også Kams telt (Sal 78:51). På hebraisk heter Egypt Mizraim.

I advarselen om uværet med hagl ligger det også en forunderlig nåde. De som fulgte Herrens ord om å samle kveget og tjenerne i husene før uværet kom, ville unngå plagen. Her viste det seg også en forskjell mellom egypterne.

Mange av dem trodde Herrens ord og var lydige, mens andre ikke tok Herrens ord om dommen til hjertet, men i vantro lot dyrene og folket være ute på marken.

Også mellom de vantro viser denne store forskjellen seg, om de har det til felles, at de er utenfor Guds rike. Forskjellen viser seg på de som er av sannheten og de som forherder seg i løgnen. Dette minner om Jesu behandling av fortapelsens sønn, Judas, da han tiltalte ham som "venn" i Getsemane.

Så rakte Moses sin hånd opp mot himmelen, og det frykteligste uvær egypterne noen gang hadde sett, kom over dem. Haglet kom i et voldsomt tordenvær med så veldige lyn at det så ut som om ilden slynget seg midt inn i haglet.

Alle de som ikke hadde vært lydige mot Herrens formaning om å gå inn i huset, ble slått ned, både mennesker og dyr. Urter og trær ble også knekket og slått ned. Lin og bygg ble slått helt ned, mens kveite og spelt (en kornsort som lignet bygg og ble mye brukt til brød) tok ikke mer skade enn at de kunne reise seg igjen.

Disse kornsortene hadde ennå ikke fulle aks. Når det står at bygget stod med aks, ser vi av dette at tiden for ødeleggelsen trolig har vært i slutten av januar eller i begynnelsen av februar.

Bygg ble modent i Egypt i slutten av februar eller i begynnelsen av mars. Kveite og spelt blir derimot modent betydelig senere.

Når utgangen av Egypt fant sted i april, har det altså vært et par måneder mellom denne plagen og det siste tunge slag.

Da haglet styret ned og tordenen drønnet over Faraos hode, ble han redd.

Intet i naturen taler så veldig om Guds majestet og makt som et veldig tordenvær. Vi har ofte sett at selv de mest vantro mennesker, blir stille i slikt vær. Farao kaller det for "Guds torden". Ja, det er Guds torden, det skal også Guds barn huske når tordenen ruller over våre hoder. Det er som salmisten sier: Herrens røst med kraft og herlighet (Sal 29).

Farao avlegger følgende bekjennelse: "Denne gang har jeg syndet. Herren er den rettferdige, jeg og mitt folk er onde. Be til Herren at det nå må være nok av Guds torden og hagl! Så vil jeg la dere fare, dere skal ikke bli her lenger."

Dette minner om Judas' syndsbekjennelse. Det er angsten for syndens følger, men ikke bedrøvelse over selve synden, som ligger til grunn her.

Farao kryper nå for Moses og avgir løfter. Men Moses visste at hjertet var like forherdet, og det sa han til Farao uten menneskefrykt: "Men jeg vet om deg og dine tjenere, at dere enn ikke frykter for Gud Herren." Så gikk Moses utenfor byen og ba til Herren, han "rakte ut sine hender til Herren". Han ba ikke inne hos kongen. På den måten viste han at han betraktet Farao og hans omgivelser som så dypt falne, at Djevelens mørke lå over det.

Han ville bort fra Faraos nærhet, som var vanhelliget av mørkets ånder, før han ville bære fram sin bønn for Herrens åsyn. Så holdt uværet opp med å rase. Skjønt Faraos bekjennelse bare var i det ytre, stanset likevel plagen.

Det vitner om at allerede det, at landets øvrighet bøyer seg i det ytre for Guds befaling, kan avverge skade for et land og holde Guds dom tilbake. Men Farao forherdet igjen hjertet sitt. Nå skifter uttrykkene mellom at Farao forherdet sitt hjerte og at Gud forherdet ham.

Gå til 2Mos 10:1-29
2Mos 10:1-29
Igjen blir Moses sendt til Farao. Herren sier at det ikke er for Faraos skyld, men for at Herrens majestet skal bli ennå mer åpenbar for etterslekten.

Når vi leser i Sal 78. 105 ser vi hvorledes disse undere i Egypt levde videre i folkets bevissthet. Ja, også blant romerske og greske forfattere finner vi beretninger om dommen som rammet Farao.

Alt dette skjedde for at det skal bli klart hvor stor Gud vi har, han er forferdelig i sine dommer, som Nehemias sa senere til Israels folk: "Vær ikke redd dem, tenk på Herren, den store og forferdelige. Og kjemp for deres brødre" (Neh 4:14).

Moses står fram for Farao med mer og mer av Guds hellige myndighet og forkynte ham den åttende plagen. Det skulle nå komme en mengde gresshopper og fortære det som ikke var ødelagt av haglet. Etter å ha kunngjort Farao dette, forlot han Farao.

Men da stod Faraos tjenere fram og spurte ham: "Hvor lenge skal denne mannen (Moses) være en snare for oss?" De mente at Egypt snart var helt ødelagt.

Farao hentet Moses og Aron tilbake og tilbød dem at de kunne dra ut for å tjene Herren, men bare mennene. Moses svarte at ikke bare mennene, men alle skulle dra av sted og ha kveget med seg. Da sa Farao i djevelsk raseri og spott at der kunne man se at de hadde ondt i sinne og ville bli borte med det samme.

Med bitende hån sier han: Herren være med dere, om jeg noen gang lar dere og deres små barn fare! Hans mening er å spotte deres tillit til Herren. På tross av alt det han hadde sett av Herrens makt, ville han ikke akte på det.

Farao trosser Gud på djevelsk vis i avmektig raseri og vil gjøre Guds hjelp til intet for Israels folk. Slik hadde han også villet gjøre til intet at de skulle dra bort med sine barn.

Nå kunne han ikke stanse på skråplanet. Han måtte gå videre, for han var overgitt i mørkets ånders makt. Slik går det alle som overgir seg selv til mørket. Han blir syndens trell. Noen ganger kan han være forferdet over å merke hvor sterkt han driver avsted.

Men han kan ikke stanse seg selv mer. Bare Herren kan stanse en synder. Og vil man ikke ha med ham å gjøre, som Farao, kan ingen makt hjelpe ham.

Farao viste sitt raseri ved å la sine tjenere drive Moses og Aron bort med vold. Han forsøkte å skjule sin ondskap ved å legge skylden over på Moses og Aron.

Han mente de hadde annet i sinne og ville mer enn de gav uttrykk for. Til dette er å si at Gud ikke hadde befalt Moses å be om mer enn de tre dagers reise ut i ørkenen. Hva Herren så ville ha gjort om Farao hadde tillatt det, visste ikke Moses. Guds råd ville da ha blitt et annet, i forhold til Farao.

Så kom gresshopperne over landet i en hittil ukjent mengde. Gud hentet dem langveisfra ved en sterk østenvind som varte ett døgn. Gresshoppesvermen er en fryktelig plage i Østerland.

Den gresshoppe det er tale om her var 4-5 tommer lang med grønngule vinger, rødbrune øyne og et grønt sterkt opphøyet brystskjold. Når en gresshoppesverm nærmer seg, viser dens komme seg allerede i forveien ved et underlig gult gjenskinn i luften. Deretter blir det liksom tåket. Man hører en uhyggelig lyd, og til slutt blir solen så formørket at man har vanskelig for å se mer enn ti skritt foran seg. Svermene kan være på to-tre mils lengde og mer enn en mils bredde. De drar fram i samme retning, men flyr bare om dagen.

De kan noen ganger ligge oppå hverandre i lag på flere alen på jorden og fortære alt. De eter selv barken på trærne. Ja, de kan endog trenge inn i husene, fortære alt som kan etes og endog smette inn i munnen på mennesker når de spiser.

Det var en fryktelig plage, som Farao kaller "denne død" (v. 17).

Han blir igjen tvunget ned i støvet og ber om at Moses må be om at Herren tar det bort. Plagen medførte nemlig en dødbringende hungersnød.

I løpet av få timer kunne selv det mest fruktbare landskap bli forvandlet til en ørken. Når gresshopperne fløy videre, etterlot de seg egg og urenhet som gav en utålelig stank. Ellers var det bare deler av landet som fikk denne plagen. Men nå rammet den hele Egypt.

På ny sier Farao: "Jeg har syndet mot Herren, deres Gud, og mot dere. Men tilgi meg nå min synd denne ene gang." Det er den samme kalde Judas-anger vi merker her. Farao ber om at synden må forlates "denne ene gang". Men han nevner ikke noe om sorg over hele sin tidligere trass mot Gud.

Igjen bad Moses til Herren, og nå kastet Herren alle gresshopperne i Rødehavet ved en sterk vestavind.

Farao ville for lenge siden være sunket sammen som en klut hvis ikke Herren i sin hellige vrede hadde tillatt djevlemaktene å styrke ham til motstand. Herrens under skulle åpenbares på den måten.

Tiden for den endelige dommen var nemlig ikke kommet ennå. Derfor skulle Farao bli stående ennå en tid. Den niende plagen kom umiddelbart etter, ettersom Farao ikke lot Israel reise. Denne plagen bestod i et tykt mørke som la seg over Egypt i tre dager.

Den ene så ikke den andre, og ingen av egypterne kunne forlate husene sine. Bare hos Israels folk var det lyst i husene. Det er et vakkert bilde på motsetningen mellom det sted hvor Gud Herren er, og hvor mørkets krefter regjerer.

Åndelig talt ligger den vantro verden ennå i det tykke mørke. Bare der Jesus, verdens lys er, er det lyst. Kanskje hadde dette mørke sin årsak i en glødende sørøstvind, kalt chamsin eller Samum.

Den kommer ofte svært plutselig og fyller luften med en slik mengde fint støv at solen mister sitt skinn og mørket blir så tett at den tykkeste tåken hos oss ikke kan sammenlignes med den. Både dyr og mennesker må raskt søke beskyttelse mot uværet. Menneskene pleier gjerne å søke ned i kjellerne der alle åpninger må tettes til mot den fine sanden.

Hvis en reisende møter en slik sandstorm ute i det fri, er det bare en måte å bli reddet på. Han må kaste seg ned med ansiktet mot jorden til stormen er forbi. Den pleier sjelden å vare svært lenge.

Men her står det at mørket varte i tre dager, og at det var så tykt at man liksom kunne føle det. Vi vet ikke om det har vært en slik langvarig sandstorm, eller om Herren på annen måte har senket mørket over Egypt.

Men det kan også være det samme.

Denne gangen lot Farao folket fare, men han ville beholde dyrene. Men Moses forlangte ganske bestemt at alt skulle utleveres, for at det kunne stilles til Herrens tjeneste. Farao skulle ikke beholde noe av det.

Dette er et godt bilde på hvorledes Herren vil frelse sitt folk til alle tider med en hel frelse. Denne verdens Farao, Djevelen, skal ikke beholde noe av det bytte han har tatt.

Ikke bare vår sjel, men han skal også en gang bli nødt til å utlevere vårt legeme. Alt skal helliges til tjeneste for Herren, vi selv og alt vårt.

"Ikke en klov må bli igjen," sa Moses. Slik skal det også lyde i Guds barns hjerter: helt for Herren. Han skal ha oss udelt. Ja han, den fredens Gud, vil hellige oss "helt igjennom, og må deres ånd, sjel og legeme bevares fullkomne, ulastelige ved vår Herre Jesu Kristi komme" (1Tess 5:17). For "Herren kan fullkommen frelse dem som kommer til Gud ved ham" (Heb 7:25).

I det følgende står det alltid at Herrens forherdet Faraos hjerte. Dette vemodige ordet viser at Farao nå var helt under dommen.

Gå til 2Mos 11:1-10
2Mos 11:1-10
Før Moses gikk til Farao denne gang, hadde Herren kunngjort ham det som skulle komme, enda en plage over Egypt. Når den hadde vist seg, skulle Farao bli så ivrig etter å få dem avsted at han endog ville drive dem bort.

Samtidig hadde han pålagt Moses, som han allerede hadde sagt i ørkenen (2Mos 3:21-22), at israelittene skulle be om gull- og sølvkar av egypterne. Herren hadde jo allerede før sagt til Abraham at hans etterkommere skulle være slaver i et fremmed land. Men han ville dømme det folket de skulle tjene, og at de deretter skulle ta mye gods med seg ut (1Mos 15:13-14).

Denne profetien gikk nøyaktig i oppfyllelse. Herren hadde hele tiden gitt folket nåde hos egypterne.

Egypterne hadde våknet til erkjennelse av hva slags folk de nå hadde hatt hos seg i flere hundre år. Nå gav de det Israels folk ba om, dels av frykt og dels av ærbødighet for dette folks stilling som den Høyeste Guds folk. De ville vel forsone hebreernes Gud på denne måten.

Kanskje ville de også gi en slags erstatning til dem for alt de hadde manglet. Moses' person stod høyt i folks øyne på grunn av den Guds makt som ble åpenbart over ham. Når Moses selv forteller om dette for å begrunne egypternes villighet, er det ikke på noen måte selvros. For myndigheten han hadde, var helt og fullt fra Gud.

Farao truet Moses med døden om han kom fram for ham mer etter at Moses hadde avslått å la noe bli igjen i Egypt. Moses svarte ham nå med å kunngjøre ham den siste plagen. Den skulle komme direkte fra Herren uten noen som helst ytre medvirkning av Moses eller Aron.

Alt det førstefødte i Egypt, fra Faraos førstefødte til den ringeste trellkvinnens førstefødte, hun som arbeidet ved kvernen, skulle dø. Også alt førstefødt av kveget skulle dø, fordi Farao ville holde fast på Israel, som er Herrens førstefødte sønn.

Tjenestekvinnen som arbeider ved kvernen, er betegnelsen på de ringeste i folket, for de ringeste trellene ble brukt på den maten.

Det var et tungt arbeid, da kvernene var svært ufullkomne. Man kjente ikke vind eller vannmøller den gang. Når det står i v. 7: "Ikke en hund skal gjø mot noen av Israels barn, verken mot folk eller fe", er det sagt, som et ordspråk, at intet ondt skulle ramme dem.

Og hadde egypterne ikke ville se det før, så skulle de gjennom denne plagen kjenne at Herren nå gjorde skilsmisse mellom Israel og egypterne.

Moses var fylt av Guds hellige nidkjærhets glød og kunngjorde Farao at da skulle Faraos tjenere be ham ydmykt, om å dra ut med alt folket.

Nå var Mose gjerning hos Farao slutt. Den var blitt utført med den største saktmodighet og tålmodighet. Han hadde også vist Farao den hensynsfullhet som en Guds tjener bør og skal vise et lands fyrste.

Til slutt står det at Moses gikk bort fra Farao i brennende harme. Det var et gjenskinn av Herrens hellige vrede som da gikk over Moses' ansikt.

Det er vanskelig for en synder å holde det kjødelige borte fra vreden. Men det er dog tider og forhold der nidkjærheten for Herrens sak kan ha rett til å åpenbare seg også i form av vrede. Vår Herre Jesus Kristus kunne bli vred.

Så kan heller ikke vreden alltid fordømmes i et troende hjerte. Men det gjelder å minnes ordet: "Bli vred, men synd ikke!" (Ef 4:26).

Gå til 2Mos 12:1-13
2Mos 12:1-13
Når folket skulle utfries fra trelldommen, får det en innvielse som svarer til deres høye stilling som Guds eiendomsfolk.

Innvielsen begynner med at påskelammet blir ofret. Påskelammet er i Israels historie av grunnleggende betydning. Og det er et klart og herlig forbilde på det sanne påskelam, Jesus Kristus. Derfor fastsatte Herren også nå en ny tidsregning og innstiftet et åndelig nyttår.

Det er som et kirkeår i den gamle pakt. Det borgerlige år begynte vanligvis med høstjevndøgn, 22. september. Da ble kornet lagt i jorden. Men Israels "kirkeår", om vi kan kalle det det, begynte med den måned som kalles "Abib", som betyr aks. For høsten begynte gjerne i april.

Etter det babylonske fangenskap kalles denne måneden også "Nisan" og svarer (nesten) til vår april. Jødene regnet året etter et måneskifte, som en måneår.

Men da blir månedene kortere enn våre, og hvert tredje år måtte de legge til en trettende måned, som en slags skuddmåned.

Så kom budet til Israels menighet. På den tiende dag i denne måned skulle de ta et lam for hvert hus. Bare hvis det ikke var mange nok i huset, kunne to familier slå seg sammen. Når hvert hus får bud om lammet, betyr det at hvert enkelt hjem skulle bli sitt ansvar bevisst overfor Herren.

Etter jødisk skikk pleidde de å være ti personer om offermåltidet, noen ganger flere.

Meningen med å ofre lammet var at det skulle være et stedfortredende offer. Lammets død skulle gjelde i stedet for den førstefødte blant Israels barn. Gud ville spare dem, mens egypternes førstefødte skulle bli dømt.

Påskelammet hadde jo bare sin stedfortredende betydning, ved å være forbilde på det lam som skulle dø på Golgata på langfredag. Derfor peker også alt hen på gudslammet, Jesus. Påskelammet skulle nemlig være lyteløst som forbilde på ham som i dypeste forstand kalles et "feilfritt og lyteløst lam" (1Pet 1:19).

Det skulle være et værlam, for det skulle ofres i stedet for de mannlige førstefødte i Israel. Det skulle være ett år gammelt, for å vise at det var den friske livskraft som ble ofret til Herren.

På den tiende dag skulle de ta det ut og ha det i forvaring til den fjortende dag. Det var vel for at lammets særlige betydning skulle feste seg i Israels folks bevissthet i disse fire dagene.

Den fjortende dag skulle hele folket slakte det "mellom de to aftenstunder". Dette uttrykket forstår en litt forskjellig. Noen av jødenes skriftlærde forstod det slik at den første aftenstund var kl. 6:og den andre kl. 1/28:da det var blitt fullstendig mørkt.

Fariseernes forklaring er likevel rimeligere. De mente at den første aften var kl. 3:da solen begynte å gå ned, og den andre aften kl. 6:da den virkelig gikk ned.

Da skulle alle forberedelser være gjort, og de skulle ta av blodet og stryke på dørstolpene og på det øverste dørtre på husene der påskelammet ble spist.

Den forbilledlige forsoningskraft lå i lammets blod. At blodet ble utgytt, betegner at livet ble gitt. Der blodet var, skjulte det liksom husets synder.

For blodets skyld betraktet Gud dem som var innenfor, som skyldfrie. De var hellige mennesker som døden ikke hadde noen makt over.

Alt dette peker så fint mot Gudslammets blod, som renser fra alle synd!

En lærer spurte en gang skolebarna om det var noe Gud ikke kunne se. Alle sa nei, unntatt ei lita jente som sa at hun visste om noe Gud ikke kunne se. "Gud kan ikke se min synd gjennom Jesu blod," svarte hun på lærerens spørsmål.

Blodet skulle strykes på dørstolpene og det øverste dørtre. Dette stod for hele huset ettersom døren åpner adgang til hele huset.

Når det nederste dørtre ikke skulle strykes med blod, betyr det vel at blodet ikke skulle vanhelliges ved at man gikk på det. Paktens blod måtte ikke ringeaktes (Heb 10:29). Man måtte ikke tre det under fot.

Israels barn skulle ete lammets kjøtt. Slik ble de delaktige i paktlammets velsignelse.

På den måten viste de jo at de tok imot og tilegnet seg det. Og dermed tilegnet de seg foreningen med Gud og hans frelses råd. Det peker mot hans ord, som var det sanne påskelam: "Dersom dere ikke eter Menneskesønnens kjød og drikker hans blod, har dere ikke liv i dere" (Joh 6:53).

Dette står også som forbilde på nattverden, hvor livssamfunnet med Herren nettopp formidles ved å nyte det legeme og blod som ble gitt til synderes frelse.

De skulle ikke bryte noe ben på påskelammet (v. 46), men det skulle være en enhet, en helhet. Derfor skulle det stekes på ilden, med hode, føtter og innvoller. Dette ble selvfølgelig først renset.

Også det, at lammet skulle bæres fram, som en helhet, peker mot at påskelammet Kristus ikke kan deles. Vi må ha ham helt og holdent, hvis vi vil ha del i ham, hele hans rettferdighet og nåde.

Det peker også på nattverdmåltidet, på fellesskapet og enheten mellom Guds folk. Vi har del i det ene og samme legeme, som Ordet sier: "Fordi det er ett brød, er vi ett legeme enda vi er mange. For vi har alle del i det ene brød." 1Kor 10:17.

Likesom det ble bestemt at ikke noe måtte etes rått, ble det også bestemt at ikke noe måtte levnes til neste morgen. Det som ble igjen, skulle de brenne opp med ild. Lammet som Gud hadde helliget, måtte ikke på noen måte vanhelliges, verken ved å etes i rå tilstand eller ved at noe råtnet.

De skulle ete kjøttet med usyret brød til. Surdeigen, som i og for seg betegner en gjæringstilstand, altså at forråtnelsen er begynt, er nesten alltid i Skriften brukt som bilde på synden. Den har også, som surdeigen, en sterkt smittende makt.

Derfor lyder Herrens bud så sterkt og bestemt at surdeigen skulle fjernes ved denne høytiden. Dette er forbilde på Herrens krav om å forsake all synd og urenhet, og kampen for et rent hjerte.

Ja, den som med sannhet skal kunne si: "Lammets blod har mitt dørtre tegnet, meg beseglet, jeg er hans," må også kunne si: "Jeg syndens surdeig ei mer vil smake."

De beske, bitre urtene som påskelammet skulle etes med, peker hen på lidelsen. Først er det alle de trengsler som Israels folk hadde vært gjennom i Egypt.

Dernest er det bilde på alle de trengsler alle Guds barn må gjennom. Det koster smerte for den gamle Adam å tro og forsake. Kongeveien til det himmelske Kana'an går gjennom lidelse til seier.

De skulle stå ferdige til å reise. Med belte om livet for at den lange overkjortelen ikke skulle gjøre det vanskelig å gå. Uten belte ville den henge løst ned.

Ved arbeide og hurtig gang snørte man kjortelen tettere sammen, bandt den opp om seg, som det ble kalt. Med sko på føttene og reisestav i hånden skulle de vente. Det var en stor trosøvelse for Israel å stå slik reiseferdige uten at de ennå hadde sett hvorledes reisen skullé gå for seg. De hadde fremdeles Egypts jernarm omkring seg.

Slik skal Guds barn til alle tider, åndelig talt, stå reiseklar. Vi skal være rede som fremmede og pilegrimer som bare oppholder seg her i det fremmede land en kort stund.

Mens Israel slik stod ferdige som ilbud omkring påskelammet, skulle Herren gå gjennom Egypt med det skarpe sverd og hevne sitt folk.

Herrens ord lyder veldig: "Over alle guder i Egypt vil jeg holde dom. Jeg er Herren." Når Herrens dom rammet alle de førstefødte, var det fordi de representerte hele folket.

Det er faren og morens første kraft og liksom de senere fødslers blomst. Dommen over dem var dommen over hele folket, og dermed også dommen over alle Egypts guder. Deres fullstendige avmakt lå nå klart i dagen.

Egypterne tilbad jo også dyr, som oksen Apis og bukken Mendis. Dommen rammet i bokstavelig forstand deres guder, ved at også det førstefødte av kveget måtte dø.

"Blodet på de hus hvor dere er, skal være til et tegn for dere. Når jeg ser blodet, vil jeg gå dere forbi." Slik lød Herrens ord. Alle som hadde tilflukt bak lammets blod, var frelst, uten hensyn til egen verdighet eller uverdighet.

Det er et herlig bilde på frelsen ved Kristi blod. I dåpens stund ble Herrens dyre blod strøket på vårt hjertes dør. Da ble hver enkelt av oss døpt til Kristi død og fikk del i blodets forsoning. Bare vi nå blir innenfor blodets pakt og lever vårt liv innenfor denne nåde, går dommen oss forbi.

Ordet påske kommer av et hebraisk ord som betyr "å gå forbi" eller skåne. I dette ordet ligger liksom hele frelsesevangeliet gjemt.

Gå til 2Mos 12:14-28
2Mos 12:14-28
Herren bestemte at de skulle huske og feire denne dagen, som en høytid for Herren, som "en evig forskrift".

Like til Jerusalems ødeleggelse ble den holdt blant jødene. Og høytiden for det "Guds lam" som bar verdens synd, har forsatt i den nye pakts folk.

Takken fra de gjenløste skal lyde for lammets frelsende blod, til evig tid. I dette avsnittet angis nøyere hvorledes Israels folk skulle holde påske. Det skulle skje først når de var kommet inn i det lovede land, v. 25. Fra 15. til 22. i måneden Abib skulle de holde høytid, og i den tiden måtte det ikke være noen surdeig i huset.

Den som åt syret brød, skulle "utryddes av Israel", står det. På den måten ville Herren gi et forbilde på den hellige, urokkelig grunnlov i sitt rike: "Den som elsker Herren, hat det onde" (Sal 97:10).

Vil noen beholde syndens urenhet, blir han dømt. Og hvis Herrens bestemte befaling krenkes, er forholdet til ham brutt. Det skjer om krenkelsen av Herrens vilje gjelder tilsynelatende små ting, eller i større.

Det første store syndefall var ytre sett bare en liten sak, frukt av et tre. Men Guds befaling var overtrådt, det var forbrytelsen.

Slik er det også med dommen over den som mot Guds klare bud, likevel åt syret brød i påskehøytiden.

På den første og den syvende dag i påskehøytiden skulle det være en hellig samling, og disse dagene skulle også være hviledager. Da måtte de ikke gjøre annet arbeid enn å lage mat. Herren innskjerper budet om ikke å ha surdeig i huset i påskehøytiden tre ganger, v. 18, 19, 20. Det var for at folket skulle bli minnet om at syndens urenhet var avskyelig. De skulle strebe etter renhet og hellighet.

Hele påskefesten er jo forbilledlig. Alt det ytre peker stadig hen på det indre, slik Paulus sier: " Rens derfor ut den gamle surdeig, så dere kan være ny deig, siden dere jo er usyret. For vart paskelam er slaktet, Kristus. Så la oss holde høytid, ikke med gammel surdeig, ikke med ondskapens og lastens surdeig, men med renhets og sannhets usyrede brød" (1Kor 5:7-8). Når påskehøytiden begynte, pleidde hver husfar i Israel å undersøke hele huset for å fjerne alt usyret brød. Deretter bad han Gud om at hvis det var noe han ikke hadde sett, måtte Gud forvandle det til støv og aske.

Den framtidige festen som ble forordnet her, var en stor styrke for Israels folk. Utfrielsen fra Egypt var jo forutsetningen for alle disse bestemmelsene.

De hørte at Gud stod bak alt som allerede var fullbrakt.

Alt det som Herren hadde sagt til Moses og Aron, kunngjorde de for de eldste i Israel. De skulle stryke blodet på døren med en isopkvast.

Det var en plante med sterk luft og ullaktige blad og kvite blomster. Man mente også at isop hadde en rensende helbredelseskraft.

Moses innskjerpet for Israel at de ikke måtte gå utenfor huset før om morgenen. Hele natten skulle de holde seg skjult bak blodet.

Hvis de gikk utenfor blodet, ville de bli rammet av dommen, sammen med egypterne. Det skal også lære oss å bli innenfor troen på Kristi blod.

Må Herren hjelpe oss som fant skjul under Jesu vinger, å ikke bygge på vårt eget. Vi må ikke våge oss utenfor blodets vern på noen måte, for da er vi ikke bedre stilt enn de vantro, og kommer under dommen.

Moses befalte også folket, når de senere skulle feire påskefesten, å fortelle deres barn de store ting Herren hadde gjort mot dem.

I jødenes påskeritual var også en særegen handling for å oppfylle dette ordet. Husets eldste sønn skulle nemlig spørre faren før de åt påskemåltidet, om hva alt dette skulle bety.

Da svarte faren: Dette påskemåltid eter vi fordi Herren gikk forbi våre fedres hus i Egypt. De sluttet så med lovprisning til Herren for hans store gjerninger. Israels folk skulle stadig betrakte Herrens store gjerninger og bygge sitt liv på det. Det gjelder også for den nye pakts barn, for oss troende, at vi stadig grunner på hva Herren har gjort for oss på Golgata og i dåpen.

Troens nye liv springer ut av det, og på denne grunnvoll bygger Herren alle andre gjerninger med oss.

Gå til 2Mos 12:29-51
2Mos 12:29-51
Så kom den skjebnesvangre natten. Egypterne hadde nok undret seg over at hebreerne smurte blod på dørene. Noen hadde vel spottet og spurt hva det skulle tjene til. Kanskje ble også noen redd, men nå la de seg til å sove.

Vi kan tenke oss at de ligger i nattens mørke, mens det er lys i alle hebreernes hjem. Troen våket og vantroen sov. Så gikk dødsengelen gjennom Egypt ved midnattstid. Og alle steder der blodet ikke var, rammet slaget.

Han var sendt av Gud, slik englene før ble sendt til Sodoma. "En er lovgiveren og dommeren" (Jak 4:12), slik lyder Ordet. Når engelen blir kalt "ødeleggeren" (v. 23), betyr det å ødelegge og å dømme.

Så lød skriket over hele Egyptens land, et skrik som peker på det skriket som vil lyde fra de vantro på den ytterste dag. Farao sank forferdet sammen. Også hans førstefødte var falt. Det var midnattsmørke utenfor og mørke i hans sjel.

øyeblikkelig sendte han bud, midt på natten, til Moses og Aron og gav dem lov til å dra ut slik de hadde bedt om. Ja, han brukte uttrykket: "Dra ut fra mitt folk", som viser at han gav dem lov til å dra ut for alltid.

Han tilføyer: "Be om velsignelse over meg også." Han mener de skal be Herren at det må gå ham godt, at dødsdommen ikke skulle ramme ham også. Egypterne trengte også hårdt på folket, i dødsangst.

Og straks begynte reisen. Folket fikk ikke engang tid til å syre deigen som var eltet i deigtrauene. Den skulle brukes til mat på reisen.

De måtte ta den usyrede deigen med. Det står at de svøpte sine klær om sine deigtrau.

Klærne var et stort firkantet klede som ble kastet over skuldrene. Denne kappen ble brukt av fattige folk og reisende som sengeteppe, samt ofte til bæreklede, som her.

Så drog Israels folk ut som et seiersfolk, med gaver fra egypterne. De drog først fra Ramses til Sukkot, en leirplass for gjetere noen mil lenger sør.

Alle var trolig samlet i Sukkot. De var en veldig hær på bortimot 600000 våpenføre menn. Når kvinner og barn regnes med, utgjorde hele folket et par millioner. Dette tallet skal vi ikke forundre oss over, for Herrens allmaktshånd hadde hindret dødeligheten og latt voksteren være stor.

Og ved fordobling og igjen fordobling blir det snart store tall. En del fremmede folk, som kanskje også hadde vært undertrykt av egypterne, sluttet seg til dem. De hadde kanskje også sett at Herren hadde gjort store ting med Israel, og ville derfor være med dem.

I dette ligger et varsel om at Israel skal bli til velsignelse, også for andre folkeslag. Men disse fremmede ble også en snare for Israel. Det skal vise seg senere. 4Mos 11:4.

Reisen begynte om morgenen den 15. i måneden Abib. Det ble den store minnedagen, Lammets blodsdag, og en veldig Herrens dag for Israel.

Denne dagen var etter jødene muntlige overlevering en fredag. Hvor underlig peker ikke dette på den store langfredag, da Guds lyteløse lams blod rant. Så talte Herren igjen til Moses og Aron (v. 43-49). Det skjedde trolig i Sukkot mens folket bakte usyrede kaker av deigen, de hadde tatt med fra Egypt.

Herren gav dem lover om de fremmede blant folket, og det ble satt et bestemt skille mellom Herrens folk og dem som stod utenfor, når det gjaldt å nyte påskemåltidet.

De fremmede tjenerne som var kjøpte for penger (1Mos 17:23) og som ble betraktet som innlemmet i folket i borgerlig forstand, skulle først omskjæres. De kunne ellers ikke ete av påskelammet. Fremmede gjester derimot eller fremmede dagarbeidere, som de ikke kunne omskjære, måtte ikke være med ved målet, med mindre de frivillig ble omskåret (v. 48).

Det skulle være en lov for alle fremmede. Skillet skulle settes uten hensyn til personer. Loven var alltid denne: Det var ingen adgang for uomskårne, men åpen adgang for alle som ville la seg omskjære.

Alt dette peker på nattverden og den kirketukt som bør være for å delta i den. Det skal også sies her at det bare er de som har bøyet sine hjerter inn under Herrens pakt, som har åndelig rett til å delta i velsignelse der. Men for disse er virkelig adgangen åpen.

Hvert enkelt påskelam skulle nytes i ett og samme hus. Det måtte ikke deles og bæres utenfor huset. Med det menes at de som hadde sluttet seg sammen om dette ene lammet, også skulle holde sammen og ikke gå til flere hus med hvert sitt stykke av lammet. Beina på lammet måtte jo ikke brytes sund.

Slik skal også Herrens nattverdbord tjene til å binde hjertene sammen til ett hjerte om den ene frelser.

Gå til 2Mos 13:1-22
2Mos 13:1-22
Hele første avsnitt, i v. 1-16: har som den dype grunntone: "Kom i hu!"

Herren kunngjorde nå for Moses bestemmelsen om at alt det førstefødte blant mennesker og dyr, skulle helliges Herren. Dette skulle også tjene til å gi Israel noen faste holdepunkt. Dermed skulle de stadig minnes hvorledes Herren hadde ført dem ut av Egypts trellehus med veldig hånd.

Bestemmelsen om at alt det førstefødte skulle høre Herren til og helliges spesielt for ham, skulle også tjene til å innprente Israel at det stod i et sønneforhold og et eiendomsforhold til Herren. Det er den samme tanken som kommer oss i møte i det herlige ordet hos Jes 43:1: "Frykt ikke! Jeg har gjenløst deg, kalt deg ved navn, du er min."

Bestemmelsen om helligelsen av de førstefødte, skulle først tre i kraft når folket var kommet inn i Kana'an, v. 11. Det skulle bare gjelde førstefødte av hankjønn. Det skulle liksom gis på vegne av de andre.

Først omtales de førstefødte av de såkalte "rene dyr". Det var dyr som skulle brukes til ofringene, og alt kveget tilhørte det (kyr, sauer og geiter). Det førstefødte av dette skulle ofres til Herren.

Deretter pekes på de urene dyr, v. 13. "Urent" betyr altså det som ikke kunne ofres til Herren, her er nevnt eselet. Da de urene dyrene ikke kunne ofres til Herren, skulle det førstefødte blant dem innløses med et lam, som var rent. Hvis man ikke ville det, skulle det drepes.

På den måten viste man at det var tatt ut av deres eiendom og gitt til Herren. "Alt førstefødt av mennesker, blant dine sønner, skal du løse."

Slik var befalingen. Egentlig var alle førstefødte sønner helliget til tjeneste for Herren. Men da tjenesten ved helligdommen ble overlatt levittene, skulle de betale løsepenger til helligdommen for dem. Slik ble Herrens eiendomsforhold slått fast. Etter 4Mos 3:47 utgjorde denne summen 5 sekel sølv.

De usyrede brøds høytid skulle være et årlig minne om forløsningen fra Egypt. Slik skulle også helligelsen av de førstefødte være en stadig påminnelse i det daglige liv, om hvorledes Herrens dom var gått over de førstefødte i Egypt, men at Israel ble skånet.

Slik skulle fedrene la budskapet gå videre til sine sønner.

I v. 16 står det: "Det skal være et merke på din hånd og et minnetegn på din panne. For med sterk hånd førte Herren oss ut av Egypt."

Dette er en billedlig tale om at de alltid skulle huske dette, i likhet med det Herren sier i Jes 49:16: "Se, i begge mine hender har jeg tegnet deg." Når det står "et minnetegn på din panne" betyr det ei reim som noen jøder bærer på pannen og armen. I den har de små sedler med skriftord på.

Herren henviser til dette i Matt 23:5: "De gjør sine bønneremmer brede." Men meningen er jo at de alltid skal ha Herrens gjerninger for øye, slik David uttrykker det: "Jeg setter alltid Herren for meg."

Da nå vandringen ut av Egypt begynte, glemte Moses ikke det løfte som ble gitt Josef før han døde. Folket skulle ta hans ben med seg til Kana'an når de drog dit.

Josefs balsamerte lik lå antagelig i en kiste av sedertre, slik skikken var. Selv om de hadde hastverk, glemte de det ikke. Det viser at løftet har levd i folket.

Den korteste vei til Kana'an kunne ha vært tilbakelagt på omkring 10 dager. Men for å skåne dem for farer, ledet Herren dem en lang omvei.

Slik må Herren ofte gjøre for oppdragelsens skyld. Israel hadde vært så lenge i trelldom, at de først behøvde oppdragelse for å kunne bære friheten rett og utføre de oppgaver som fulgte med. De skulle være alene med Gud i ørkenen, bare leve på ham og lære ham å kjenne i hans store tabernakel.

Dessuten skulle folket herdes i ørkenen til kampen i Kana'an. Det samme gjentas i det små med hvert eneste menneske som blir omvendt.

Det skal en alvorlig oppdragelse til for å lære å vandre det kall verdig, som vi er kalt til. Hadde folket straks blitt ført inn mot filisterne, uten først å blitt oppdratt til striden, ville de snart blitt motløse.

Herren selv ledet sitt folk - i en skystøtte om dagen og i en ildstøtte om natten. Herren selv, vil si Herrens engel, Guds egen sønn, var i denne støtten.

Han talte til Moses ut fra den. Den var hans bolig blant folket, slik han nå bor i sitt ord og i sine sakramenter. "Gud Herren er sol og skjold" (Sal 84:12). Det viste seg i sannhet også i denne ildstøtten, som om natten var folkets sol, men overfor egypterne også folkets skjold.

Slik ledet Herren den gang sitt folk etter det barnestadium de stod på. Også nå leder Herren sine ved sin Hellige Ånd og ved livets mange ting. Han lar oss ikke mangle sitt lys, bare vi ber ham om å veilede oss. Folket drog nå videre, ledet av skystøtten eller ildstøtten, der Herren gikk foran dem. De kom så til Etam ved grensen av ørkenen.

Gå til 2Mos 14:1-14
2Mos 14:1-14
Da vandringen skulle fortsette, bad Herren dem å vende om og gå mot sør i stedet for å gå rett nord, utenom Rødehavet. Slik kom de til vestsida av havet.

Israels folk skulle slå leir ved Pi-Hakirot, midt imot Ba'al-Sefon. Det var visstnok en helligdom for den egyptiske guden Tyfon.

At Moses førte folket mot sør, måtte oppfattes som dårskap, etter alminnelig menneskelig mening. På den måten fikk Israel havet mellom seg og den ørken de skulle dra gjennom. En slik vei syntes ikke å lede dem til målet.

Det kom til å se ut som dårskap for Farao, og han mente folket hadde faret vill i ørkenen. Men det var nettopp den veien Herren ville dra fram med sine dommer og forherlige sitt navn. Farao mente at Israels barn nå var gått i en felle, og idet han var under forherdelsens dom, var han liksom blind for alle Guds veldige under.

Alt var glemt, også den siste veldige dom over de førstefødte. Men det var Herren som slo ham med blindhet. Slik ble det igjen tilslørt for ham at Israel hadde dradd ut "med løftet hånd" (v. 8).

Farao hadde gjennomgått forherdelsens tre utviklingstrinn:

Jeg vil ikke - jeg kan ikke - jeg vet ikke. Farao stirret bare blindt på det timelige, på det tapet han mente han fikk ved å miste så mange arbeidskrefter.

Så satte han etter folket med 600 utvalgte stridsvogner. Egypternes hovedmakt bestod nettopp av stridsvogner og ryttere, slik vi også hører om senere hos profetene. Stridsvognene var besatt med flere stridsmenn og senere også forsynt med skarpe jernkniver på siden, som skar løs i menneskevrimmelen.

Vognene hadde bare to hjul, men de var meget fryktet på grunn av sin ødeleggende virkning. Så drog egypterne avsted i hovmodig blindhet og djevelsk hevntørst.

Israels barn var, så vidt vi kan forstå, leiret på en slette i en dal. I øst vendte den mot Rødehavet, mot sør og vest var den stengt ved fjell. Den var bare tilgjengelig nordfra, og der kom fienden.

Rødehavet kalles slik fordi bunnen består av rød sand. Hvilken gru da de så Faraos hær komme. En fryktelig angst la seg over dem, De så ut for dem som om Faraos stridsvogner om kort tid var midt iblant dem. Bare en vei syntes å være åpen, veien oppover.

Og den gikk de også, idet de i hjerteangst ropte til Herren. Men det var ikke et ydmykt troens rop fra mange av dem. For nå begynte de også å knurre høyt mot Moses og gi ham skylden for den stilling de var kommet i.

De fleste av dem var ennå vantro. Herren var ikke blitt deres klippe i sannhet. Også de glemte, i likhet med egypterne, hva Gud hadde vist dem av sitt velde og sin makt. Men Moses stod som en troens kjempe midt iblant dem og talte i Herrens navn disse herlige ordene: "Frykt ikke! Stå fast! Se Herrens frelse, som han vil sende dere i dag! For slik som dere ser egypterne i dag, skal dere aldri i evighet se dem mer. Herren skal stride for dere, og dere skal være stille."

Disse mektige løftesord har trøstet tusener av Guds barn i tidens løp. Både Guds menighet i det store og det enkelte Guds barn kjenner av egen erfaring slik tider. Alt var liksom lukket, ingen utvei var å se.

Men fienden, Djevelen i spissen for verdens makter eller kjødets lyster, var i hælene på det forskremte Guds folk. Hvor ofte så det ikke ut som om man måtte gå under, og forsagtheten og motløshetens mørke senket seg ned over sjelen.

Alt det man hadde opplevd av Guds nåde og makts erfaringer, var liksom innhyllet i tåke. Men Herrens folk må aldri glemme at selv om alle veier synes stengt, er veien oppad åpen for alle Guds ærlige barn. Herren som førte oss ut av vantroens Egypt, vil ikke slippe sin lille hjord.

Det gjelder bare om å være stille og la Herren stride for oss, så skal vi se hans frelse. Herrens arm er ikke for kort, vei har han alle steder. Vi skal bare tro ham og ikke frykte, det er saken.

Det er som det står i Siraks bok 2:10-11: "Se tilbake på henfarne slekter og tenk etter: Ble noen til skamme som satte sin lit til Herren? Eller ble noen latt i stikken som helt og fullt fryktet ham? Eller ropte noen til ham uten å bli hørt? Nei, for Herren er nådig og barmhjertig, han tilgir synder og frelser i nødens stund."

Men det er vanskelig å være stille og la Herren stride, når faren truer og alt ser så tungt ut. Hvor lett har ikke hjertet da for å knurre mot sin Gud. Men Ordet står fast: "Dersom du tror, skal du se Guds herlighet." Gå til 2Mos 14:15-31

2Mos 14:15-31
Moses selv, som hadde trøstet folket med Herrens løfter, var heller ikke fri for frykt og redsel i det faretruende øyeblikk ved Rødehavet.

Det merker vi på Herrens ord til ham: "Hvorfor roper du til meg?" I hjertedypet lød et veldig rop fra Moses opp til Herren. Men at tvil har blandet seg inn i dette, forstår vi av Herrens ord her.

Det er tider i Guds barns liv da de ikke lenger skal rope om hjelp, men tro på bønnhørelse, at Gud allerede har sagt ja til bønnen.

Det er ikke til velbehag for Gud å fortsette å rope om hjelp, når han har sagt: din bønn er hørt. Og Herren hadde talt så klart ved sin ledelse med folket. Den rette innstilling hadde da vært å se oppover og vente i stille forvissning om Herrens frelse. Det hadde Moses også selv nettopp sagt til folket.

Men det er ofte lettere å tale trøstens ord til andre enn selv å hvile i den samme trøsten.

"Si til Israels barn at de skal dra videre," slik lød Herrens mektige ord. Nå gjaldt det å gå i tro på ordet som det står i sangen:

"Kun fremad, og havet har vei uten båt, så fritt du kan trede blant bølger og synge med jublende glede: vår Herre vet råd."

Det var om kvelden og Faraos hær var nær Israels leir. Da så Israels barn at skystøtten som hadde vært foran dem til nå, stilte seg bak dem og stod mellom dem og egypterne. Det var Herren som stilte seg som et skjold for folket.

For egypterne ble han som "sky og mørke", slik at de bare kunne famle seg framover. Men for Israels barn lyste ildstøtten, som vanlig, om natten. Og er det ikke alltid slik at den samme Gud er lys for sitt folk, men mørke for de vantro.

Slik er det i sannhet med Ordet og sakramentene der Herren nå har sin bolig. Det er mørkt som natten for det vantro sinn, men herlig lys for det troende hjerte.

Så rakte Moses sin hånd ut over havet. Og straks kom en sterk østenvind. Da skilte vannet seg, slik at det ble vei midt i vannet.

Den gamle rasjonalismen ville i sin vantro bortforklare hele dette underet. De mente det var en ganske naturlig følge av flo og fjære.

Men det er helt umulig, for fjære varer bare 3-4 timer, og på den tiden kunne ikke bortimot to millioner mennesker, med alt kveget, komme over. Det står jo også at vannet skilte seg som en mur på høyre og venstre side.

Slik lød det også i Moses' lovsang: "Bølgene stod som en voll. Dype vann stivnet i havets hjerte" (2Mos 15:8). Det skulle nok tro til å gå fram på denne veien. Hjertene har sikkert stått stille nå, det var som en hellig vandring.

I det øyeblikk måtte all tvil og kjødelig vesen forstumme for Herrens majestet. Derfor står det i Heb 11:29: "Ved tro gikk de gjennom Rødehavet som over tørt land".

De fleste hadde sikkert bare en annenhåndstro, de gikk på Moses' tro. De hadde blikket vendt mot ham da han gikk foran med staven i hånd.

For menneskeøyet så det ut som en farlig vei. Og likevel var veien så trygg. For vi kan være trygge over alt der Herren leder oss.

Hele denne vandring er, som Luther sier, et bilde på hvert Guds barns trosvandring. De store bølgene fra mørkets makter truer med å sluke Guds barn. Vi går stadig i fare hvor vi går, i en langt større fare enn vi ofte kan tenke oss.

Men Herren holder bølgene tilbake. Han er sol og skjold for sine hellige, og han som er større enn Moses, går foran med korsets tre, som er mer en staven til Moses.

Tilhører du, min leser, dette folket, som "følger Lammet hvor det går" (Åp 14:4)? Sier også du: Stans ikke, for jeg vil følge Guds folk til strid gjennom ørken og bølger? Er du med på denne underlige, men likevel så salige trosvandring? Egypterne fulgte langsomt etter, fordi de var hindret av mørket som skystøtten bredte over dem. I rasende blindhet fulgte de Israel på veien gjennom havet og mente de også kunne gå der Israels folk gikk.

Nei, vantroen faller der troen står. Å etterligne de hellige på vandringen, uten deres tro, blir et sørgelig selvbedrag og nederlag.

Men det gikk en stund, og egypterne var kommet midt ut på havet. Da brøt en ildglans ut fra skystøtten. Guds øye så i dommens ildslue på den hevntørstige skare.

En fryktelig redsel bredte seg blant egypterne. Hestene ble antagelig sky, de tumlet mellom hverandre, hjulene ble slått av vognene så de ikke kunne komme fram uten med store vanskeligheter.

Da gikk sannheten endelig opp for egypterne, men det var for sent. Hvilket alvorlig bilde er ikke dette på hvorledes det vil gå alle de som er gjenstridige mot sannheten. En gang i dødens øyeblikk må de se sannheten slik som den virkelig er, og selvbedraget er nødt til å briste.

Faraos hær ville fly, for nå kunne de ikke lenger unngå å se at det var Herren som stred mot dem, skjønt de ikke hadde villet det før.

På flukt for Guds ildøye styrtet egypterne inn i de dype vann. Vannet vendte først tilbake på den siden egypterne var kommet fra og hvor de flyktet tilbake.

En liten stund - og egypterne lå døde på havets bunn. Ikke en unnslapp. Da morgensolen strålte fram, hadde Israels barn sett Guds frelse, og hele folket stod betatt av bevisstheten om Guds nærhet. Og de trodde på "Herren og på hans tjener, Moses".

Stedet der Israels barn gikk over Rødehavet kan ikke angis nøyaktig nå. For så vidt man har kunnet utforske, gikk Rødehavet mye lenger nord da enn nå. Men selv om de synlige spor er utslettet, skal minnet om denne Guds makts gjerning aldri utslettes.

Hvilken styrke for Guds folk! Men vantroen må gyse. Ved Rødehavets bredder har Gud holdt en preken, og den skal aldri forstumme gjennom alle slekter.

 

Gå til 2Mos 15:1-21
2Mos 15:1-21
"Han drog meg opp av fordervelsens grav, av den dype gjørmen. Han satte mine føtter på en klippe, han gjorde mine trinn faste. Han la i min munn en ny sang, en lovsang for vår Gud," slik synger David (Sal 40:3-4).

Der man har sett Guds vidunderlige frelse og mektige dommer, må hjertet bryte ut i lovsang. Lovprisningen er hjertets fryd, ikke bare over gaven, men først og fremst over giveren.

Denne Israels lovsang er den første hellige sang vi finner i vår Bibel. Det var en vekselsang, for kvinnene anført av Mirjam, Moses og Arons søster, sang til svar. Grunntonen i hele sangen er dette: Herren har gjort store ting imot oss. Den maler for oss Guds veldige makt overfor en hevngjerrig fiende.

Fiendens rasende tørst etter hevn skildres slik: "Jeg vil forfølge dem, jeg vil innhente dem. Jeg vil dele ut hærfang, jeg vil mette min sjel med dem. Jeg vil dra mitt sverd, min hånd skal utrydde dem."

Disse ordene gir oss et bilde på den forfølgelse som Djevelen i spissen for mørkets ånder, har i gang mot Guds folk til alle tider.

Det er som det står i en liten sang: "Satan og verden med list og med makt, har meg forfulgt som et rovdyr på jakt." Men Faraos stolte hær sank som stein og bly i havet for Guds hellige vredes dom.

Slik skal Guds dom over fiendene skje gjennom alle tider. I 1Tess 2:8 står noe lignende: Herren skal med sin munns ånde fortære Antikrist og tilintetgjøre ham "når hans gjenkomst åpenbares i herlighet".

Det er en lovprisning av Herrens majestet som bryter ut i disse ordene: "Herre, hvem er som du blant gudene? Hvem er som du herlig i hellighet, forferdelig å lovprise, underfull i gjerning?"

Ja, Israels Gud hadde i sannhet bevist seg som Herren over alle hedningegudene. Han var en Gud, forferdelig for alle sine fiender, men som styrke og frelse for sitt folk.

Kjenner du, min leser, til en slik lovsang for Herren? Så sant du er frelst, er du også ført gjennom Rødehavet ut fra Egypts trelldom. For når du ble født, var du et vredens barn og i hans makt som er verre enn noen Farao. Men har du priset din Gud for det, kjenner du Moses' lovsang fra ditt eget hjerte?

Moses' lovsang har evighetsklang. I Åp 15 står om de frelste som har vunnet seier over dyret, at de sang "Guds tjener Moses' sang" nettopp fordi denne frelse her ved Rødehavet er et forbilde også for den siste, evige frelse.

Fra v. 13 vendes blikket mot framtiden. Det Herren har gjort, er bevis for det han fremdeles vil gjøre. Slik han har hjulpet til nå, vil han også heretter hjelpe. Er din sjel full av lov og pris for det Herren har gjort, da har du også en salig tillit til ham med hensyn til framtiden.

Moses skuer med det profetiske blikk inn i framtiden. Han ser allerede i ånden at han er ved målet. Et Guds barn kan også nå se ut over alle kamper og allerede i håpet se at det er hjemme i seierslandet, i det himmelske Kana'an.

Det er lykkelige øyeblikk og en forsmak på saligheten hisset. Det ventet ennå mange kamper for Moses, men i lovprisningen svinger troen seg på ørnevinger over alt sammen.

"Du fører med din miskunnhet det folk du forløste. Du leder dem ved din kraft til din hellige bolig," slik lød det i Moses' hjerte. Det er salige toner som får en dobbelt klang, i den nye pakts lys.

Det gjenløste folk - ført ved miskunnhet, ledsaget av Herrens kraft til hans hellige bolig. Det er strenger som gir gjenklang dypt inne i hvert Guds barns hjerte. Og Moses ser framover, hvorledes alle folkets fiender vil bli lammet ved å høre budskapet om det Herren hadde gjort ved Rødehavet.

Edom, Moab, alle Kana'ans og Palestinas folk skulle bli "stumme som stein" ved å høre dette. Slik sier Moses, og slik gikk det også (Jos 2:10).

Og Moses ser videre i ånden hvorledes Herren vil føre sitt folk til det berg som er hans arv. Der ville han plante dem og skape seg en bolig, en helligdom iblant dem.

Moses' og Arons søster, Mirjam, kalles her en profetinne (v. 20). Også hun var altså utrustet med ganske spesielle Åndens gaver. Hun stilte seg i spissen for alle Israels kvinner og svarte mennene med et omkved av lovsangen.

Trommen de brukte bestod av et skinn som var spent over en tre- eller metaliring. Den slo de takten til ringdansen på med fingrene. Noen ganger var det festet små metallskiver til ringen for å gi instrumentet en sterkere klang. Dansen det er tale om, var bevegelser i ring med rytmiske trinn. Det var altså ikke en dans mellom menn og kvinner, men mellom kvinner innbyrdes. Det er det første vi merker oss.

Og videre skal vi komme i hu at det var en dans til Herrens ære under salmesang og lovprisning, slik David senere danset foran Herrens ark (2Sam 6:14). En slik dans er det ingen fare ved. Men hvor mye blir det ikke danset til Djevelens ære og glede, med kjødelig sinn glemmer de Herren.

Gå til 2Mos 15:22-27

2Mos 15:22-27
Så fortsetter vandringen, og nå gikk den ut i ørkenen. Israels barn ville nok ha ønsket å straks bli båret på englehender til det lovede land! Men Herren så hvor mye de behøvde å komme i skole. Folket skulle lære å bøye seg inn under Herrens tanker og veier. Det skulle snart vise seg at det var svært nødvendig. De hadde ikke mer vann, og tørsten var stor. Da kom de til Mara, som betyr "bitterhet".

Stedet hadde fått dette navnet fordi vannet var beskt. Da knurret folket mot Moses. Det er sørgelig å se hvorledes lovsangen så snart med avløst av knurr! Menneskehjertet er i sannhet dårlig.

Noen små timelige savn og møye er ofte nok til å overvelde oss og fordunkle Herrens store miskunnhet. Men vi har en langmodig Gud! Han gjorde et under ved Maras vann, og ved dette under ble vannet søtt.

Han viste nemlig Moses et slags tre som han skulle kaste i vannet. Da ble vannet godt. Dette er et vakkert bilde på hvorledes Herren kan forvandle bitterhet til noe godt, også åndelig talt. Da kan hjertet si med ordet i Jes 38:17: "Se, til fred ble meg det bitre, ja det bitre." Når en synder våkner og skal gjennom omvendelsens smerte, står han ved Maras beske vann. Erkjennelsen av vår egen synd og vantro, av vårt eget fordervede hjerte, er sannelig en besk drikk.

Men det finnes et tre som gjør alt søtt når det blir kastet i syndesorgens beske vann. Kjenner du dette tre, min leser? Det er korsets tre fra Golgata! Salig er den som har erf art den makt som er i dette treet, som kan bekjenne etter Herrens ord: Du er Herren, min lege (jfr. v. 26).

Og på mange andre måter kommer Guds barn på veien til himmelens Kana'an til Maras beske vann. Det er prøvelser og trengsler som kan være meget beske for hjertet. Men rådet er alltid det samme: kast korsets tre i Maras vann, se på hans kjærlighet som døde på dette treet.

Da forstår du at han elsker deg nettopp gjennom det vanskelige, og da får du en salig frukt ut av trengselen. Da kan du si: Det var godt at jeg ble ydmyket.

Da forstår du at om det var vanskelig å bli liten, er det godt å være liten. Da er Maras vann blitt søtt for deg, og du kan takke for det vanskelige.

Alt det som skjedde ved Mara, var en prøve fra Herren. Det står disse merkelige ord: "Der satte han dem lov og rett, og der prøvde han dem."

Prøven viste folket hvor dårlig det stod til med deres tillit til Herren. Men prøven ved Mara var og en innskjerpelse av det som var lov og rett mellom Herren og hans folk.

Gud bestemte igjen oppdragelsens lov for sin lov, som en oppdragelse gjennom trengsel til herlighet. Det er en åndelig lov i Guds rike til alle tider at den Herren elsker, den refser han, og gjennom lidelse går det til seier.

Men det er retten, nåderetten for Guds folk, at om vi hører Herren vår Guds røst og i lydighet vil la oss veilede av Herren, da tør vi alltid være forvisset om at han, som Herren, leger oss og frelser oss i all nød, v. 26.

Da tør vi være visse om at vi blir frelst fra den dom som går over verden. Slik sier Herren her til Israel at om de vil lyde ham, skal de plager som rammet egypterne, ikke ramme dem.

"Men dersom vi dømte oss selv, ble vi ikke dømt" (1Kor 11:31). Slik er lov og rett for Guds folk.

Fra prøven ved Mara kom de til et godt hvilested, oasen Elim. Der var vakre vannkilder og palmetre. Der slo de leir og hvilte ut.

Folkets vandring til Kana'an er forbilde på den åndelige vandring til det himmelske Kana'an. Også på troens vandring fører Herren oss ofte fra vanskelige prøvelser til gode tider med hvile og nytt mot.

Da kan vi synge med fryd: "Hodet hviler jeg i hans skjød, jeg slukker tørsten av livets vanne, palmen kjøler meg dagens glød, svaler min brennende panne."

Men det er godt for den som kan si, ikke bare i Elim: "Herren er min hyrde, meg fattes intet," men også ved Mara: "Om enn mitt kjød og mitt hjerte svikter, så er Gud mitt hjertes klippe og min del for evig" (Sal 73:26).

Herren er den samme. Det er den samme kjærlighet som gjør fattig og gjør rik, som nedtrykker og opphøyer. Bare det også er slik for oss, du Guds barn, og vi kan ha den samme tillit og takk til Herren.

Gå til 2Mos 16:1-12
2Mos 16:1-12
Fra Elims kilder og palmetrær gikk ferden igjen ut i ørkenen mot Sinai.

Først reiste de et stykke langs Rødehavet (4Mos 33:10), deretter inn i ørkenen Sin. Det var bare en måned siden de hadde reist ut av Egypt, og de hadde erfart Herrens underfulle makt, både ved Rødehavet og ved Mara.

Allikevel knurret de snart igjen mot Moses og Aron. Det så jo ut for folket som om de kom lenger og lenger bort fra målet. Reisen gikk stadig mot sør, mens Kana'an lå mot nord. Hvor ofte har det ikke skjedd gjennom tidene at Guds barn har klaget av samme grunn.

Man forstod ikke Herrens ledelse, og tilsynelatende ble man ført bort fra det man lengtet etter og håpet på. Da er det ofte tungt å si med sannhet: "Hvor Gud meg fører går jeg glad, han, ikke jeg, skal råde."

Da våknet lengselen i Israels barn etter kjøttgrytene i Egypt. Maten de hadde tatt med seg, var vel ikke oppbrukt. Men Løgnens fyrste innbilte dem at det hadde vært mye bedre i Egypt.

Og det kjødelige sinn ville heller ha god mat i trellekår, enn å vente litt på frigjørelsen under Guds nåde. Et Guds barn kjenner også til dette. I vanskelige tider kan man tenke: var det ikke bedre før du ble en kristen, da du nøt verdens glede på en annen måte?

Men det er noe Løgnens far ikke omtaler: kjøttgrytene i Egypt, dvs, livet i verden, kan ikke skilles fra slavedriverne i Egypt, fra trelleåket under Djevelen.

Når folket sa så lettsindig: "Å, om vi bare hadde fått dø for Herrens hånd i landet Egypt" og ønsket at de også hadde dødd den gang dødsengelen gikk gjennom Egypt, da var det vantro tale, som ikke er ukjent den dag i dag.

"Å, gid jeg var død!" Hvor ofte hører vi ikke verden si det når vanskene kommer. De er blinde for dødens alvor, for det som kommer etter døden.

Men vi har en langmodig Gud! Selv om folket med sitt kjødelige sinn fortjente straff, så gjorde han ikke med dem etter deres overtredelser. Men tvert om hjalp han dem og gav dem det de bad om.

I Egypt hadde folket fått brød fra jorden, nå skulle de ha brød fra himmelen. Herren har forråd alle steder og kan skaffe hjelp.

Om han er vår Gud, skulle vi ikke frykte. "Så stor er ingen nød å finne, som ikke for hans kraft kan svinne." Men Herrens gave til folket, skulle også være en oppgave. Alle Guds gaver er også oppgaver.

Lydighetsprøven som lå i denne gaven, bestod i at de skulle sanke himmelbrød hver dag, men bare for en dag om gangen. Bare på den sjette dag skulle de samle så mye at de hadde nok for den syvende også.

Da skulle de holde hviledag for Herren. Da måtte de ikke sanke manna.

Moses og Aron sa til folket at slik ville Herren gjøre det. De skulle se Herrens makt og herlighet samme kveld og neste morgen. De skulle også lære at det egentlig var Herren selv de knurret mot.

Det må Herrens tjenere si den dag i dag når mennesker i vantro knurrer mot Herrens vei. "For hva er vel vi, siden dere knurrer mot oss?"

Saul fra Tarsus forfulgte de hellige, men Herren sa til ham: Saul, Saul, hvorfor forfølger du meg? Og Herren har sagt: "Den som hører dere, hører meg, og den som forkaster dere, forkaster meg" (Luk 10:16).

Derfor sa Moses til Israels barn: "Kom fram for Herren, for han har hørt hvordan dere knurrer." Ja, det er saken, det kan ikke nytte å skjule seg bak mennesker og skylde på dem. Nei, vil du knurre over dine kår, da vil det gå som det gikk israel: du blir beskjemmet.

Da de så mot skystøtten som viste seg i ørkenen, ble Herrens herlighet åpenbart i skyen. Herrens åpenbarelse ble denne gang ikke til fryd, men til frykt og skam for folket. De følte seg skyldige i samvittigheten.

Men Herren lot dem ikke føle tukten denne gang. Han lovet dem at de skulle få kjøtt å ete "mellom de to aftenstunder" (2Mos 12:6). Neste morgen skulle de mettes med brød. På ny skulle de erfare hans guddomsmakt.

Gå til 2Mos 16:13-36
2Mos 16:13-36
Herrens løfte ble oppfylt ved at det kom mange vaktler om kvelden.

Det var en slags åkerhøns som ennå finnes i Arabia, Syria og Palestina. De kommer noen ganger i så tette skarer at arabiske gutter kan drepe flere av dem i et eneste slag. Noen ganger utmattes de i flukten og daler ned på marken og kan tas med hendene.

Slik gikk det her. Og neste morgen lå det noe underlig på marken som de aldri hadde sett før. Det lignet på rimfrost. Israels barn så det og talte sammen om hva det kunne være.

De kunne ikke forstå det før Moses sa at dette var brødet fra Herren. Så gikk de ut og sanket, slik Herren hadde befalt dem. Hver dag fikk de nok. Om de tilsynelatende ikke hadde like mye utbytte av arbeidet, viste det seg at det alltid var nok.

De fikk alltid en omer til hver person. Det er ca. 3:6 liter. De fikk ikke for mye og ikke for lite. Det har Herren også lovet sitt folk.

Han har lært oss å be: Gi oss i dag vårt daglige brød. Det kan den nye pakts barn være like visse på å få som i den gamle pakt. Hvor ofte har ikke Herren vist at det som syntes lite, var nok.

De måtte ikke la noe være igjen til neste dag. De som prøvde på det for å slippe å sanke neste dag, eller av bekymring for at det ikke skulle komme manna da, erfarte at det gikk makk i det og det ble fordervet.

Herren ville lære dem at de skulle tro hans ord for hver dag, ta dag for dag og ikke være bekymret. Men i dette ligger også en advarsel mot gjerrighet, som samler i lager, av havesyke eller bekymring.

Det blir også til fordervelse for sjelen.

De skulle sanke hver dag. De som ikke gjorde det, fikk selvsagt ingen ting. Slik er det i det timelige. Det er en gave fra Gud, men en skal arbeide.

"Den som ikke vil arbeide, skal heller ikke ete." (2Tess 3:10). Åndelig talt må en også sanke hver dag. Man kan ikke leve på tidligere erfaringer.

Gjør man det, uten å samle himmelsk manna fra Ordet og sakramentenes åker, vil troslivet opphøre.

Men når den syvende dag kom, ble det annerledes. Herren innviet sabbaten ved et dobbelt under. Det skjedde dels ved at de fikk dobbelt så mye den sjette dag, og dels ved at mannaen holdt seg fullstendig frisk fra den sjette til den syvende dag.

På den måten viste Gud at ved seks dagers arbeid ville han gi føde for den syvende. Det daglige slit på en hviledag er ikke etter hans vilje.

Det står at noen blant folket gikk ut for å sanke også på den syvende dag. Det var ulydighet og vantro overfor Herrens ord. Og da fant de intet, men fikk et tuktens ord fra Herren: "Hvor lenge vil dere nekte å holde mine bud og mine lover?"

Vi skal legge merke til at sabbaten her gjøres hellig, lenge før loven og det tredje bud var gitt. Sabbaten stammet jo helt fra skapelsen av (1Mos 2:3).

På grunn av syndefallet var den blitt uklar i menneskets bevissthet. Og under oppholdet i Egypt hadde Farao neppe tillatt folket å holde hviledag. Det gjør heller ikke Djevelen, denne verdens Farao, den dag i dag, og han driver ofte sine tilhengere til å slite under åket også på hviledagen. Men det går klart fram av dette at Herren har gitt oss en fri dag hver syvende dag. Det viser seg også at overtredelse av sabbaten gjør en fattig i dobbel forstand.

Det gir i virkeligheten ikke mer utbytte enn seks dagers arbeid, men medfører bare Herrens vrede. Måtte også dette Guds ord hjelpe til at Herrens dag måtte bli en hellighets hvile blant Herrens folk. Det viser seg ikke bare for det enkelte Guds barn, men for hele folkeslag, at lydighet mot Herrens ord gir velsignelse.

Dette brødet fra himmelen ble kalt "man" av Israels barn. Det var hvitt og smakte søtt som honning. Navnet "man" henger sammen med det hebraiske ordet for "hva er det?" Slik spurte jo Israels barn da de først fant det på jorden.

I nærheten av Sinai finnes et slags tre som kalles Tarfa-treet. Fra grenene faller det av og til noe som ligner manna. Om natten i den varme sommertiden kommer det fram fra barken som små hvite korn.

Det faller mest av det i regnfulle år, og dette forekommer bare i nærheten av Sinai. Det inneholder ikke annet stoff en slimsukker.

Rasjonalistene som alltid forsøker å bortforklare underet, mener at manna ikke er noe annet enn dette. Men det er helt umulig. Bibelens manna fantes overalt i ørkenen og var hovednæringsmidlet for Israels folk gjennom alle 40 år. Det må altså ha falt ganske mye manna for at det kunne være nok for to millioner mennesker. Tarfatreets "manna" kommer derimot i så små mengder at det ikke kan være tale om at det var nok. Vi vet også at Bibelens manna var så hard at folket malte den i håndkvern eller støtte den i morter og bakte kaker av den. 4Mos 11:8.

Manna liknet korianderfrø. Det er en mye utbredt plante i Egypt med breistilket blad og skjermaktige røde og hvite blomster. Frøene ble brukt som krydder i Egypt.

Herren befalte at de skulle legge en omer manna i ei krukke. Den skulle oppbevares som minne om Guds velgjerninger mot folket. Når etterslekten så dette, som folket hadde fått av Herren i ørkenen, skulle de minnes med takknemlighet Guds veldige gjerninger.

Israels folk levde nok ikke bare av manna i ørkenen. De hadde også en del kveg med, og de brukte kjøtt og melk av dem. De kjøpte også av andre folk på veien. Men det hadde vært helt umulig å leve av dette i ørkenen.

De har ved lengre opphold også hatt litt åkerbruk, der jorden egnet seg til det. Folket hadde omkommet av hungersnød, hvis Gud ikke hadde hjulpet dem ved flere under.

Den omer manna som ble gjemt, ble senere satt ned i en gullkrukke foran "Vitnesbyrdet", som det står. Det var lovens to tavler som senere ble oppbevart i paktens ark. Der skulle krukken stå for å minne etterslekten om det David senere skrev: "Min sjel, lov Herren, og glem ikke alle hans velgjerninger" (Sal 103:2).

Gå til 2Mos 17:1-7
2Mos 17:1-7
Så drog Israels folk videre "etter Herrens befaling" til Refidim. Herren befalte det, ved at skystøtten senket seg og hvilte eller beveget seg framover. Etter 4Mos 33 var det to leirsteder mellom Sin og Refidim, nemlig Dofka og Alus. De er ikke nevnt her.

Igjen knurret folket, denne gang over mangel på vann. Gang etter gang hadde de sett Herrens hjelp, og for kort tid siden, i Mara, hadde han vist dem hvorledes han kunne gi dem vann. Likevel møtte de prøven hver gang med samme knurr og vantro. Denne gangen raste de slik mot Moses at de holdt på å steine ham.

Moses lot dem forstå at det slett ikke var han som var hovedpersonen i ledelsen av folket. Det var Herren de fristet med sin ugudelige knurring.

Moses erfarte nok at det var lettere å vokte en saueflokk enn dette folket. Men han visste også hvem han hadde å holde seg til. Han overlot saken til Herren.

Og Herren gjorde ikke med folket etter deres misgjerninger, men han fortsatte å vise dem miskunnhet. Han befalte Moses å gå frimodig fram for folket og ta noen av de eldste med som vitner. Herren ville da stå foran ham og liksom være Moses' tjener og gi ham ære framfor hele folket ved å la vann komme ut av klippen når Moses slo på den. Om noen tjener meg, ham skal Faderen ære ([Joh 12:26).

Gud forherliget sin tjener ved å skaffe vann av den tørre klippen. Men vi skal forherlige Gud ved tro og tillit og barnslig lydighet.

Her kan vi tydelig se hvor usselt Israels folk var. Men Guds barn må også bøye hodet og bekjenne at også vi kan være slik. Moses kalte dette stedet Massa og Meriba, som betyr fristelse og trette.

Et slikt Massa og Meriba finnes også noen ganger på vår reis. Men vi forherliger ikke Herren på den måten.

Apostelen Paulus kaller dette vannet for en "åndelig drikk" og sier at klippen var Kristus. Det var Kristi kraft som gjorde den tørre klippen til en slik livsens kilde.

Nei, Kristus slipper ikke sitt folk, og Guds barn skal ikke, om det ser vanskelig ut, spørre: Mon Herren er iblant oss eller ikke? Har han ikke sagt: "Glemmer vel en kvinne sitt diende barn, så hun ikke forbarmer seg over sitt livs sønn? Om også de glemmer, så glemmer ikke jeg deg" (Jes 49:15).

Gå til 2Mos 17:8-16
2Mos 17:8-16
Denne kampen, som vi hører om her, var den første kamp med ytre fiender som møtte Israels folk etter at de var ført gjennom Rødehavet.

Da ble de liksom gjenfødt til et selvstendig folk. Etter 5Mos 25:18 var det alle de utmattede og trette som gikk bakerst, som amalekittene overfalt. Amaleks folk nedstammet jo fra Esau (1Mos 36:12).

Det var som det gamle fiendskap mellom Esau og Jakob blusset opp igjen i etterkommerne. Amalekittene var bare et lite folk. Det har vært hat og ondskap som drev dem til å overfalle de utmattede etternølerne.

Denne kampen ble begynnelsen for Israels folk til en lang rekke kamper. Og den er derfor så lærerik for Guds folk til alle tider i kampen mot verdensmakten.

Moses bød Josva å velge ut noen menn og dra i kamp mot Amalek. Moses selv ville kjempe på en annen måte, nemlig en bønnens kamp mens hæren stred med våpen.

Josva var av Efraims stamme og het egentlig Hosea. Men Moses forandret dette navnet til Josva (4Mos 13:16). Hosea betyr hjelp, men Josva betyr Herren er hjelp.

Denne navneforandringen viser Moses' ydmyke tro. For Josva skulle det være en stadig påminnelse om at naturlig mot og kraft ikke kunne seire, dersom Herren ikke var hans hjelp.

Det viste seg også ved denne kampen at avgjørelsen lå ikke først og fremst i kampen med våpen. Den lå ikke nede i dalen, men oppe på høyden.

Der kjempet Moses med Guds stav i hånd med bønnens åndelige våpen.

Det skjedde nemlig da Moses løftet hånden, at Israel fikk overhånd. Men når han lot hånden synke, fikk Amalek overtaket.

Israel skulle også kjempe. Herren ville ikke stride alene for dem, slik han hadde gjort ved Rødehavet. De hadde nå vokset så mye at de skulle være med i arbeidet. De skulle likevel ha det klart for seg at det var Herren det kom an på. De skulle ikke bare arbeide, eller bare be.

Men bønn og arbeid skulle gi seieren. Guds barn har sin del og gjerning i kampen, også i kampen for den evige seier. Og denne del må ikke forsømmes, for Herren velsigner ikke dovenskap og likegyldighet.

Men Herren vil høre bønnen over det nidkj ære arbeidet. Så skal alt Guds folk til alle tider også lære, av denne kampen med Amalek, å ikke la hendene synke og ikke bli trett i bønnen, men holde ut. Vi har også en stav å folde hendene over.

Moses' stav var jo tegnet han holdt fram for Gud for å minne ham om løftene. Men vi har fått alle Guds løfter, som han har forpliktet seg til å hjelpe oss med.

Disse skal vi frimodig holde fram for Gud når vi kjemper bønnens strid. Så har vi vel alle venner som kan støtte oss i bønnen, liksom Moses hadde Aron og Hur. Hur var en etterkommer av Juda, en meget ansett mann i folket. Etter sagnet var han svoger til Moses og Aron, gift med deres søster Mirjam.

Slik disse vennene styrket Moses, slik skal Guds barn styrke hverandre. Herren har jo uttrykkelig gitt løfte om store velsignelser ved felles bønn (Matt 18:19).

Under en slik bønnekamp skal vi gjøre den samme erfaring som Moses gjorde, at det er en utrakt hånd fra Herrens trone. Dette ble åpenbart for Moses i den alvorlige stund på berget.

Det skal også nå bli åpenbart for hver ærlig bønnens stridsmann. For det er sikkert at der Herren er med, kan en ikke tape i lengden. Der må en seire.

Det kan komme tider når hendene blir trette. Det kan se ut som om fienden får overhånd. Men holder vi ut i bønnen til solen går ned (v. 25), til arbeidsdagen er slutt, skal det vise seg at seieren hører Herren til, og dermed oss. Det gjelder både for hvert enkelt Guds barn og for hele menigheten. "Herren skal stride mot Amalek fra slekt til slekt," står det. Til slutt skal verdensmakten bukke under, og alle fiender legges under Kristi fotskammel.

Men når Herren gir seier, la også oss gi ham ære. Det gjorde Moses ved å reise et alter, som han gav navnet: "Herren er mitt banner."

I en slik skole lærer man at det ikke er vårt eget som klarer saken, men Herren. La oss bare frimodig kjempe under dette banneret med alle de våpen Gud har gitt oss. Først og fremst skal vi bruke bønnens våpen.

Da skal vi utbryte med Paulus: "Gud være takk som gir oss seier ved vår Herre Jesus Kristus."

Beduinene kan ennå vise til en høy steinblokk som kalles "Mokad Seidna Musa", som betyr: Vår mester Moses' sete. Men det største minnesmerke over denne kampen har Herren satt i Skriften.

Moses fikk befaling om å skrive det "så dere kommer det i hu". Vi ser av dette at Moses allerede den gang hadde en bok som han skrev i. Og han skrev etter Guds utrykkelige vilje. Men dette betyr også at Herren ville vise sitt folk de åndelige lover for Guds folks kamp og seier.

Vi skal kjempe og arbeide med alle de midler Gud har vist oss. I tillegg skal vi be i forvissningen om at det er Herren alene som gir seier.

Gå til 2Mos 18:1-27
2Mos 18:1-27
Mens Moses og folket lå i leir i Refidim, kom Moses' svigerfar, Jetro, til ham med Sippora, kona til Moses, og de to sønnene. Moses hadde sendt hustruen og barna tilbake til Jetro etter episoden med Sippora på veien til Egypt, 2Mos 4:24.

Han forstod at hun ikke egnet seg til å følge ham gjennom alle trengslene som ville komme før utfrielsen fra Egypt. Her nevnes også navnet på den andre av Moses' sønner, nemlig Elieser. Det betyr "Gud er min hjelp".

Moses hadde gitt ham det navnet til minne om at Gud hadde hjulpet ham og utfridd ham fra Farao. Den tillit og takk som lå i dette navnet, var blitt stadfestet ved de mange mektige begivenheter som hadde skjedd i den korte tiden siden Moses hadde sett hustruen og barna.

Moses tok imot Jetro med all ærbødighet og kjærlighet og fortalte ham både om trengslene og Herrens seier. Jetro ble glad for å høre dette og priste Herren, som hadde utfridd Israel fra det mektige Egypt.

Jetro avla følgende vakre bekjennelse: "Nå vet jeg at Herren er større enn alle guder." Jetro var også prest for den levende Gud, for Abrahams Gud. Selv om han stod utenfor det utvalgte folk, hadde han likevel bevart den sanne gudserkjennelse. Han er et vakkert bilde på de mennesker som ennå står utenfor Guds folk, men som bøyer sitt hjerte mot Herren og åpner seg for lyset når det kommer til dem.

Hvilken motsetning er ikke Jetro til Amalek som hatet lyset! Jetro var av samme slag som høvedsmannen Kornelius. Jetro syntes det var stort at Egypts stolte verdensrike var blitt knekket slik.

Egypterne hadde hovmodet seg over å undertrykke Israel. Men Herren var "over dem" og hadde knekket deres hovmod. Israels Gud ble herliggjort for Jetro, og han brakte brennoffer og slaktoffer til Gud.

Deretter holdt han offermåltid for Guds åsyn sammen med Mon og alle de eldste. Slik tilkjennegav han det samme som Rut senere sa: Ditt folk er mitt folk, din Gud er min Gud" (Rut 1:16).

Jetros besøk fikk også en annen velsignet betydning for Moses og Israels folk. Til nå hadde Moses alene sørget for retten i folket.

De kom til ham for å søke råd og hjelp hos Gud, står det. Folket mente med rette at Gud hadde den endelige avgjørelse i alle saker.

Den rettspleie og rettergang som ikke hviler på Gud, på hans lov og hans vilje, men bare på menneskevisdom, fører til elendighet.

Det har vi eksempler på i våre dager ved forskjellige lover. Når en ikke spør Gud, blir byene en hån mot Guds bud.

Men alt dette arbeide ble for mye for Moses, og folket måtte vente lenge på grunn av mange saker. Jetro var en praktisk mann, og han gav nå Moses et godt råd om dette. Moses skulle velge seg ut "dyktige menn av hele folket, menn som frykter Gud, troverdige menn, som hater urettferdig vinning" som medhjelpere. Noen skulle settes over tusen, noen over hundre, noen over femti og noen over ti. De skulle ta seg av de mindre sakene. Alle større saker skulle de fremdeles gå til Moses med. Det var en god måte Jetro fremførte dette for Moses på. Han var beskjeden og kom bare med et råd.

Så tilføyde han: "Dersom du gjør dette, og Gud pålegger deg det, da vil du kunne holde ut. Da vil også alt folket her kunne gå hjem i fred."

Folket ville også få ro når det ble bedre orden. Slik skulle også vi gjøre når vi gir råd: be dem prøve saken for Gud, om Gud vil gi vedkommende hvile i rådet. Man kan også gi råd på en slik måte at man blir et menneskes gud, ved å ta på seg hele ansvaret, og det er ikke til gavn for noen.

Vi skal også legge merke til det krav Jetro stilte til de som skulle være medhjelpere for Moses og dommere. Gudsfrykt og sannhet skulle være forenet med dugelighet. Slik skal en rett dommer være.

Jetros besøk viser også at man ikke skal overse råd fra mennesker, selv om de står tilbake i åndelig erfaring og gudserkjennelse.

Kunne en Moses lære av en Jetro, kan vi også lære av dem som ellers synes å være tilbake for oss. Ja, også av vantro mennesker kan Guds barn ofte lære ikke så lite.

Det gjelder om å ha et ydmykt hjerte som akter på alt, prøver alt og bøyer seg for det som er sant i rådet.

Gå til 2Mos 19:1-8

2Mos 19:1-8
Vi har allerede hørt at fjellkjeden Horeb strakte seg helt ned til Refidim (2Mos 17:6).

Sinai berg er derimot en enkelt bergrygg i denne fjellkjeden. Den sletten som Israel slo leir på ved Sinai, er etter nyere undersøkelser å dømme den såkalte Sebayehsletta.

Sinai berg går nokså loddrett ned mot sletta, og toppen av klippen bærer ennå navnet "Jebel-Musa", som betyr Moses-fjellet. Sebayeh-sletta med sin jevne skråning oppover, gav god utsikt til Jebel-Musa for alle som var til stede.

De som stod bak, kunne se over de som stod foran. Stedet var stille og høytidsfullt, som en mektig domkirke. Berget løftet seg som et veldig alter opp over sletta.

Rundt omkring er bratte, nakne fjelltopper liksom søyler. Det er ikke gras på klippene, ingen fugl i luften, og alt er stille under himmelens blå hvelving.

Her, på dette ensomme stedet, skulle det store møte mellom Gud og folket finne sted. De kom hit på den første dag i den tredje måned etter utgangen av Egypt, v. 3.

Mens folket lå i leir ved fjellet, steg Moses opp til Gud, som åpenbarte seg på fjellet. Herren talte til ham om det han skulle si til Israel.

Først skulle han peke på de to store hovederfaringer folket hadde gjort, nemlig erfaringen om Herrens veldige makt og om hans inderlige kjærlighet.

"Dere har selv sett hva jeg har gjort med egypterne," slik lød ordet. De skulle minnes Herrens brennende nidkjærhet og mektige dommer over de gjenstridige. Ja, det skal aldri glemmes at også "vår Gud er en fortærende ild" (Heb 12:29). Men så minnet Herren dem om hvor ømt og kjærlig han hadde båret dem: "Jeg bar dere på ørnevinger og brakte dere til meg."

Det er et dypt og herlig bilde Herren bruker i dette ordet om "ørnevinger". Når ørnen vil lære sine unger å fly, kaster den ungene ut av reiret, ut i luften.

Når de ikke kan holde seg oppe og er i ferd med å styrte ned i avgrunnen, flyr ørnen lynsnart ned under dem og brer vingene sine ut under dem, slik at de ikke faller ned. Også Israels folk var kastet ut på troens dyp.

Det hadde ofte sett ut som om det ville bli knust, som ved Rødehavet. Men Herren hadde alltid komme til i rette øyeblikk med sin veldige makt og båret dem gjennom Rødehavet og hele veien til Sinai.

Jeg brakte dere til meg, sier Herren. Ja, han drog det syndige folket inn til sitt hjerte. Han hadde vist dem sin veldige kjærlighet, den som hadde sin dype grunnvoll i det store forsoningsoffer som en gang skulle bringes for all verdens synd på Golgata.

Og nå gav han folket valget om han fremdeles skulle bære dem på kjærlighetens ørnevinger. Ja, han lovet dem at han ville gjøre større ting om de ville lyde ham.

"Dersom dere nå virkelig vil høre på min røst og holde min pakt, da skal dere være min eiendom framfor alle folk - for hele jorden er min." Slik lød Herrens ord.

Betingelsen var å lyde hans røst, den urokkelige betingelse. Men da skulle de også være hans eiendomsfolk framfor alle andre folk. At det var et nådevalg, ser vi av at Herren hadde rett til alle folk, fordi han er jordens skaper og oppholder.

Men av sin frie nåde hadde han utvalgt Israel. Det ordet som er brukt på hebraisk for eiendom, betyr en kostbar, verdifull eiendom, som man sparer til det ytterste.

Herren forklarer nå videre hva uttrykket "eiendom" inneholdt: "Dere skal være et kongerike av prester for meg og et hellig folk."

Disse ordene bruker Peter når han skriver til de hellige: "Men dere er en utvalgt ætt, et kongelig presteskap, et hellig folk, et folk til eiendom." Meningen med dette uttrykket "et kongelig presteskap" ("prestelig kongerike" D.) er jo at det foraktelige trellefolket de hadde vært i Egypt, skulle få begge disse høye stillingene som konge og prest.

Prestestillingen var den høyeste stilling og gav adgang til et personlig forhold til den levende Gud. Slik skulle Israels folk stå framfor alle andre folk i den gamle pakts tid. Det skulle ha den sanne gudserkjennelse og pakten og lovgivningen og gudstjenesten og løftene skulle tilhøre dem (Rom 9:4).

Men folket skulle også ha kongemakt. Allerede til Abraham hadde det lydt at i ham skulle alle jordens slekter velsignes og konger gå ut fra ham.

Åndelig talt blir løftet oppfylt på Guds folk til alle tider så sant sannheten har det åndelige herredømme over løgnen.

"De troende er," sier Luther, "Herre over død, dom og djevel." Men også i det ytre skal det en gang bli oppfylt, når den tid kommer da profetien hos Daniel skal oppfylles: "Men Den Høyestes hellige skal få riket og ha det i eie til evig tid, ja i evigheters evighet" (Dan 7:18).

Daniel sier videre: "Da ble dommen gitt til Den Høyestes hellige, og tiden kom da de hellige tok riket i eie" (Dan 7:22).

"Holder vi ut, skal vi også herske sammen med ham," slik lyder ordet fra den nye pakt (2Tim 2:12).

Den tredje verdighet folket skulle ha, var "et hellig folk". Gud er den fullkommen hellige, han "er lys, og det er ikke noe mørke i ham" (1Joh 1:5).

Men skapningen helliges ved å dras inn i samfunn med ham. Det som er i samfunn med den hellige og dekkes under hans nåde, er hellig for Herren.

Det hellige navn er slik et stort nådenavn. Derved er ikke sagt at folket straks skulle være syndefritt. Nei, med nådens hellighet har det slik som med lyset som skinner på månen, når den stråler i sin glans.

Månen er i seg selv mørk og uten lys, den har alt sitt lys fra solen. Slik er Guds folk her på jord i seg selv mørkt og syndig. Vår hellighet har vi bare fra Betlehemssolen, fra Jesus. Men i dette navnet, Et hellig folk, ligger også løftet om at folket en gang skal bli hellig og rent i seg selv.

All denne herlighet lå skjult i utkårelsen til å være Guds eiendomsfolk. Men skulle folket være Guds eiendom, måtte det også selv være villig til det.

Med et menneske er det ikke som med en ting man kjøper. Bare når du selv sier ja til Herren og gir ham lov til å rå over deg, er du virkelig hans eiendom.

Da Moses brakte Herrens ord til folket, svarte hele folket: "Alt det Herren har sagt, vil vi gjøre." Og Moses brakte igjen folkets svar til Herren.

Moses stod som mellommann både på Guds vegne overfor folket, og på folkets vegne over Gud. Men av alt dette går det klart fram at Gud ikke vil tvinge noe menneske.

Han respekterer den selvbestemmelsesrett han har gitt mennesket da han skapte det i sitt bilde. Men vi skal også legge merke til at Gud alltid gir først.

Da gjelder det om at mennesket, ved Guds nåde, vil la seg bevege til å lyde hans røst. Lykkelig er den som kan si med apostelen: "Vi elsker fordi han elsket oss først" (1Joh 4:19).

Gå til 2Mos 19:9-25

2Mos 19:9-25
Herren gjorde nå flere ting som skulle tjene som forberedelse til at pakten skulle inngås. Den første bestemmelsen Herren ga Moses, var at Herren skulle besegle Moses' embete som mellom-mann mellom Gud og folket.

Folket skulle se med egne øyne at Herren skulle komme til Moses.

Og folket skulle med egne ører høre at Gud talte med ham, for at Israels folk og alle kommende slekter skulle tro at Moses var Guds utsending.

Det er verd å merke seg disse Herrens ord, særlig i våre dager da så mange nedbrytende røster angriper Mosebøkene. Moses' navn skal alltid stå som navnet på en trofast tjener, "tro som tjener i hele hans hus, for å vitne om det som skulle forkynnes" (Heb 3:5).

Når det står at Herren ville komme i tett sky, betyr det at Herrens herlighet ikke kan sees av syndige mennesker. Et dekke ligger over den.

Skulle vi se ham som han er, måtte vi først bli ham lik og være syndfri som ham (1Joh 3:2).

Mens Herrens første bestemmelse altså angikk Moses, gikk den neste forordningen ut på å berede folket til hellig handling. De skulle helliges for å inngå den åndelige ektepakt.

Den indre helligelse skulle ha et ytre uttrykk på to måter: dels ved å vaske sine klær og dels ved avholdenhet i det ekteskapelige forhold (v. 15).

Herren akter ikke den utvortes tukt ringe, som Luther sier i sin lille katekisme: Faste og legemlig forberedelse er en vakker utvortes tukt. Selvfølgelig har den utvortes forberedelse bare verdi når det finnes en tilsvarende indre forberedelse i hjertet. Mangler den, er den ytre en vederstyggelighet for Herren.

På den tredje dag ville Herren stige ned for hele folket på Sinai. Moses fikk befaling om å sette et gjerde omkring fjellet, for ingen av folket hadde lov å komme nær fjellet etter at Herren var kommet nær.

Ja, om en bare rørte ved fjellet, skulle han sannelig dø. Og hvis noen kom til å røre ved fjellet, om det var dyr eller mennesker, måtte ingen hånd røre ved ham, for ikke selv å bli vanhelliget.

Man skulle slå i hjel vedkommende på avstand ved steining eller ved piler.

"Hellig, hellig, hellig er Herren vår Gud" (Jes 6:3). Det var dette som skulle innskjerpes igjen og igjen for folket. Gjerdet skulle betegne det veldige skille som er blitt mellom den hellige Gud og den falne synder.

Det var dette skille Peter følte da han ved Genesaretsjøen falt ned for Jesu føtter og sa: "Herre, gå fra meg, for jeg er en syndig mann" (Luk 5:8).

Synderen må dø, han kan ikke bo hos den hellige Gud, med mindre han selv blir helliget. Men Gud være takk, langfredag på Golgata ble gjerdet åpnet for alle, forhenget i det Aller Helligste revnet, og "i ham har vi frimodighet, og ved troen på ham har vi adgang med tillit" (Ef 3:12). Heb 10:29.

Først når den himmelske englebasun lød langsomt, skulle de ha lov til å stige opp på fjellet. Det ble selvfølgelig ikke hele folket som gikk opp på fjellet, men først bare Moses og Aron (v. 24), senere et utvalg av de eldste i Israel (19:24). Ennå tør ingen rettroende jøde røre ved Sinai berg.

På den tredje dag om morgenen kom torden og lyn omkring berget. Hele Sinai berg bevet og stod liksom i brann, mens en tykk sky hvilte over fjellet og tilslørte Guds evige majestet.

Folket skalv, ja, også Moses sa: "Jeg er slått av redsel og skjelver" (Heb 12:21). Så lød lyden av en mektig basun, og Moses førte folket ut av leiren til Gud, som brudesvennen fører bruden fram for brudgommen. Folket ble stående utenfor gjerdet, og lyden av basunen ble stadig sterkere. Så talte Moses til Gud, kanskje slik: Se, her er vi, Herre!

Og Gud svarte ham tydelig, og dermed beseglet Herren ham for alt folket som sin rette utvalgte tjener, slik han hadde lovet. Deretter kalte Herren Moses opp på toppen av fjellet, "og Moses steg opp". Det skulle tro og mot til å gå opp på det brennende fjellet.

Men Moses gikk på Herrens ord, slik han hadde gått gjennom bølgene i Rødehavet. Når Herren sier: Kom! da kan vi gå frimodig, selv om det er ut på dypet, som da Peter gikk på Genesaretsjøen i møte med Jesus (Matt 14:28-29).

Dette minner oss om løftet i Jes 43:2: "Når du går gjennom vann, er jeg med deg, og gjennom elver, skal de ikke overskylle deg. Når du går gjennom ild, skal du ikke svies, og luen skal ikke brenne deg."

Herren sendte imidlertid Moses ned til folket igjen, for å advare det mot å gå innenfor gjerdet av nysgjerrighet. Denne advarsel ble gjentatt, fordi Herren nødig ville straffe. Nei, Gud vil ikke synderens død, derfor advarer han igjen og igjen.

På Herrens ord var gjerde satt opp omkring berget, og det nevner også Moses for Herren. Men Gud kjenner menneskehjertets upålitelighet. Han vet at vi stadig behøver påminnelser.

Vi skal legge merke til at Herren utrykkelig gav til kjenne at den samme lov gjaldt for prestene, som for folket. Dette var før prestetjenesten var ordnet ved lovgivningen på Sinai.

Prest betyr da de menn som etter naturlig rett og skikk utførte prestegjerningen innen familien. De måtte også hellige seg og kunne ikke gjøre mer enn resten av folket og slik bli innenfor gjerdet.

Når Herren gav prestene denne spesielle advarsel, var det vel fordi prestene lettere kunne trøste seg med at det ikke gjorde noe om de overtrådte bestemmelsen, nettopp fordi de var prester.

Også i våre dager har Djevelen ofte gjort det til en sovepute for prestene, nettopp fordi de var prester. I denne påminnelsen ligger det at prestene er underlagt samme vilkår som andre.

De må omvende seg og helliges ved den levende tro, og de må være minst like årvåkne som alle andre, som vil tilhøre Herren. Ellers faller de under samme dom som alle andre overtredere.

Hele denne Guds veldige åpenbarelse på Sinai, vil først få sitt sidestykke på den ytterste dag når Herren kommer i himmelens skyer.

Da skal også basunen lyde og Guds sanne Israel møte Herren, for evig å være med ham. Og liksom englene var til stede som Guds tjenere ved lovgivningen på Sinai, vil Guds engler også være virksomme på den siste store dag.

Etter den muntlige overlevering hos jødene var dagen for lovgivningen på Sinai den femtiende etter utgangen av Egypt.

Slik svarer det til pinsedag, noe som også passer med beretningen her. Folket kom jo til Sinai den første dag i den tredje måned, altså 45 dager etter utgangen av Egypt. Og med de dagene som forberedelsen tok, vil det føre oss til den 50. dag. Som påskelammet peker hen på offeret langfredag, svarer lovgivningen på Sinai, da den gamle pakt ble innstiftet, til pinsefesten, da den nye pakt ble grunnlagt ved at Den hellige Ånd ble utgytt.

Gå til 2Mos 20:1-6

2Mos 20:1-6
Mens Moses stod nede hos folket, talte Gud Herren de ti bud til folket med sin egen munn. I Apg 7:38 står det nok at det var engelen som talte på Sinai berg. Men det var da ingen skapt engel, men den såkalte "Herrens engel", Guds enbårne Sønn, som er omtalt i 1Mos 16.

Visstnok var det også skapte engler til stede. Loven ble gitt ved engler (Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). Men de ti bud talte Herren selv, med sin egen munn.

Disse ti bud, som blir kalt de ti ord eller paktens ord, vitnesbyrdet, står på en helt spesiell plass overfor de andre lover som Gud gav Israels folk ved Moses. De sier det som var innskrevet fra begynnelsen i menneskets samvittighet.

Og de er stadfestet som loven i spesiell forstand, ved Herrens og apostlenes vitnesbyrd i Det nye Testamente. Herren sier selv i Matt 5:19: "Dere må ikke tro at jeg er kommet for å oppheve loven eller profetene! Jeg er ikke kommet for å oppheve, men for å oppfylle."

I samtalen med den lovlærde samler han alle budene i de to bud som tilsvarer lovens to tavler: Kjærligheten til Gud av hele hjertet, og til nesten som til seg selv (Matt 22:25-40). Paulus henviser også til tibudsloven i Rom 13:8-10.

Det har ikke vært noen uenighet om at det var ti bud som ble gitt på fjellet. Men det har vært forskjellige meninger om hvorledes inndelingen skulle være.

De jødiske lærde, rabbinerne, lot det første bud være dette:

"Jeg er Herren din Gud, som førte deg ut av landet Egypt, av trellehuset." De slo også sammen det niende og tiden bud til ett bud. Men denne oppfatning kan neppe være rett. For ordet i v. 2 kan ikke kalles et bud.

Etter kirkens lære i de første fire århundrer, før biskop Augustin, begynte man å ta v. 3 som det første bud: Du skal ikke ha andre guder foruten meg. Man regnet så ordene i v. 4 om forbudet mot utskårne bilder, som det andre bud, og slo det niende og tiende bud sammen til ett. Slik gjør ennå hele den østerlandske og den reformerte kirke.

Augustin derimot regnet ordet i v. 17 (du må ikke begjære ...) for to bud, og regnet ordet i v. 4 sammen med det første bud. Slik gjør den katolske kirke, og Luther beholdt den.

Slik har også vi det i den lille katekisme. Hva som er rett, kan vanskelig avgjøres, og det er bare et ytre inndelingsspørsmål som ikke har noen vesentlig betydning. Innholdet er jo det samme.

Men da budet om ikke å ha andre guder og budet mot utskårne bilder i virkeligheten faller sammen, følger vi helst Augustin og Luther. Derfor tar vi budet om ikke å begjære, som to bud, nemlig det niende og tiende.

Før Herren talte ordene, peker han høytidelig på hvem han er: "Jeg er Herren din Gud." Han er Herren, Jahveh, han som er evig, uforanderlig og trofast.

Hans lov er da også uttrykk for Guds uforanderlige vilje. Forholdene kan forandre seg, himmel og jord kan forgå, men ikke den minste bokstav eller en tøddel skal forgå av loven, sier Herren (Matt 5:18).

Hvor lykkelig Israels folk var ved å ha Herren som sin Gud, hadde de erfart da han førte dem ut av trellehuset, Egypt. Han hadde båret dem og overøst dem med sin nåde. Den minste takk folket kunne gi ham, var at de helt var hans.

Derfor begynner også de ti budord med dette: "Du skal ikke ha andre guder foruten meg." "Vi vet at ingen avgud i verden er til" (1Kor 8:4). Men mennesket kan lage seg selv avguder ved å binde sitt hjerte til noe annet enn den levende Gud. Du skal ikke ha andre guder foruten meg, sier Herren. Dette uttrykket "foruten meg" betyr "framfor meg".

Luther sier om det i sin forklaring: Vi skal over alle ting frykte, elske og forlate oss på Gud (d.). Her brukes bilde av ekteskapet, og avgudsdyrkelse i Israel blir ofte kalt hor.

Du skal tilbe Herren din Gud og tjene ham alene. Hjertet skal være udelt for ham, en helligdom hvor Herren alene hører hjemme.

Men hjertets frafall fra den levende Gud viste seg hos alle hedninger ved at de tilber bilder av skapte ting, av himmellegemer, fugler, dyr og fisker. Derfor lød det bestemte forbudet mot å tilbe bilder: du skal ikke tilbe dem og ikke tjene dem, slik lød ordet. Tjene dem, vil jo si å dyrke dem ved å ofre til dem.

Vi skal heller ikke lage noe bilde av Gud for å tilbe det. For da fikk bildet Guds plass, og det ble også avgudsdyrkelse, slik vi senere ser det av gullkalven som Aron laget. Det er ikke i og for seg det å ha synlige framstillinger av Herren og den hellige historie, som blir fordømt.

Det vil aldri lykkes for mennesker å lage et bilde av Herren som svarer til hans guddomelige herlighet. Likevel kan vi glede oss over vakre altertavler og andre bilder. Men ve oss om det blir slik, som vi dessverre ofte ser det i den katolske kirke, at det blir bildedyrkelse.

På Luthers tid var det svermere som, av frykt for pavekirkens bildedyrkelse, ikke ville tåle noen pryd i en kirke. For en del er det slik i den reformerte kirke.

Det Guds ord sikter til, er klart nok etter sammenhengen: Du skal ikke ha andre guder foruten meg.

Så tilføyer Herren: "For jeg, Herren din Gud, er en nidkjær Gud, som hjemsøker fedres misgjerninger på barn inntil tredje og fjerde ledd, på dem som hater meg, og som viser miskunn i tusen ledd, mot dem som elsker meg og holder mine bud."

Denne tilføyelsen ble satt bak alle budene av Luther, fordi den selvsagt gjelder alle bud. Det hører altså egentlig hjemme ved det første budet, fordi dette budet liksom er det avgjørende for alle de følgende.

For er Herren ikke på den rette plass i hjertet, kommer en heller ikke til å bøye seg for de andre budene.

Når Herren henviser til sitt vesen som en nidkjær Gud, vil det si at han ikke er en likegyldig Gud som ser gjennom fingrene med synden.

Slik lager verden seg et falsk bilde av ham. Nei, han våker over hjerteforholdene hos menneskene og gir ikke noen annen sin ære (Jes 42:8). Og saken er så alvorlig at fedres misgjerning ikke bare rammer dem selv, men den får følger også for deres barn, i tredje og fjerde ledd. Dette skjer dels på en naturlig måte ved at foreldrenes liv i synd og vantro alltid vil sette sitt merke på barna.

Det ser vi tydelig på alkoholikerens og utuktens barn og på mange andre måter. Mange barn får en skrekkelig arv fra sine foreldre, både på legem og sjel. Det er ikke bare arvesynden i sin alminnelighet, men det finnes jo ganske bestemte familiesynder.

De forplanter seg i etterslekten som en forbannelse. Men når barna er fiendske og hatefulle overfor Herren, blir det også umiddelbart en hjemsøkelse fra Herren for fedrenes misgjerning. Alle foreldre skulle tenke nøye over dette!

Ved et vantro sinn og ved å tjene synden, synder de ikke bare mot seg selv, men også mot deres barn og ennå flere kommende slekter.

Vi ser i Israels historie hvorledes Jeroboam og Akabs etterkommere endatil blir utryddet i tredje og fjerde ledd. Men la oss huske at det står: "på dem som hater meg." Dersom vantro foreldres barn vil vende seg bort fra sin sørgelige arv, og vende om til Herren og elske ham, vil sporene etter fedrenes misgjerning bli til oppdragelse for dem, og slik forvandles til velsignelse.

Da vil Gud gi slike barn en særlig nåde til å overvinne de nedarvede syndens laster. Og la oss også huske at det er bare de timelige hjemsøkelser det er tale om her og ikke de evige. Overfor den evige avgjørelse gjelder det som står skrevet: "Foreldre skal ikke lide døden for sine barns skyld, og barn skal ikke lide døden for sine foreldres skyld. Enhver skal dø for sin egen synd" (5Mos 24:16).

Men er det alvor i hjemsøkelsen over fedrenes misgjerning, så er det også alvor i velsignelsen over dem som elsker Herren. I tusen ledd, står det, vil Herren vise miskunnhet.

Troende barn har mye å takke for, da velsignelsen for deres foreldres skyld, er med på livsveien deres. Vi hører igjen og igjen i den bibelske historie hvorledes Herren viser folket miskunnhet "for Davids skyld", for Abrahams, Isaks og Jakobs skyld. Selvfølgelig kunne barna stanse velsignelsen ved sin vantro.

Hvor underlig må ikke menneskenes historie se ut for hans øye som gjennomskuer alle trådene! Velsignelse for en troende fars skyld, eller hjemsøkelse for en vantro bestefars skyld. Alt dette kan krysse hverandre og gripe inn i menneskelivet. Men for Herrens, den rettferdiges øyne, ligger alt klart og åpenbart.

Gå til 2Mos 20:7-11
2Mos 20:7-11
Mens det første bud peker på Gud selv som det høyeste gode, går nå budet videre.

Det andre bud peker på Guds navn som den store gave, som skal holdes hellig.

Herren trer inn i forbindelse med oss ved sitt navn og åpenbarer sitt vesen for oss. I samme grad som Gud er stor for hjertet, som han er vår Gud, vil hans navn også bli hellig for oss.

Og når så mange mennesker så likegyldig drar Herrens navn ned i støvet og vanhelliger det på den grusomste måte ved å sverge ved det, vitner det i sannhet om at Herren ikke er deres Gud, men at verdens fyrste behersker dem. Det er en lyst for Djevelen at hans undersåtter spotter Guds navn.

Mange sier at de mener ikke noe med det, når de roper ord som "Herregud", "Gudbevares" osv. Men det er nettopp synden, at man ikke tenker over det. For nevnes Guds navn med ærefrykt og respekt for det hellige, er det tillatt å bruke det, som når retten forlanger edsavleggelse. Men dette budet legger også myndighetene på sinne å ikke forlange ed uten i nødstilfelle.

Jødene misforstod dette ordet og mente at de æret Guds navn best ved ikke å nevne det. De setter derfor et annet ord inn i stedet.

Nei, vi må nevne Guds navn slik man bruker navnet på den man elsker. Men her gjelder det å våke. Guds navn blir dessverre også ofte misbrukt av Guds barn. Da skjer det kanskje ikke på verdens grove vis, men på en finere måte. Man misbruker Guds navn når Herrens bønn blir bedt tankeløst morgen og kveld, eller når man sier "Gud skje lov" eller lignende, uten at hjertet våker over det munnen taler.

Det skjer også når man på en lett og overfladisk måte taler om de hellige ting som hører Guds rike til. "Herren vil ikke holde den uskyldig som misbruker hans navn," står det. Alle som vil være ærlige, må bøye sitt hode og bekjenne seg skyldig for Herren.

Så lød det tredje budet: "Kom hviledagen ihu, så du holder den hellige!" Etter budet om Guds navn, kommer budet om Guds dag. At sabbatsdagen, hviledagen, var kjent fra skapelsen av, vitner ordet "kom i hu" om. Allerede ved innsamlingen av manna (2Mos 16) hadde Gud innskjerpet sabbaten som hviledag.

Her blir det nå sagt som Guds utrykkelige befaling. Vi henviser her til det som ble sagt i forklaringen til 1Mos 2:1-3. Her nevner vi bare at hvilen skulle være alminnelig for alle i huset og fullstendig. Ingen skulle bære byrder på denne dagen (Jer 17:21-22).

Ja, man skulle ikke en gang tenne ild i husene på sabbaten, og altså ingen matlaging. Israel skulle være fri det legemlige arbeid for å kunne tjene Gud uhindret.

Ingen hedninger har noe som tilsvarer sabbaten. Derfor ble sabbaten et tegn mellom Gud og Israel, et tegn på pakten mellom dem (2Mos 31:13). Sabbaten skulle også være et minne om utfrielsen fra slaveriet i Egypt (5Mos 5:15).

Også for oss i den nye pakt kan helligdagen bli et minnetegn om utfrielsen fra vantroens Egypt. En vantro går som regel som slave i det jordiske arbeid også denne dag. Hviledagen var en herlig gave fra Gud, men for hans folk også en oppgave, som alle Guds gaver.

Helligholdelsen av denne dagen var en målestokk for Israels hjerteforhold til Herren. Forakt for sabbaten var forakt for Herren.

Når den nye pakts folk holder søndagen hellig, betyr det at den nye pakt har, ved Kristi oppstandelse, fått sin dag tilsvarende den gamle sabbaten.

Den gamle sabbaten viste at skapelsen var fullendt. Slik viser Kristi oppstandelse at en større gjerning var fullført. Under Guds Ånds veiledning er ukens siste dag gått over til ukens første dag, som hviledag.

Men hviledagen bygger ennå på Herrens åpenbarte bud, der grunnforholdet ble lagt ved skapelsens begynnelse. Dette ble bare innskjerpet i ørkenen og på Sinai. Men den form det ble innskjerpet i for Israel, kan ikke være bindende i den nye pakt. Hviledagen ble jo til for menneskets skyld, fordi mennesket hadde behov for den for å gagne mennesker. Men hvorledes skulle det gå i de nordlige land i vinterkulden, om vi skulle være bundet til Israels regel om ikke å tenne ild på sabbaten.

Denne form passer jo bare et folk som bor i et land som Israel med et varmt klima. Men Herren er ikke kommet for å oppløse loven, men for å gjøre den fullkommen. Kjernen i budet står urokkelig fast.

Og det er at Herren har sagt som sin bestemte vilje, at seks dagers arbeid skal avløses av hvile på den syvende dag. Det er til gavn ikke bare for legemet, men særlig for sjelen.

 

Gå til 2Mos 20:12-17
2Mos 20:12-17
Så lød det fjerde budet: "Hedre din far og din mor." Her kommer et tillegg: "så dine dager må bli mange i det landet Herren din Gud gir deg."

Å ære far og mor betyr også at en underordner seg sine foreldre på en ydmyk og villig måte. Vi skylder å elske vår neste som oss selv.

Men vi skylder far og mor mer enn vår neste, for de er Guds stedfortredere overfor oss, på forskjellige måter. Derfor er dette budet overgangen fra lovens første tavle, som særlig peker på det vi skylder Herren, til lovens andre tavle, som peker på det vi skylder nesten.

I foreldrene har vi liksom Gud og nesten forenet. Foreldrene er liksom Guds stedfortredere, dels ved at Guds skapergjerning med oss er formidlet gjennom dem. Og dels er de også Guds stedfortredere overfor barna ved å styre og oppholde dem. Men dette fjerde budet danner også grunnvollen for alt som heter underordning i samfunnet. Det tales i Skriften om åndelige fedre og åndelige barn.

I utvidet forstand taler dette budet om lydighet mot husbond og matmor, samt både kirkelig og verdslig øvrighet. For i alt dette er det ikke de enkelte personer det kommer an på, men stillingen som Guds stedfortredere.

De er innsatt av Gud for å stå fram på hans vegne. Synd og vondskap hos foreldre, statstjenestemenn, husbond, prester og lærere løser ikke fra dette budet, likeså lite som det løser noen fra det syvende bud: om den man stjeler fra har samlet sitt gods på urettferdig måte.

Sålenge det som befales ikke strir mot lydighet mot Gud selv, så lenge må vi adlyde. Vi skal vise stillingen ærefrykt. Det fjerde budet har et løfte i tillegg, om et langt liv i landet for Israel.

Et langt liv her på jord betød noe annet for folk i den gamle pakt enn i den nye. Evigheten var da ennå uklar.

Folket stod på barnestadiet, og barnet har jo stadig blikket vendt mot det som kommer snart og tenker ikke på det som ligger langt framme.

Til alle tider har en også erfart at det er en spesiell forbindelse mellom det fjerde bud og det timelige. Ringeakt for foreldre og alle som står fram på Guds vegne, blir en stadig kilde til elendighet allerede her på jord, så vel for den enkelte som for et folk.

Barnslig troskap og lydighet har også sin velsignelse og sin nådelønn her i livet, selv om livet ikke ble langt.

Med det femte budet går Herren over til pliktene overfor nesten. Det betegner plikten overfor nestens person, overfor hans liv.

Det sjette budet er forbud mot krenkelse av nestens ektefelle, som er ett liv med ham.

Det syvende bud er forbud mot krenkelse av nestens gods og eiendom, det åttende bud mot krenkelse av nestens navn og rykte. Dette budet peker særlig på den synd vi kan gjøre med munnen.

Det niende og tiende budet viser til den synden som kan skje ved tanker og begjær i hjertet.

Alle disse forbud viser oss at Gud ser alt som spirer i vår fordervede natur. Derfor var forbudet nødvendig.

Man kan slå i hjel på mange måter. Man kan pine sin neste i hjel med ukjærlighet. Derfor er det forbud mot alt hat og ondt i dette budet.

Ulydige barn, onde ektefeller og stridige tjenere kan forkorte livet for deres omgivelser. I dette budet forbys selvsagt også selvmord, for her tales ikke bare om nesten, men å slå i hjel i sin alminnelighet.

Ved dødsstraff er det jo ikke mennesker, men Gud ved sine jordiske stedfortredere, tar livet. Slik er det også når soldater dreper noen i krig, hvor mye krig i og for seg er av det onde. Det kan ikke kalles for mord, for det er jo ikke den enkelte personlig, men uniformens bærere kampen rettes mot.

Det sjette bud er et vern om nestens ektefelle. Ved å verne om ekteskapets hellighet, feller det også dommen over alle løse, dyriske forbindelser.

Tilfredsstillelse av kjønnsdriften er bare tillatt når den skjer i den stand som Gud har bestemt til slektens forplantning. Dette budet rammer selvsagt all urenhet i tanker og ord.

Det syvende bud verner om nestens gods og eiendom. Det er nødvendig for oss å ha timelige goder for å leve.

Derfor beskytter også Gud vårt gods. Egentlig finnes det ingen som eier noe selv her på jord. Vi har fått alt som lån av Gud for en viss tid.

På den måten blir tyveri en ennå alvorligere sak, for det er ågripe inn i Guds egen forvaltning og slik en krenkelse av Gud selv.

At mange har fått sitt gods med urett, gir ingen lov til å stjele fra dem. Noen ganger er det nettopp Guds dømmende hånd som lar synderen beholde godset, til fordervelse for seg selv.

Men det gjelder i høy grad å våke, særlig i vår tid. I det daglige liv i handel og vandel er det mye uredelighet og "kunster" som ikke regnes som egentlige synder. Vær på din post, Guds barn, og skikk deg ikke lik med verden! Våk og be, for at du ikke skal falle i fristelse.

Det er særlig nødvendig når det blir sagt: "Det gjør jo alle andre mennesker." Selv om alle vantro gjør det, ja selv om lunkne Guds barn også gjør det, må ikke du gjøre det, når Guds Ånd minner deg om at det er synd mot det syvende bud.

"Du skal ikke si falskt vitnesbyrd mot din neste." Slik lød det åttende bud fra Guds munn. Dette forbudet gjelder ikke bare når man står for retten sammen med sin neste. Det gjelder all vår tale om nesten.

Hvilken skade har ikke onde, baktalende ord gjort. Tungen er et lite lem, men taler likevel store ord, sier Jak 3:5.

Det er lettere å la de giftige støvkorn fly avsted med vinden, enn å samle dem opp igjen.

Vokt deg for all sladder, for å være postbud for løgnens far og føre de onde ord videre til andre. La det være en regel for deg hver gang du taler om din nestes feil og synd, at det skjer med absolutt sannhet.

Det du ikke er helt sikker på er rett, skal du tie om. For det andre skal det skje i kjærlighet og med kjærlighetens sorg. Det kommer et regnskap for hvert unyttig ord vi har talt.

Derfor bør vi be med David: "Herre, sett vakt for min munn. Vokt mine leppers dør" (Sal 141:3).

Til slutt kommer Guds bud mot selve det onde begjæret. Fra hjertet utgår livet (Ord 4:23). Derfor gjelder det i sannhet å bevare sitt hjerte, framfor alt som bevares. Her finnes den onde rot.

All synd i ord og gjerning har sitt utspring her. "Tanker er tollfrie," sier verden og trøster seg med det. Men Herren sa til fariseerne: Hvorfor tenker dere så ondt i deres hjerte? Ja, selve den onde lyst er synd. Guds bud avslører begjæret i hjertet, som Paulus sier: "For begjæret hadde jeg ikke kjent dersom ikke loven hadde sagt: Du skal ikke begjære!" (Rom 7:7).

Forbudet rettes først mot å begjære nestens hus i alminnelighet, men dernest tales mer om de enkelte ting. I 5Mos 5:21 begynner budet slik: Du skal ikke begjære din nestes hustru." Derfor har mange slått disse to budene sammen.

Begjæret og misunnelsen henger nøye sammen, men misunnelsen hører til Satans grunnvesen. Det var den giftige slange som lå ved Kains hjertedør og fikk makt over ham. Derfor gjelder det å kvele syndens gnist allerede i tanken og be Gud å virke det sinn i oss, som gleder seg med nesten, også når Gud gav ham det du selv ikke hadde.

Og de seire som vinnes i kampen med selve det onde begjæret, er de vanskeligste seire, men også de herligste og mest fruktbringende.

Gå til 2Mos 20:18-21
2Mos 20:18-21
Da den levende Guds røst lød til folket ut av mørket, fryktet folket og flyktet langt bort. Bevisstheten om Herrens nærvær avslørte og åpenbarte for dem alt det urene og vanhellige som var i dem.

De følte at de ikke kunne bestå for Herrens åsyn. Det var sannheten som kom for dem med veldig makt, den sannhet at vi av natur er fortapte og fordømte syndere. Derfor trakk de seg langt tilbake, som tolleren i templet: han stod langt borte, han ville ikke engang løfte øynene mot himmelen. Luk 18:13.

De fryktet for at de måtte dø, som profeten Jesaja sa: "Ve meg, jeg er fortapt, for jeg er en mann med urene lepper, og jeg bor midt iblant et folk med urene lepper. Og mine øyne har sett kongen, Herren, hærskarenes Gud" (Jes 6:5).

Moses trøstet folket med ordet: "Frykt ikke! Gud er kommet for å prøve dere." Gud var ikke kommet for å ramme dem med døden. Nei, han var kommet for å rense og prøve deres hjerter gjennom sin hellige åpenbaring.

Og han legger til: "For at frykt for ham skal være over dere, så dere ikke synder." Frykten skulle ledes inn i det rette sporet til å bli frykt for å synde mot Herren. Der en slik Herrens frykt bor i hjertet, behøver en ikke å frykte for noe annet.

Folket bad nå selv om å få Moses til mellommann, og de gav dermed Moses fullmakt på sine vegne. Dette var også etter Guds vilje (5Mos 5:28).

Mens folket stod langt borte, gikk Moses nær til skyen. Slik Moses gikk inn i mørket for folkets skyld, slik gikk vår nye mellommann, Jesus, også inn i mørket for oss, langfredag.

Moses kom tilbake med Guds herlighetsglans over seg. Slik kom også vår mellommann tilbake fra mørket i oppstandelsens herlighet.

Han hadde et bedre budskap å bringe enn Moses som kom med loven. Den kan ikke gi liv, men bare dømme synden. Men Jesus kom med evangeliet, nåden og sannheten og syndenes forlatelse, til liv og salighet for alle som tror.

Det har ofte blitt stilt spørsmål om tibudsioven gjelder for de kristne, den nye pakts barn. Mange har benektet dette og sagt at de kristne ikke har noe å gjøre med loven.

Luther hevder mot disse såkalte "antinomister"* at loven var først gitt for den ytre disiplins skyld, for det andre, for at mennesker kunne ledes til syndserkjennelse, og for det tredje, for at også det nye menneske kunne ha en støtte i den, mot det gamle menneske. (*Av de greske ord anti = mot og nomos = loven.)

Og Luther har jo rett i dette. Sålenge det nye menneske ennå må stadig kjempe med det gamle, er det godt for den svake, nye vilje å ha Guds lov å støtte seg til. Men støttestaven vil være unødvendig når Herren en gang er blitt alt for oss.

Men her nede i forgjengeligheten er den en hjelp, nettopp for det sinn som gjerne vil gjøre Guds vilje. Frihetens "jeg vil", som er virket av nåden, blir ikke trellbundet av lovens "du skal" eller "du skal ikke", men ser på den som en venn.

Utenfor evangeliet blir loven en hevner og dommer for oss fordi vi alle har brutt den. Men vi har frihet fra loven i den forstand at vi ikke skal bli rettferdige ved den, men ved tro på Kristus alene.

Gud være takk. Slik står det skrevet i Rom 8:3: "Det som var umulig for loven, fordi den var maktesløs på grunn av kjøtet, det gjorde Gud, da han sendte sin egen Sønn i syndig kjøds lignelse, for syndens skyld, og fordømte synden i kjødet." Men så tilføyer han, i v. 4: at det skjedde "for at lovens rettferdighet skulle bli oppfylt i oss, vi som ikke vandrer etter kjødet, men etter Ånden".

Evangeliet opphever altså ikke loven, men stadfester den (Rom 3:31), og fører lovens krav fram til seier hos de troende. "For dette er kjærligheten til Gud at vi holder hans bud. Og hans bud er ikke tunge" (1Joh 5:3). Herren har selv i Bergpreika kastet den nye pakts lys over den gamle loven. Han har ikke opphevet loven, men gjort den fullkommen.

Det betyr at han har lukket opp dybdene i Guds bud for oss. Så la oss, som er blitt frigjort fra lovens dom ved troen på nåden i Guds Sønn, si med salmisten: "Dine buds vei vil jeg løpe. For du frir mitt hjerte fra angst" (Sal 119:32).

Gå til 2Mos 20:22-26
2Mos 20:22-26
I det følgende finner vi en del bestemmelser som Moses fikk beskjed om å si til Israel.

Først og fremst finner vi her grunntrekkene i Israels samfunnsordning.

Men vi må alltid huske at Guds Hellige Ånd ennå ikke hadde tatt bolig på jorden. Guds Ånd veileder oss nå, som Guds folk, i alle detaljer som Herren sa til sine apostler: "Ennå har jeg mye å si dere, men dere kan ikke bære det nå. Men når han kommer, sannhetens Ånd, skal han veilede dere til hele sannheten" (Joh 16:12-13).

Men vi skal ikke undre oss over alle disse lovreglene for de minste ting, i tida før Ånden kom. Alt har sin dype betydning og viser oss at Herrens vilje også skal rå i det som synes å være aller mest ubetydelig.

I v. 22-26 peker Herren først på at Israels barn hadde sett at Herren hadde talt fra himmelen til dem. Han hadde åpenbart seg for dem som den personlige, levende, høyt opphøyede Gud, som de ikke måtte sette noe ved siden av.

Det måtte ikke være guder av verken sølv eller gull - det som er blitt gud for så mange hjerter. Nei, intet må settes ved siden av Herren.

Enten må Guds rike være det første for mennesket, eller så blir det intet.

De skulle lage et alter for Herren av jord på de steder der Herren lot sitt "navn minnes". Det var steder der han åpenbarte sitt vesen på en eller annen overnaturlig måte. Slik hadde jo allerede patriarkene bygd alter for Herren. Alteret reiser seg mot himmelen og betegner at hjertet løfter seg opp over det låge. Det skulle lages av jord, og det peker på at Gud vil bygge sitt rike på jorden og gjennomsyre alle jordiske livsforhold med sitt rikes krefter.

De hadde også lov å bygge det av stein. Men steinene måtte ikke være hogget til av mennesker. De skulle brukes slik de var. Mon ikke det peker på at menneskets egne gjerninger, det menneskehender kan utrette, ikke kunne hellige Herrens alter? Herren, den Hellige, ville selv, ved sitt nærvær, hellige det som ble gitt ham.

Hvor ofte har ikke mennesker som ønsket å være en helligdom for Herren, selv ville gjøre det i stedet for å si til Herren: ta meg som jeg er, og gjør du meg hellig!

Den siste bestemmelse, om at det ikke måtte være trapper opp til alteret, var for at de deler av legemet som den naturlige skamfølelsen holder vakt over, skulle vise Israels folk hvorledes all urenhet, selv den minste, er en vederstyggelighet for Gud. Det førte en jevn skråning opp til brennofferalteret.

Slik lærte Herren den gang sitt gamle eiendomsfolk å være våken for og engstes for enhver urenhet.

Gå til 2Mos 21:1-36
2Mos 21:1-36
De første elleve vers av dette kapitlet inneholder bestemmelser om de ringeste blant folket. Det er fint å legge merke til at Herren aller først tar seg av slike. I v. 2-6 omtales forholdet til tjenerne, eller, rettere sagt, trellene.

Livegenskap betyr at man kjøpte mennesker til treller, og det var av det onde. Men Gud bar over med vankunnighetens tider (Apg 17:30).

Betingelsene for en vandring etter Ånden var ennå ikke til stede. Det måtte først bli langfredag og deretter pinse før en vandring som sømmer seg for Guds folk, kunne bli mulig. I den gamle pakt har vi hele tiden å gjøre med en ugjenfødt menneskenatur.

Ved gjenfødelsens bad i den nye pakt, er kilden plantet i mennesket selv, slik at helliggjørelsen kan skje innenfra. I den gamle pakt var det høyeste som kunne oppnås, dette at den onde natur kunne holdes i age ved bestemmelser utenfra, ved Guds lov og andre hellige forskrifter i den gamle pakt. Det kunne aldri bli et gjenfødt menneske, bare et naturlig menneske omgjerdet av hellige bestemmelser, om vi så kan si.

Derfor skjer det mye som sikkert ikke var etter Guds vilje, slik som her med trellestanden og medhustruer. Men de skranker som Herrens bud satte for Israel, var også en kraftig spire til hellighet. Det førte til at folkets liv, ved Guds lov, litt etter litt ble ført fram til det bedre.

Guds barmhjertighet viser seg straks her ved behandlingen av trellene. Deres kår i Israel var derfor også mye bedre enn hos de hedenske folk.

En israelitt kunne etter folkets skikk bli trell, enten ved at han ble solgt av retten (2Mos 22:3), eller ved å selge seg selv på grunn av fattigdom.

Foreldrene kunne også selge døtrene (v. 7), men ikke i noen av disse tilfellene ble de treller på livstid. Etter seks års tjenestetid var trellen fri, og husbonden måtte da ikke la han gå tomhendt.

Han skulle gi ham rikelige gaver, både av småfe, fra låven og fra vinpersen (5Mos 15:12-14). Var ektefeller blitt treller, skulle de begge være fri etter seks år.

Men hadde husbonden gitt ham en hustru etter at han var blitt trell, skulle hustruen og barna tilhøre husbonden. For kvinnen var husbondens eiendom før ekteskapet.

Ble skillsmissen for tung for tjeneren, og hvis han ønsket å bli hos sin husbond, hustruen og barna, kunne han også det. Men da måtte han overgi seg til husbonden for alltid. Det står at hans herre da skulle "føre ham for Gud".

Det betyr at de skulle møte den øvrigheten som Gud hadde innsatt for at saken kunne bli stadfestet. Husbonden skulle deretter stikke en syl gjennom øret på tjeneren, slik at øret et øyeblikk festet seg til døra eller dørstolpen. Det var en skikk som var i bruk hos flere av oldtidens folk. Det skulle vise at vedkommende for alltid skulle være tilknyttet huset.

I v. 7-11 er bestemmelser om de døtrene som ble solgt til tjenestejenter, eller rettere til hustru eller medhustru, for kjøperen.

Det framgår av sammenhengen. At foreldre solgte sine døtre på den måten, skjedde vel bare på grunn av stor fattigdom. Men slike stakkars fattige jenter skulle ikke behandles som alminnelige treller.

Deres herre kunne ikke sende dem bort etter seks år slik som tjenerne. Det kunne medføre store vanskeligheter for kvinnene. Hvis han selv ikke inngikk ekteskap med henne, hadde han heller ikke lov til å selge henne til et fremmed folk, bare fordi han hadde vært troløs mot henne.

Meningen hadde jo vært at hun skulle være hans hustru. Ville han ikke selv ha henne til medhustru, skulle han tillate at en annen kjøpte henne til medhustru, "la henne kjøpes fri". Dersom han hadde kjøpt henne til sin sønn (v. 9), skulle han behandle henne som en datter.

Dersom han gav sønnen en annen hustru ved siden av, skulle han sørge for at sønnen lot henne få det en hustru kan kreve av mannen.

Dersom han på en eller annen måte ikke gjorde rett mot henne når det gjaldt mat, klær eller ekteskapelig omgang, hadde hun rett til å forlate ham straks, uten løsepenger. Det er altså de undertryktes rettigheter Herren verner om gjennom disse bestemmelsene.

v. 12-17 handler om menneskers liv. Grunntanken i lovens straffeordning er gjengjeldelse. Loven slår igjen og rammer på det punkt den angripes. Det er rettferdighetens krav at det onde forbryteren gjorde mot andre, skal ramme ham selv i form av straff.

Derfor heter det senere i v. 23-25: "liv for liv, øye for øye, tann for tann, hånd for hånd, fot for fot" osv.

Ja, det er retten, og ve oss om vi skulle dømmes evig etter lovens krav. Da var vi alle fortapt. Det er nettopp det loven vil vise oss.

Med hensyn til timelig straff, må gjengjeldelsen skje til en viss grad. For Herrens ord sier: "Den som utøser menneskets blod, hans blod skal bli utøst av mennesker. For i Guds bilde skapte han mennesket" (1Mos 9:6).

Mennesker har noen ganger gått langt utover Guds grunntanke og vært grusomme, men er i vår tid i ferd med å bli for milde overfor forbrytere.

Denne mildheten, som ikke legger ansvaret tilstrekkelig på mennesket, har også skjebnesvangre følger.

Herrens lov bestemmer her at overlagt mord skal straffes med døden. En slik morder skulle ikke ha noe fristed, heller ikke ved Herrens alter. Kom noen derimot til å drepe en annen i vanvare, uten å ville det, da ville Gud gi ham fristeder mot blodhevneren. Senere ble seks slike fristeder opprettet, og det var også et tilfluktssted for dem ved Herrens alter.

Det var også dødsstraff for å slå sin far og mor eller å forbanne dem (v. 15-17), og for å stjele mennesker, enten de ble solgt eller funnet i vedkommendes hus. Dermed har den gamle Moselov felt dødsdom over alle de slavehandlere som i mange hundre år har stjålet mange millioner afrikanere for å selge dem som slaver.

I v. 18-36 kommer en rekke bestemmelser om legemsbeskadigelse. Først i v. 18-19 om skade som følge av slagsmål i trette. Den som slo, skulle bare betale for den tid han hadde tapt og sørge for at han ble frisk, forutsatt at han kom seg. At straffen ikke var større, kom seg vel av at det oftest er skyld på begge sider ved en trette. I v. 20-21 settes grenser for straff for tjenere og treller. Hvis en husbonde tuktet sin trell slik at han straks døde, skulle det hevnes på husbonden. Men dersom trellen levde litt etter straffen, da skulle det at husbonden mistet sin trell, være straff nok.

Hos hedningene var trellene fullstendig undergitt sin herrer slik at de kunne gjøre med dem hva de ville. I Israel var det satt betydelig større grenser for herrens vilkårlighet, selv om forholdet med treller var imot Guds vilje. Det har Guds Ånd gjort klart i Det nye testamente.

En annen innskrenking av herrens grusomhet nevnes i v. 26-27. Trellen skulle frigis dersom herren ødela øyet hans eller slo ut en tann.

Trellene hadde altså ikke samme rettsstilling som frie mennesker. Det ble ikke gjort full gjengjeldelse mot dem. Men særlig den siste bestemmelsen, om frigivelse for en forholdsvis liten skade ved å miste en tann, gav dem en noenlunde bra stilling.

I v. 22 er en bestemmelse om skade på en fruktsommelig kvinne. Det kunne tenkes at en mann var i trette med en annen og kvinnen ville skille dem og slik fikk et slag. Selv om det ikke skjedde annen ulykke enn at fødselen ble framskyndet, skulle det straffes.

En mor med et barn under hjertet er under Guds spesielle varetekt og har dobbel rett til å skånes. For hun er som et verksted der den Høyeste utfører sine underlige gjerninger. Dersom det skjedde en ulykke under slaget, skulle det full gjengjeldelse til.

I v. 28-32 hevdes menneskelivets ukrenkelighet også overfor et dyr. Dersom en okse stanget en mann eller en kvinne i hjel, skulle oksen steines og kjøttet være urent. Dersom eiermannen ikke kjente til at den pleide å stange, skulle han ikke lide noen straff.

Men visste han om det og ikke passet på oksen, skulle han stilles til ansvar og selv miste livet, som om han var skyldig. Straffen kunne i dette tilfelle forandres til en bot som dommeren bestemte, ettersom det ikke var tilsiktet. Straffen skulle være lik om det var et barn eller en voksen som ble stanget. Et unntak ble gjort her: ble en trell stanget i hjel, skulle eiermannen, foruten oksen, bare betale 30 sekel sølv.

Her ser vi at vår Herre Jesus Kristus ikke ble vurdert høyere enn en trell. Judas solgte ham for samme beløp.

I de siste vers, v. 33-36: tales om skade på nestens eiendom. Først nevnes skade ved uforsiktighet. Hvis en mann åpner en brønn og ikke dekker den til og et dyr faller i den, skal brønnens eiermann betale dyrets verdi og selv ha det døde dyret.

Dersom en okse stanget en annen manns okse, skulle de dele begge dyrene. Dersom eiermannen til den oksen som stanget, visste at han pleide å stange og ikke passet på den, skulle han gi en annen okse som erstatning. Selv skulle han bare ha det døde dyret.

Når det bare er nevnt okse og asen, er det fordi dette var de viktigste husdyr i Israel og betyr derfor husdyr i alminnelighet.

Alle disse byene skulle tjene til å oppdra folket og øve det i åta hensyn til hverandre og hverandres eiendom og øve dem i å kjenne den rette målestokk for et menneskes verdi.

Gå til 2Mos 22:1-31
2Mos 22:1-31
Dette kapitlet fortsetter med lover om krenkelse av nestens eiendom, først om tyveri. Det blir gjort forskjell på om det er stort eller smått kveg som blir stjålet.

Erstatningen skulle være det femdobbelte for store dyr og det firdobbelte for små dyr. Dersom tyven ennå hadde dyrene i live, skulle han bare betale det dobbelte igjen. Dette var antagelig for å påvirke tyven til å gå i seg selv og ikke gjøre forbrytelsen fullstendig, ved å ødelegge nestens eiendom.

Det ville jo skje hvis han slaktet det eller solgte det. Dersom tyven ikke kunne betale boten, skulle han selges som slave. Og om noen slo tyven i hjel mens han gjorde innbrudd, skulle gjerningsmannen ikke dømmes, hvis det skjedde i mørke. Men hvis det skjedde i dagslys, skulle det straffes, for da kunne det lettere være unngått.

I v. 5-6 tales om straffen for den som ved uforsiktighet kom til å skade nestens eiendom. I østerland pleide man å brenne kvister m. m. etter at innhøstningen var ferdig. En måtte være forsiktig slik at ilden ikke gikk over i naboens åker.

I v. 7-15 tales om når betrodd gods ble borte. Flere ganger sies det her at saken skulle "føres fram for Gud". Det betyr den øvrighet som Gud hadde innsatt. Vi ser at edsavleggelse blir brukt for å avgjøre tretter. Når noen betrodde sin neste å passe på husdyrene, og de ble stjålet, skulle eieren ha erstatning.

Årsaken til tyveriet var da mangel på aktpågivenhet. Ble dyrene skadet på annen måte, ved røvere eller rovdyr, uten at vokteren var skyld i det, skulle eieren ikke kunne kreve erstatning.

I v. 14-15 tales om det som var lånt av andre. Ble det skadet når eiermannen var borte, skulle han ha erstatning. Var han derimot til stede, skulle han ikke ha noe. For da kunne han enten ha avverget skaden eller forstå at den ikke kunne unngås.

v. 16-17 inneholder straffebestemmelser for den som forførte en kvinne som ikke var trolovet. Da skulle han ta henne til hustru og gi henne "morgengave", dvs, betaling til faren, som skikken var.

Datteren ble nemlig betraktet som farens eiendom. Hvis jenta derimot var trolovet, var det dødsstraff (5Mos 22:22-27).

De følgende bestemmelsene (v. 18-20) sikter mot utryddelse av de hedenske synder.

Israel måtte ikke bli smittet av dem. Først kommer dommen over de som drev med trolldom. Trolldom er jo en spesiell pakt med ondskapens hær, en særlig forbindelse med Satans dybder.

Det er frafallet i sin høyeste grad. Når det særlig nevnes trollkvinner, er det vel fordi kvinnene på en spesiell måte innlot seg med mørkets krefter.

Dernest hører vi om dommen over en av de frykteligste former for utukt, nemlig omgang med dyr. Det var ikke ualminnelig hos hedningene. I Egypt hørte det endog med til avgudsdyrkelsen. Til slutt lyste Gud forbannelse over all ofring til avgudene.

I v. 21-27 finner vi bestemmelser om hvordan fremmede, enker, farløse og fattige må vernes. De ringe og hjelpeløse er alltid gjenstand for Guds spesielle varetekt.

Først (v. 21) omtales de fremmede. Israelittene skulle nok hate hedningenes avguder og synder, men de fremmede selv måte de ikke plage eller undertrykke. De skulle huske på hvorledes de selv hadde hatt det i Egypt.

I v. 22-24 hører vi om Gud som verge og hevner for enker og farløse, altså for de vergeløse blant folket. Når Herren truer dem som plager slike, og sier at han vil høre de vergeløses rop, og at han vil drepe forfølgerne med sverd, peker vel det også på at krigen skulle være et tuktens ris i Herrens hånd.

I v. 25-27 finner vi bestemmelser om hvorledes Gud vil ta seg av de fattiges sak. Man skulle ikke ta rente av de fattiges lån. De skulle få hjelp uten egennytte.

Lånet skulle være en barmhjertighetsgjerning og ikke en forretningssak. Mange vantro jøder har tidligere skaffet seg rikdom ved høye renter, og det viser hvor langt de var kommet bort fra sine egne bud.

Det står så fint at om de fattige ga sin kappe i pant, skulle han få den igjen før solen gikk ned. Det var det eneste han hadde til å dekke seg med om natten. Og Gud sier han vil høre den fattiges bønnerop, for "jeg er barmhjertig".

Av dette lærer vi at den fattiges nødrop til Herren bringer en hard dom med seg, over undertrykkeren.

I v. 28 blir ærefrykten for øvrigheten innskjerpet. Du skal ikke spotte Gud, står det. Det betyr her sikkert øvrigheten som Guds stedfortreder.

Det var dette ordet Paulus tenkte på da han stod for det jødiske råd og sa til ypperstepresten: "Gud skal slå deg, du kalkede vegg!" (Apg 23:3). Paulus visste ikke at det var ypperstepresten. Og da han hørte det, dømte han seg selv etter dette ordet.

v. 29-30 handler om å bære inn førstegrøden for Herren, både av marken, av deres sønner og av deres kveg. Alt det førstefødte skulle ofres til Herren som en stadig påminnelse om at Israel var Herrens eiendom (se. 2Mos 13).

"Dere skal være hellige mennesker for meg." Slik avslutter Herren disse bestemmelsene (v. 31) og sammenfatter dermed alt i en sum.

Målet var å føre folket inn i et hellig syn på livet i alle daglige forhold. Folket skulle hjelpes bort fra det kjødelige, verdslige, trassige og egennyttige sinn. Det skulle øves i å måle seg etter Herrens lovs oppdragelse og rensende bestemmelser, og ikke etter det de selv syntes var best.

Gå til 2Mos 23:1-19
2Mos 23:1-19
De første vers i dette kapitlet (v. 1-9) peker på det åttende bud, slik vii det foregående har sett om det femte og sjuende bud. "Du skal ikke utbre falskt rykte," slik begynner dette kapitlet. Hvor uhyre alminnelig er det ikke at falske rykter oppstår og bringes videre.

Også blant Guds barn kan slikt finne sted. På den måten vil man ofte hjelpe de ugudelige med å utbre deres urettferdige løgner. "Du skal ikke følge mengden i det som er ondt," står det like etter.

Dette ordet er også nødvendig, særlig i vår tid hvor politikkens bølger går så høyt. Pilatus bøyde retten etter mengden.

Han rettet seg etter flertallets vilje, og det ble hans store skade. Da Herrens sak ble stilt fram for mengden, lød ropet: Korsfest, korsfest! Nei, retten finnes ikke alltid der hvor de fleste er.

Vi trenger et fast sinn som tør gå mot strømmen. Men Herren peker også på det urette i å pynte på og begunstige noen av falsk medlidenhet. Vi hører ofte, også i vår tid, røster som hevder at de fattige alltid har rett.

Men Herrens ord setter skillet til begge sider. Derfor lyder det slik her: Du skal ikke pynte på fattig manns sak (v. 3), like så lite som å bøye retten for den fattige (v. 6).

I v. 4-5 blir kjærligheten til fienden understreket med to praktiske eksempler. Personlig uvilje må ikke innvirke på kjærlighetsplikten til nesten når han trenger en håndsrekning. Kjøtt og blod kan vel si: hva kommer hans sak meg ved. Men Herrens ord gir ikke dette sinn medhold.

I v. 7-8 innskjerper Herren dette: vi skal ikke befatte oss med saker som ikke tåler sannhetens lys, for ikke å synde mot den som er uskyldig.

Derfor skal vi sky alt som kan lure hjertet og derved fordunkle synet på sannheten. Derfor må ikke de som har med sakene å gjøre, ta imot gaver.

En jordisk dom kan være urett, men den evige dom blir ikke urett ved det. "Jeg dømmer ikke en skyldig å være uskyldig," sier Herren.

Også her innskjerpes det at vi ikke skal undertrykke den fremmede.

Fra v. 10-12 innskjerpes sabbatsåret og sabbaten nettopp med tanke på den trette. Herrens kjærlighet lyser så herlig gjennom disse bestemmelsene.

Sabbatsåret, det sjuende år, skulle også være et hvileår for jorden. Det jorden bar av seg selv, skulle de fattige få, så vel som markens dyr som heller ikke er glemt av Gud. Om ikke jorden var tilsådd det sjuende år, bar den sikkert en del grøde som vokste av seg selv.

Det var god hjelp for de fattige. Dette gjaldt også vingårdene og oljetrærne. I denne bestemmelsen lå også en stor oppdragelse for folket til å tro Herren, til å forstå at alt kom an på hans velsignelse.

De seks årene skulle altså gi nok også til det sjuende. Sabbatsåret og sabbatsdagen peker profetisk fram mot den sabbatstid som en gang i tidens fylde skal komme over jorden. Også sabbatsdagen blir innskjerpet (v. 12) med tanke på at denne dagen skulle være til hvile for arbeidsfolk og dyr.

I v. 13 minner Herren om grunnen for lydigheten mot hans bud: han er deres Herre og Gud, og de skal sky alle andre guder og heller ikke nevne dem.

Fra v. 14-19 tales om bestemmelsene om Israels forhold til gudstjenesten, den religiøse rettsordning. I dette avsnittet tales om Israels høytider.

De hellige høytider var en bærende kraft for folket i deres gudsforhold. Sabbaten var den egentlige festdag. I tillegg skulle det være tre store høytider om året. At Herren har gitt folket høytider både i den gamle og den nye pakt, er stor nåde. Vi fortjener bare nød og møye og arbeid i vårt ansikts sved.

Vi fortjener bare straff, slik at hver høytid her på jord også er en stor nåde.

Israels tre høytider var for det første de usyrede brøds høytid, altså påsken. Denne festen begynte den femtende dag i måneden Abib.

Den andre festen, pinsen, som også kalles Ukenes høytid, fordi det var sju uker mellom den og påsken, var en spesiell høstfest. Da ble de første brød av den nye høst ofret til Herren.

Den tredje høytiden var ved slutten av det borgerlige år og kalles kornhøstens høytid, fordi den siste kornhøst ble samlet inn da. Den er det samme som Løvsalenes høytid (3Mos 23). Ved disse tre anledninger skulle alle menn "møte fram for Herrens åsyn" ved helligdommen. De skulle komme med offergaver, og måtte ikke komme tomhendte. Men gavene som de kom med, hadde Herren først gitt dem.

Slik er det med alt som vi gir til Herren. Det er bare en liten del han får tilbake av det han først har gitt oss. Bare Herren får hjertet som offergave, følger også alt det andre med.

På ny blir det innskjerpet at det ikke måtte finnes surdeig der de ofret slaktoffer til Herren. Og ingen ting av offerlammet måtte ligge over til neste dag (se 2Mos 12:10).

Det er som om Guds ord ikke blir trett av å innskjerpe dette, at påskelammet og surdeigen ikke må forenes. Det har jo sin dype betydning ved dette forbilde: troen på ham som er påskelammet kan umulig forenes med et liv i syndens tjeneste. Tro og forsakelse kan ikke skilles.

I v. 19 finnes ennå et lite ord som forekommer to ganger i Mosebøkene, og synes å være dunkelt: "Du skal ikke koke et kje i dets mors melk."

Geitekje var en yndet rett og ble ofte kokt i morsmelka. Araberne koker ennå lammekjøtt i melk. Når Herren nå forbyr dem å koke kjeet i den melka som egentlig skulle være mat, ma grunnen sikkert være det naturstridige i dette.

Det snur opp ned på Guds ordning. Alt det mennesker hadde forvendt og forkvaklet, skulle det utvalgte folk nettopp motarbeide og ikke gjøre. Men nettopp ved et slikt bestemt bud, som gikk like inn i det daglige livet, kunne folkets bevissthet holdes våken.

Gå til 2Mos 23:20-33
2Mos 23:20-33
I dette avsnittet der den foreløpige utformingen av loven avsluttes, gir Gud folket en rekke vennlige påminnelser og løfter.

Løftene går både ut på at folket skulle bli ført sikkert til Kana'ans land som Herren hadde beredt for dem, og at Herren ville være deres hjelper når de inntok landet og skulle bo der. Engelen som Gud sier han skal sende foran folket og vokte dem, er ingen andre enn den Herrens engel som han har møtt så ofte før (se 1Mos 16:7).

"Mitt navn er i ham," sier Herren. Han innskjerper at folket må lyde ham og ikke være gjenstridige. I så fall vil deres overtredelse ikke bli forlatt.

Vi minnes her ordet i Sal 2:12: "Kyss Sønnen, for at han ikke skal bli vred og dere gå til grunne på veien." Denne Herrens engel er jo Guds Sønn, vår Frelser, før han ble ikledt vårt kjød og blod.

Men "dersom du lyder hans røst, da vil jeg være en fiende av dine fiender og en motstander av dine motstandere," sier ordet. Gud vil være med den som hører Sønnens røst. "For Faderen elsker Sønnen, og alt har han gitt i hans hånd" (Joh 3:35).

Herren vil utslette kana'anittene for Israels ansikt. Men Israel skal knuse de kana'anittiske avgudsbilder og ikke ha noe med dem å gjøre.

Vil de tjene Herren i Kana'ans land, da vil han velsigne brødet og vannet og holde sykdom borte fra dem. Brødet og vannet er de mest uunnværlige, og de er bilder på den timelige velsignelse. Med sykdom som Herren vil ta bort, menes vel ødeleggende sott som Herren la på egypterne, 2Mos 15:26.

Også v. 26 er et uttrykk for den velsignelse Gud på alle måter vil gi sitt folk, også med hensyn til barnefødsel og levealder. Han vil gi dem lykkelige livsvilkår, mens han vil la fienden flykte for dem.

Herren sier (v. 28) at han vil sende vepser foran dem, og de skal drive bort kana'anittene. Det skal en kanskje forstå åndelig, om den angst og forvirring Gud sendte over fienden når de ville kjempe mot Israel.

Men det kan også være at Herren virkelig sendte slike vepser i øynene på fienden, selv om vi ikke hører om det da de inntok Kana'an.

Det samme ordet er brukt i Jos 24:12. De skulle likevel ikke vente at Herren ville drive fienden bort på en gang, men litt etter litt, til Israel var blitt sterkt nok til å oppfylle landet.

Hvis kana'anittene ble utryddet med en gang, ville landet bli øde og de ville dyr tallrike. Vi hører ofte om ville dyr i Palestina. David sa f. eks. mens han var gjeter, til Saul: En løve kom og en bjørn og tok et lam fra hjorden (d).

Derimot måtte Israelittene aldri la kana'anittene få ro. De skulle stadig arbeide for å trenge dem ut. Fikk de bo i fred hos dem, ville de snart bli en snare for Israel. De måtte ikke inngå noen pakt med kana'anittene, og ingen våpenstilistand.

Men ville de adlyde Herren i dette, ville han også gi dem hele landet fra Rødehavet til Middelhavet, og fra den arabiske ørken til elven.

Med elv menes Eufrat som den ytterste grense mot øst. Israel nådde bare i blomstringstiden under David og Salomo tilnærmelsesvis dette området. At løftet ikke ble fullt oppfylt, hadde sin grunn i folkets utroskap overfor betingelsene Gud stilte. Folket holdt jo ofte fred med kana'anittene og var svake overfor dem. Dermed mistet Israel sin kraft. For utroskap følges alltid av svakhet og avmakt. I alt dette er det et bilde på Guds folks stilling til alle tider. Herren vil at alle troende skal leve i lykkelige kår, så sant de vil leve i nåden.

Han vil gi oss seier over våre fiender, ved Herrens kraft må Satan fly fra Guds barn, tillikemed alle kjødelige lyster som strider mot sjelen.

Ikke slik å forstå at Herren straks driver ut alle syndens lyster av vårt hjerte. Men litt etter litt vil han lutre sitt folk, slik at vi selv kan vokse opp til ham, åndelig talt.

En hedensk høvding i Sør-Afrika som hadde hørt Guds ord og ville høre Herren til, kom til misjonæren og bad om en medisin som kunne gjøre hans onde hjerte syndefritt og godt. Men, la han til, det må skje straks. Denne mannen ville gjerne bli fri sin synd, men han forstod ikke at dette ikke kunne skje i et øyeblikk.

Nei, liksom Israels folk litt etter litt skulle vokse seg sterkt og trenge fienden ut, slik går det også med Guds folk nå. Men det må aldri bli fred med synden. Syndens vesen må ikke få lov å bo i våre hjerter, likeså lite som kana'anittene i Israel.

For da må Herrens kraft vike fra oss. Må Gud hjelpe oss til åbli trofaste i kampen inntil døden! For i det består nettopp seieren, at Guds folk fortsetter å kjempe uten våpenstillstand. Da skal han som er troens opphavsmann også fullende verket i våre hjerter og gi oss en evig forløsning.

Gå til 2Mos 24:1-18.
2Mos 24:1-18
Etter disse bestemmelsene angående hele folket, lød nå Herrens ord til Moses at han kunne komme opp på fjellet. Han skulle komme sammen med Aron og hans to eldste sønner og 70 av Israels eldste. Men bare Moses skulle ha adgang til Herrens umiddelbare nærhet. De andre skulle tilbe på avstand. Hele folket ellers skulle bli nede på sletta. Men før det kunne skje, måtte pakten med Herren opprettes.

Moses forela nå folket alt det Herren hadde sagt, og folket svarte med en røst: Alle de ord Herren har talt, vil vi holde oss etter.

Moses skrev alle Herrens ord opp i boken, og boken fikk derfor navnet Paktens bok, v. 7. Dette gjorde Moses samme dag han kom ned av fjellet, for at alt kunne stå urokkelig fast. Tidlig neste morgen bygde han så et alter som Herren hadde befalt (2Mos 20:24). Han reiste opp 12 støtter, trolig av stein, omkring alteret.

De tolv støttene skulle symbolisere Israels tolv stammer, og alteret i midten symboliserte Herren som var midt blant sitt folk.

Offerdyrene ble slaktet, og Moses stod omgitt av folket. Han var mellommann mellom folket og Herren, og tok halvdelen av blodet og stenket på alteret. Deretter tok han paktens bok og leste den opp for folket. Da erklærte de: Vi vil gjøre alt det som Herren har sagt og være lydige.

Så stenket han den andre halvdelen av blodet på folket og sa: "Se, dette er paktens blod, den pakt som Herren oppretter med dere på alle disse ord." Vi skal gi akt på at offerdyrets blod er grunnlaget som fredspakten mellom den hellige Gud og det syndige folk kunne skje på.

Vi vet at dette blodet ikke kunne gi forsoning overfor Guds rettferdighetskrav. Men det hadde sin betydning som forbilde på Guds Sønns blod på Golgata kors. Og i Guds øyne var det som om det allerede var skjedd.

Offerdyrets blod betyr at livet blir gitt, for blodet er setet for livskraften. Den andre halvdel av blodet ble stenket på folket, og det betegner blodets rensende velsignelse på folket. Slik er det også i den nye pakt.

Langfredag gikk Gudslammet som bar verdens synd, inn i helligdommen og fant en evig forløsning. Men ved troen og dåpen overføres Kristi blods rensende kraft på den enkelte. Derfor lød ordet til Paulus gjennom Ananias: "Stå opp og la deg døpe og få dine synder vasket bort, idet du påkaller hans navn" (Apg 22:16).

Vi skal også merke oss at Herren opprettet pakten med folket "over alle disse ord". Herren har også gjort pakt med oss over sine ord. Ikke over lovens ord som ingen synder kan holde, selv om folket den gang erklærte seg villig til det. Denne erklæringen inneholdt en erkjennelse av at de var skyldige til det. Men Herren visste godt at hans lov ville bli en stadig påminnelse om deres synd, og ikke til liv.

For Herren var det om å gjøre at folket var villig. Herren krever den samme villighet i hjertet av oss som er den nye pakts barn.

Vi skal vende oss bort fra det gamle syndens og djevelens vesen og tilhøre Herren i tro. Men det gjelder om å bli i Herrens ord, dersom Kristi blods nåde skal bli til velsignelse for oss og ikke til dom.

I Heb 9 viser forfatteren at det ikke skjer syndsforlatelse uten ved at blod blir utgytt. Det viser tilbake til denne pakten og på hele offertjenesten slik den skulle utfolde seg etter at tabernaklet var reist.

Etter denne pakt var offerdyrets blod forbilde på en stedfortreder mellom den hellige Gud og det syndige folket. Og da inntrer liksom et nytt forhold til Herren. Før pakten ble inngått, måtte ingen røre ved fjellet, uten Moses alene. Nå måtte Moses med de ovenfornevnte ledsagere, stige opp på fjellet.

Når Aron med sine to sønner fulgte med Moses, var det på grunn av den spesielle stilling som prester, de hadde fått av Gud. Med det ble deres innvielse til å ha prestetjenesten i Israel forberedt.

"Og de så Israels Gud." De fikk se det samme som Jesaja (Jes 6:1), profeten Esekiel (Esek 1:26) og profeten Daniel (Dan 7:9).

Det står ikke i hvilken skikkelse de så Herren. Det kunne kanskje ikke beskrives, og i hvertfall er skildringen hos disse profetene liksom tilslørt. For "ingen har noensinne sett Gud" i hans fulle herlighet (Joh 1:18). Synderen kan ikke se Gud uten å dø.

For å kunne se Gud som han er, må vi først bli ham lik i hellighet. Det som beskrives er egentlig heller ikke Gud selv, men mer hans trones herlighet. Under hans føtter var noe som lignet safirstein. Det er en himmelblå edelstein. Den nevnes også i Esekiels syn. Men hele dette arbeide som Guds føtter hvilte på, var rent og klart som himmelen selv. Det var en vidunderlig himmelsk glans og herlighet, og et lite innblikk i det som venter Herrens folk. Men så stor som Guds herlighet viste seg for dem, så stor var også Guds nåde som ble åpenbart for dem.

Det står utrykkelig at han la ikke sin hånd på noen av dem, selv om de var syndere. "De skuet Gud og åt og drakk", står det. Det betyr at de holdt offermåltid av takkofferet som de hadde gitt til Herren. Det var et forunderlig måltid, overstrålet av Guds herlighetsglans.

Dette synet av Guds herlighet og dette måltid, er vakre forbilder og pant på den store nattverd da alle Herrens frelste skal samles.

Da skal vi se Herren i hans fulle herlighet. Ordet hos salmisten skal bli oppfylt (Sal 17:15): "Jeg skal i rettferdighet få se ditt ansikt. Når jeg våkner, skal jeg mettes ved synet av din skikkelse."

Deretter kalte Herren Moses opp til seg på berget. Moses forstod at Herren ville ha ham hos seg i lengre tid. Derfor innsatte han Aron og Hur til å ta seg av rettssakene i hans sted. Moses hadde tjeneren Josva med seg.

I seks dager måtte de vente. Det var liksom helligelsen for å tre inn for Herrens ansikt. Herrens herlighet hvilte over Sinai, men for folket der nede så det ut som en fortærende ild. På den sjuende dag lød Herrens kall til Moses, og Moses alene gikk på Herrens ord inn i den lysende skyen og forsvant for Josvas øyne. Så var han hos Herren i 40 dager og 40 netter.

I denne Herrens umiddelbare nærhet behøvde Moses sikkert verken mat eller drikke. Tallet 40 kommer ofte igjen i den hellige historie.

Også andre gang da Moses var på fjellet, var han der i 40 dager og 40 netter.

Jesu opphold i ørkenen under fristelsen varte også i 40 dager (Matt 4:2).

Israels vandring i ørkenen varte i 40 år. Dette tallet har sin betydning som prøvelsens og fristelsens tid, og her som åpenbar-ingens tid.

Gå til 2Mos 25:1-40
Se også Tillegg til 2Mos 25-27
Hele denne Herrens helligdom er i virkeligheten bare et ytre, synlig forbilde på Åndens store helligdom: den hellige, allmenne kirke, som ble reist pinsedag.

Slik som den gamle helligdom bestod av tre deler: det Allerhelligste, det Helligste og forgården, er også menigheten. Det Allerhelligste er forbilde på Guds himmel, de frelstes evige hjem.

Alle frelste er liksom en paktens ark som gjemmer Guds lov i sitt hjerte. Der inne er skrevet: jeg vil det Gud vil. Livet i himmelriket er for Guds trone, omgitt av kjerubenes lovsang.

Men veien gjennom forhenget er blitt åpnet av våre store yppersteprest, Jesus Kristus. På langfredag gikk han med sitt eget blod der inn og fant en evig forløsning.

Den andre avdeling er Herrens menighet, som svarer til det hellige. Det er de helliges samfunn her på jord. Ingen kunne komme inn i det allerhelligste uten gjennom det hellige, for det var ingen bakdør.

Slik kan heller ingen komme inn i Guds himmel uten gjennom de helliges samfunn her på jord. Menneskene har ofte nok forsøkt å lage bakdører, men det finnes ingen.

Innboet i helligdommen er alt sammen forbilder på det som Gud har satt i sin menighet her på jord. Lysestaken er bilde på Guds ord som skinner i denne verdens natt som lys på veien og som lykt for foten, til frelse for alle som er av sannheten.

Skuebrødsbordet står som forbilde på det bord som Herren har dekket for sitt folk. Hans gaver skal bare nytes av Herrens hellige, det prestelige folk. Bare prestene i den gamle pakt hadde lov å ete av brødet på skuebrødsbordet. Men Herrens nattverd vil nettopp virke et hellig liv med gode gjerninger. Slik kan et Guds barns liv med alt det Ånden virker i det, bli et takkoffer for Herren, i likhet med skuebrødene. Ja, det skal være Gudsbarnets bønn at hele vårt daglige liv kan legges fram for Herrens åsyn.

Det skal være vår stadige kamp å leve et liv som kan bli til velbehag for Guds åsyn. Og Røkofferalteret står jo med sin røkelse som forbilde på de helliges bønner.

Og når vi spør hvem som har adgang til de helliges samfunn, var det slik i den gamle pakt at bare prestene i sin prestedrakt hadde adgang dit.

Men prestekledningen i Israel står som forbilde på den hvite drakt Herren gir oss. Bare når vi i troen har iført oss denne prestedrakten, hører vi hjemme i de helliges samfunn.

Men utenfor helligdommen lå den store forgården, som er bilde på alle de mange som nok er med blant Guds folk ved dåpen, men som ikke har tilegnet seg nåden. Israels barn ble innlemmet i folket ved omskjærelsens pakt.

Forgården kan derfor sammenlignes med hele den synlige kirke. Nå gjelder det å komme fra forgården og inn i det hellige, inn i den sanne og levende Herrens menighet. Men la oss huske at i forgården stod brennofferalteret der slaktofferet ble gitt som forbilde på forsoning.

Den nye pakts folk har også sitt slaktofferalter , nemlig Kristi kors. Alle syndere må hen til korsets fot, til Jesus. Bare gjennom slaktofferet går veien til helligdommen.

I helligdommen var man under tak. Vi som er i de helliges samfunn, må derfor si til alle som står i forgården: kom inn til oss.

I forgården var det ikke tak, der hadde man ingen beskyttelse mot livets stormer. Men det er godt å være i de helliges samfunn. Nådens tak er over Herrens levende folk.

Tabernaklet var dekket med tepper. De hadde tre farger: blått, rødt og kvitt. Disse forskjellige fargene var med og gjorde helligdommen vakker. Også her kan vi finne forbilder, for ingen ting er tilfeldig av det Herren har bestemt. Mon ikke de forskjellige fargene også peker på de forskjellige farger Guds barns trosliv kan ha.

De kvite farge uttrykker da de troende i Herrens åndelige tempel, som særlig har tilegnet seg det lyse trossinn. Mere enn mange andre Guds barn kjenner de til frydesangen. Den blå fargen peker på de Guds barn som har et noe mørkere preg i sitt trosliv. De ser sterkt på livets mange kamper, på det dype alvor i hvert skritt på den trange vei.

De har vanskeligere for å få fram det lyse sinn. Håpet til Herren er liksom det som trer sterkest fram hos dem. Men de holder fast ved bekjennelse av håpet, disse stille, dype og alvorlige Guds barn. Og så rødfargen - mon ikke den peker på de Guds barn der kjærlighetslivet er framtredende. De har en tjenende, selvoppofrende og hjelpsom kjærlighet. Som purpur og skarlagen er de mest framtredende fargene, slik viser det trossinn som preges av en slik virksom og inderlig kjærlighet, sterkt fram.

Vi mener ikke det som verden kaller kjærlighet. Der er alt sammen menneskevesen og gjerningsvesen. Nei, vi tenker på den kjærlighet som springer ut fra en levende tro på Jesu kjærlighet og som ikke kan skilles fra det levende håp.

Helligdommens skjønnhet var betinget av de forskjellige fargene. Og skjønnheten i de helliges samfunn kommer først fram ved at de forskjellige fargene innen troslivet møtes i det ene ydmykhetens sinn.

Slik går det en dyp, åndelig sammenheng gjennom hele oppbyggingen av tabernaklet. Hvor stort vil det ikke bli for de frelste å se den himmelske helligdom. Her ser vi de jordiske helligdommer som en glans av den. Men da skal vi se den i sin fulle herlighet.

Gå til 2Mos 28:1-43

2Mos 25:1-40
Herrens første ord til Moses handlet om byggingen av en synlig bolig.

Der ville Herren være nær Israel på en synlig måte. Denne bolig skulle være et tegn på at han ikke var langt borte fra dem, men nær.

Israels folk skulle være gjennomtrengt av bevisstheten om at den usynlige konge hadde sin trone midt iblant dem. Dette skulle ikke bare gi folket trøst mot fienden, men også fylle det med hellig frykt for å synde mot hans lov. En slik synlig Herrens bolig hørte med til forberedelsestiden. Der skulle folket tilbe Herren og gudstjenesten skje.

Men som Herren sa til den samaritanske kvinne, skulle det komme en tid da man ikke måtte tilbe Gud på et ytre sted. Da skulle Faderen tilbes i Ånd og sannhet, uten at det ytre stedet skulle bety noe.

Denne bolig for Herren skulle reises ved frivillige gaver fra folket. Slik lød Herrens ord: "Fra hver mann som har hjertelag til det, skal dere ta imot gaven til meg."

Herren vil ha de frivillige kjærlighetsgaver. Bare de har verdi for ham. Her ble gull- og sølvkarene som Israel hadde fått med seg fra Egypt, brukt.

En hel del forskjellige ting som Herren ville se som offergaver fra folket, blir nevnt. Selve bildet for Tabernaklet, som betyr telt, og bilde for alle redskapene, ble vist Moses av Gud. Dette tabernaklet kalles derfor med rette "et avbilde og en skygge av den himmelske" i Heb 8:5.

På den måten får tabernaklet med alt som hører til det, sin dype, åndelige betydning. Det er et svakt, jordisk uttrykk for noe mye mer opphøyet i himmelen. Når vi hører hvorledes Gud selv bestemmer alt ved tabernaklet til den minste detalj, skal dette også vise oss at ingen ting er for lite for Gud, slik heller ikke noe er for stort for ham.

Guds folk må ha ham med i det som kalles smått, likeså vel som i det store.

Fra v. 10-22 omtales Paktens ark som skulle bli det hellige sted for "Vitnesbyrdet" (v. 16), det vil si lovens tavler. Lokket på paktens ark var den såkalte nådestolen* med de to kjerubene. Kjerubene er åndsvesener, og etter Skriften rager de over alle andre skapninger og inntar den høyeste plass blant det skapte. De framstilles derfor som de tjenere som står nærmest Gud. (* I NO'78/85 brukes ordet "Soningssted". Det tilsvarende ordet i Rom 3:25 oversettes der "sonoffer".)

Slik så Esekiel Gud trone over kjerubene, og det samme så Johannes i sin åpenbaring. Vi kan ikke ha noen klar forestilling om hvordan disse kjerubene så ut.

Når de er åpenbart for mennesker, har de skikkelse med et menneskeansikt. Men det er også forent med løvens, oksens og ørnens ansikt.

Dette synes å være uttrykk for skapningens sterkeste og edleste krefter. Og kjerubene settes stadig i forbindelse med Guds trone. Og når de skulle plasseres på nådestolen, betyr det at nådestolen skulle være det sted Gud åpenbarte seg.

Herren sa også det til Moses: "Og jeg vil komme sammen med deg der. Fra nådestolen mellom begge kjerubene som er på vitnesbyrdets ark, der vil jeg tale med deg om alt det jeg vil pålegge deg å si til Israels barn" (v. 22). Arken med nådestolen var midtpunktet i helligdommen. Den var liksom helligdommens hjerte.

For å bedømme målene rett må vi huske at den hebraiske alen tilsvarte en lengde fra albuen på en voksen mann til spissen av langfingeren.

Det er omtrent 50 cm etter vårt mål. Selve arken skulle være av såkalt sittimtre (akasietre). Det utmerket seg ved å være ekstra holdbart.

Arken skulle beslås med rent gull og en gullkrans rundt hele kanten. Gull er det edleste og mest uforgjengelige grunnstoff. Det skulle brukes. For Gud skulle møtes med det beste jorden har, av den slags. Gullet med sin glans er liksom et bilde på Guds herlighetsglans. Ingen måtte røre ved arken, derfor skulle de lage gullringer på sidene.

Gjennom dem la de stenger som de bar arken med. Disse stengene måtte man derfor ikke ta ut av ringene. Nådestolen skulle være av rent gull.

I v. 23-30 har vi Guds tale til Moses om skuebrødsbordet, med fat, skåler, kanner og beger. Alt dette skulle være av rent gull. Selve skuebrødsbordet var beslått med gull, men det var ellers av akasietre, liksom arken. Skuebrødene bestod av 12 brød, ett for hver av Israels stamme, og uttrykte Israels takkoffer for Guds velsignelse i det jordiske. Skuebrødene ble fornyet hver sabbat. De gamle brødene kunne bare prestene ete.

Til slutt skulle Moses lage en lysestake, v. 31-39. Den skulle også være av rent gull og ha sju armer, tre til hver side og en i midten.

Etter gamle jødiske tradisjoner var den ca. 1,5 m høy. Hver arm skulle være en lampe, og de ble tent hver kveld og brant hele natten.

Lysestaken uttrykker Israels folk som bærer av gudserkjennelsens lys. Olje er alltid bilde på Guds Ånd, og bare gjennom den kan lys og liv strømme til oss. Staken skulle prydes med mandelblomstbeger. Mandeltreet blomstrer tidligere enn noe annet tre, derfor betyr også det hebraiske navnet Det våkne tre. Også disse begrene hadde sin betydning.

De peker på Israels stilling som det folk som tidligere enn noen andre har fått den sanne gudserkjennelse.

At lysestaken hadde sju armer, viser oss hvorledes sjutallet er viktig. Det betyr at Gud er midt i sin menighet. Tretallet er Guds tall og firetallet verdens tall. Derfor blir sjutallet menighetens tall som en del av den menneskeverden der Gud har sin bolig.

Om alt det som Moses skulle gjøre, sa Herren: "Se nå til at du gjør alt etter det bilde som ble vist deg på fjellet!" Gå til 2Mos 26:1-37
2Mos 26:1-37
Dette kapitlet inneholder en beskrivelse av hvorledes paktens ark, skuebrødsbordet og lysestaken skulle oppbevares. De skulle være i tabernaklet.

Det skulle bygges dels av planker, dels og hovedsakelig av tepper og forheng.

Fra v. 1-6 skildres først det viktige teppe som skulle dekke det innerste av Herrens helligdom. De skulle veve ti tepper som de skulle feste sammen 5 og 5 til to store tepper. Det svarte til de to avdelingene i tabernaklet.

Disse to teppene skulle de så hefte sammen med hemper og gullkroker. De skulle veve teppene av 3 forskjellige farger: hvitt, som vel var grunnfargen, dernest blått og endelig rødt. De skulle så veve inn kjeruber på teppene. Da egypterne var dyktige i all slags kunstvev, har Israelittene også lært dette.

Tabernaklet var 30 alen langt og 10 alen bredt. Disse ti teppene var 40 alen i alt og kunne dekke hele tabernaklets lengde. I tillegg var det ti alen til den bakerste vegg i det Allerhelligste. De andre teppene var 28 alen lange. Tabernaklet var bare 10 alen bredt. Resten ble hengt på sidene. Utenom dette indre teppet var det et ytre teppe av geitehår som var litt større, slik at det dekket over det innerste teppet. Det var heftet sammen med hemper og haker i likhet med det innerste. Men disse hakene var bare av kobber.

Endelig kom det aller ytterste teppet som utgjorde det ytre vern mot været. Det bestod av forskjellige slags skinn (v. 14). Teppene var spent fast ved hjelp av små kobberstenger og snorer.

Treverket som skulle bære teppene, skulle lages av samme materiale som arken, nemlig akasietre. Plankene skulle beslås med gull og stå på sølvføtter. Hver planke hadde to tapper nede og stod på to sølvføtter.

Mellom dem var gullbelagte tverrlister. Herren viste Moses et bilde av hele bygningen da han var på fjellet. Slik er tabernaklet virkelig blitt til etter Herrens tegning. Inngangen til tabernaklet var mot øst.

Man kom først inn i det hellige, som den første avdeling ble kalt. Der stod skuebrødsbordet mot nord og gullysestaken mot sør. Lysestaken stod slik at armene vendte mot skuebrødsbordet. Mellom det Hellige og det Allerhelligste, der paktens ark stod, var et forheng.

Det var laget av samme stoff som det innerste teppe. Dette forhenget skulle henges på fire støtter av akasietre. Inngangen til tabernaklet ble også dekket av et forheng.

Hele tabernaklet hadde slik karakteren av et telt, slik også folket selv bodde i telt. De forskjellige fargene hadde vel også sin betydning.

Den hvite fargen pleier alltid å bety hellighet. Blåfargen peker mot den blå himmelen, at tabernaklet var en bolig for himmelens Herre.

Den røde purpurfargen var den fargen kongene brukte på sine drakter. Det peker kanskje på at tabernaklet var hans hus som er kongenes konge.

Inngangen til tabernaklet var temmelig smal, ikke mer enn nærmere to alen (ca. 1 m), og den minner oss slik om den trange porten.

Gå til 2Mos 27:1-21
Hele denne Herrens helligdom er i virkeligheten bare et ytre, synlig forbilde på Åndens store helligdom: den hellige, allmenne kirke, som ble reist pinsedag.

Slik som den gamle helligdom bestod av tre deler: det Allerhelligste, det Helligste og forgården, er også menigheten. Det Allerhelligste er forbilde på Guds himmel, de frelstes evige hjem.

Alle frelste er liksom en paktens ark som gjemmer Guds lov i sitt hjerte. Der inne er skrevet: jeg vil det Gud vil. Livet i himmelriket er for Guds trone, omgitt av kjerubenes lovsang.

Men veien gjennom forhenget er blitt åpnet av våre store yppersteprest, Jesus Kristus. På langfredag gikk han med sitt eget blod der inn og fant en evig forløsning.

Den andre avdeling er Herrens menighet, som svarer til det hellige. Det er de helliges samfunn her på jord. Ingen kunne komme inn i det allerhelligste uten gjennom det hellige, for det var ingen bakdør.

Slik kan heller ingen komme inn i Guds himmel uten gjennom de helliges samfunn her på jord. Menneskene har ofte nok forsøkt å lage bakdører, men det finnes ingen.

Innboet i helligdommen er alt sammen forbilder på det som Gud har satt i sin menighet her på jord. Lysestaken er bilde på Guds ord som skinner i denne verdens natt som lys på veien og som lykt for foten, til frelse for alle som er av sannheten.

Skuebrødsbordet står som forbilde på det bord som Herren har dekket for sitt folk. Hans gaver skal bare nytes av Herrens hellige, det prestelige folk. Bare prestene i den gamle pakt hadde lov å ete av brødet på skuebrødsbordet. Men Herrens nattverd vil nettopp virke et hellig liv med gode gjerninger. Slik kan et Guds barns liv med alt det Ånden virker i det, bli et takkoffer for Herren, i likhet med skuebrødene. Ja, det skal være Gudsbarnets bønn at hele vårt daglige liv kan legges fram for Herrens åsyn.

Det skal være vår stadige kamp å leve et liv som kan bli til velbehag for Guds åsyn. Og Røkofferalteret står jo med sin røkelse som forbilde på de helliges bønner.

Og når vi spør hvem som har adgang til de helliges samfunn, var det slik i den gamle pakt at bare prestene i sin prestedrakt hadde adgang dit.

Men prestekledningen i Israel står som forbilde på den hvite drakt Herren gir oss. Bare når vi i troen har iført oss denne prestedrakten, hører vi hjemme i de helliges samfunn.

Men utenfor helligdommen lå den store forgården, som er bilde på alle de mange som nok er med blant Guds folk ved dåpen, men som ikke har tilegnet seg nåden. Israels barn ble innlemmet i folket ved omskjærelsens pakt.

Forgården kan derfor sammenlignes med hele den synlige kirke. Nå gjelder det å komme fra forgården og inn i det hellige, inn i den sanne og levende Herrens menighet. Men la oss huske at i forgården stod brennofferalteret der slaktofferet ble gitt som forbilde på forsoning.

Den nye pakts folk har også sitt slaktofferalter , nemlig Kristi kors. Alle syndere må hen til korsets fot, til Jesus. Bare gjennom slaktofferet går veien til helligdommen.

I helligdommen var man under tak. Vi som er i de helliges samfunn, må derfor si til alle som står i forgården: kom inn til oss.

I forgården var det ikke tak, der hadde man ingen beskyttelse mot livets stormer. Men det er godt å være i de helliges samfunn. Nådens tak er over Herrens levende folk.

Tabernaklet var dekket med tepper. De hadde tre farger: blått, rødt og kvitt. Disse forskjellige fargene var med og gjorde helligdommen vakker. Også her kan vi finne forbilder, for ingen ting er tilfeldig av det Herren har bestemt. Mon ikke de forskjellige fargene også peker på de forskjellige farger Guds barns trosliv kan ha.

De kvite farge uttrykker da de troende i Herrens åndelige tempel, som særlig har tilegnet seg det lyse trossinn. Mere enn mange andre Guds barn kjenner de til frydesangen. Den blå fargen peker på de Guds barn som har et noe mørkere preg i sitt trosliv. De ser sterkt på livets mange kamper, på det dype alvor i hvert skritt på den trange vei.

De har vanskeligere for å få fram det lyse sinn. Håpet til Herren er liksom det som trer sterkest fram hos dem. Men de holder fast ved bekjennelse av håpet, disse stille, dype og alvorlige Guds barn. Og så rødfargen - mon ikke den peker på de Guds barn der kjærlighetslivet er framtredende. De har en tjenende, selvoppofrende og hjelpsom kjærlighet. Som purpur og skarlagen er de mest framtredende fargene, slik viser det trossinn som preges av en slik virksom og inderlig kjærlighet, sterkt fram.

Vi mener ikke det som verden kaller kjærlighet. Der er alt sammen menneskevesen og gjerningsvesen. Nei, vi tenker på den kjærlighet som springer ut fra en levende tro på Jesu kjærlighet og som ikke kan skilles fra det levende håp.

Helligdommens skjønnhet var betinget av de forskjellige fargene. Og skjønnheten i de helliges samfunn kommer først fram ved at de forskjellige fargene innen troslivet møtes i det ene ydmykhetens sinn.

Slik går det en dyp, åndelig sammenheng gjennom hele oppbyggingen av tabernaklet. Hvor stort vil det ikke bli for de frelste å se den himmelske helligdom. Her ser vi de jordiske helligdommer som en glans av den. Men da skal vi se den i sin fulle herlighet.

Gå til 2Mos 28:1-43
2Mos 27:1-21
I helligdommen ville Gud møte sitt folk. Men det var ennå ikke umiddelbar adgang for alle.

Forhenget sperret veien til det Allerhelligste, og i det Hellige hadde bare prestene lov å komme. For folket selv ble det reist en forgård, og de måtte ikke gå lenger. Alle skilleveggene skulle hele tiden minne om den store skilleveggen som stod mellom folket og Gud, nemlig synden.

Likevel befalte Gud Moses å reise opp et alter i forgården. Der ville han møte de israelittene som kom med sitt offer i ydmykhet. Dette alteret kalles brennofferalteret, og de første 8 vers av dette kapitlet beskriver hvorledes alteret skulle være.

Det egentlige alteret skulle være av jord og utilhogne steiner, slik Herren hadde vist Moses (2Mos 20:24-25). Rundt alteret skulle de lage en kasse av akasietre, 5 alen lang og brei og 3 alen høy. Treet skulle de beslå med kobber, og i hjørnene skulle det være horn.

De brukes ofte i Skriften som betegnelse for kraft og styrke. Det er også tilfelle med de dyr som har horn: deres kraft er liksom samlet i hornene. Kraften i brennofferalteret lå i ofrene.

De er forbilder på Golgatas store offer og skulle rense folket og gjøre båndet mellom dem og Gud fast. Denne rensende kraft i alteret fikk liksom et synlig uttrykk i hornene. Midt på alteret skulle det være en avsats der presten skulle stå når han ofret. Den nederste del av alteret skulle være som et gitter, et nett av kobber.

Alteret skulle også ha ringer som de kunne stikker stenger gjennom når det skulle bæres. Moses så også et bilde av dette alteret da han var på fjellet. En jevn skråning førte opp til alteret, for det måtte ikke være trapper (2Mos 20:26).

Til brennofferalteret hørte det gryter som de tok bort asken med, ildskuffer til å øse asken i grytene med, skåler til å samle opp offerblodet og kroker til å snu offeret med når det brann. De hadde også ildkar som de bar glør i, for å vedlikeholde ilden. Alt, det minste som det største, skulle være i orden og harmoni etter Guds vilje.

Dette alteret skulle stå i en forgård som det var et omheng av hvit lin omkring. Dette omhenget var 100 alen langt på begge langsidene fra øst til vest, og 50 alen bredt på den vestlige tverrside.

På østsiden var det bare 30 alen da der var et spesielt forheng ved inngangen. Forgården hadde ikke tak. Omhenget ble båret oppe av støtter som stod på kobberføtter og hadde tverrstenger av sølv.

Disse støttene var forsterket, så vidt vi kan forstå, av to snorer fra toppen og var festet med to kobberstenger. Den ene stod utenfor omhenget og den andre innenfor. Det var 15 alen mellom støttene.

Slik ble det 20 støtter på hver langside og ti på hver av tverrsidene. Støttene var 5 alen høye, og hodene var beslått med sølv.

På østsiden, der inngangen var, nådde omhenget bare 15 alen på hver side. De 20 alen i midten utgjorde inngangen som ble dekket av et 20 alen langt dekke. Det var laget med de samme fargene som teppene i tabernaklet. Vi hører om forgården i v. 9-18.

De siste tre vers taler dels om at alle redskapene til arbeidet ved tabernaklet og all søm, skulle være av kobber. Dels hører vi at oljen til lampene skulle være av det fineste og reneste slag. Oljen kom fra oliventreet.

Det er et vakkert tre som alltid er grønt. David vitner takknemlig i Sal 52:10: Jeg er som et grønt oljetre i Guds hus.

Oljen ble finest når frukten ble støtt i en morter. da var den helt blank og hvitfarget. Derfor står det her at den skulle være av den rene, knuste olivenolje.

Når det står at dette skulle være en evig gyldig lov for Israels barn, betyr det at lampen i helligdommen er et forbilde og får sin endelige oppfyllelse, når den Hellige Ånd evig skal brenne i Guds folks hjerter. Se også Tillegg til 2Mos 25-27

2Mos 28:1-43
I dette kapitlet hører vi først om dem Herren hadde bestemt til å gjøre prestetjeneste i spesiell forstand i helligdommen. Herren utvalgte Aron og hans sønner til det.

Hele folket var nok kalt til å være et prestelig folk, men ved Sinai hadde de selv bedt om få en mellommann. Og slik stod prestene i den gamle pakt som mellommenn mellom Gud og folket. Først i den nye pakt, under frihetens fullkomne lov, ble Guds folk i stand til å innta sin plass som et prestelig folk i dypeste forstand.

De spesielle prestene i den nye pakt står ikke som prestene i den gamle pakt. Det er bare den katolske kirke som gjør prestestillingen også i den nye pakt, til en mellomanns-stilling.

Til prestegjerningen hørte også den hellige prestedrakt "til ære og til pryd", som Herren sier. Når presteklærne kalles hellige, betyr det at de var bestemt av Gud og har sin betydning.

Kunstnere som Herren hadde gitt visdoms ånd, skulle lage dis

se klærne. En slik kunstnerånd er også en gave fra Gud, fra ham kommer all visdom.

Først skildres yppersteprestens drakt. Livkjortelen lignet vår messehagel og bestod av to deler: brystet og ryggen, og ble knyttet sammen på skuldrene. Livkjortelen var av samme stoff som de indre teppene i tabernaklet.

Det viser yppersteprestens gjerning som i inderligste forstand er forenet med Guds helligdom. I de tre fargene, blått, rødt og kvitt skulle også gulltråder veves inn. På skulderstykkene skulle være to onyks-stener. Onyks er en meget verdifull lyserød edelsten.

Navnene på Israels barn skulle inngraveres her. Navna på 6 stammer skulle stå på hver skulder, etter alderen. De 6 eldste har trolig vært på hans høyre skulder. Disse stenene skulle minne om Israels barn for Herrens åsyn, som det står.

Når ypperstepresten stod fram på folkets vegne, skulle han liksom stille stammene fram for Herren. Dette peker fram til Jesus som vår sanne yppersteprest som bærer sitt folk og dets byrder.

Og de kostbare stenene peker på at Guds folk er Herrens dyrebare edelstener.

Fra v. 15-30 blir brystduken skildret. Den skulle han bære over livkjortelen. Den var firkantet - ett spann (ca. 25 cm) langt og ett spann bredt.

Den var dobbel og hadde form som en pose. Det eiendommelige ved brystduken er at den hadde edelstener på framsida, 12 forskjellige stener med forskjellig farge. På hver sten stod navnet på en stamme.

De stod i fire rekker med tre i hver rekke etter følgende orden fra venstre mot høyre:

1. rekke:

Levi: smaragd gressgrønn

Simeon: topas blekgrønn

Ruben: karneol blodrød

2. rekke:

Naftali: diamant farveløs

Dan: safir himmelblå

Juda: karfunkel ildrød

3. rekke:

Isakar: ametyst fioletblå

Josef: onyks blekrød

Sebulon: krysolitt gullglinsende

4. rekke:

Benjamin: Jaspis mørkerød

Aser: agat flere fargespill

Gad: hyasint gulrød

Slik har navnene sett ut på brystduken. At nr. 1 stod til høyre kommer av at hebreerne ikke skrev fra venstre mot høyre som vi gjør, men fra høyre mot venstre.

De forskjellige edelstenene svarer sikkert til eiendommeligheter hos de forskjellige stammene, for intet er tilfeldig hos Gud.

Karnolen passer f. eks. på Ruben. Karnolen var blodrød, men hadde liten verdi. Det minner om Rubens glødende lidenskap og uverdighet til å ha førstefødselsretten. At Judas navn kom til å stå på en karfunkel eller rubin passer også godt med at han ble den utvalgte blant brødrene. For denne ildrøde stenen ble verdsatt høyest av alle i østerland.

At Ypperstepresten ikke bare skulle bære Israels navn på skuldrene, men også på sitt hjerte, er et vakkert bilde på hvorledes Jesus bærer alle sine venner på sitt hjerte.

Stenene hadde ikke samme glans og skjønnhet, men han bærer dem likevel på sitt trofaste hjerte. Dette peker også på hvorledes en rett Herrens prest skal bære de sjelene han er betrodd, på sitt hjerte. Han skal ikke bare gjøre sin gjerning av pliktfølelse og med kald forstand.

På domsbrystduken var det to gullringer oppe og to nede. Det var gullkjeder fra de to øverste kjedene til innfatningene omkring onyksstenen på skuldrene. Fra de nederste gikk det blå snorer til to andre ringer like overfor beltet på kjortelen.

Slik var den forent med kjortelen og måtte ikke skilles fra den.

I domsbrystduken skulle det legges noe som kaltes "Urim og Tummim". Hva det var, er ikke helt oppklart. Ordene betyr lys og fullkommenhet. Noen har ment at det betyr alle steinene i brystduken og deres åndelige betydning. Men det synes å være noe annet, siden det er tale om å legge dem i brystduken.

Etter andre steder i Skriften synes det å være midler som ble brukt for å finne Guds vilje i vanskelige spørsmål som angikk menigheten.

Slik står det i 4Mos 27:21 at Josva skulle gå fram for Ypperstepresten Eleasar. Han skulle "for Herrens åsyn søke urims dom for ham".

I 1Sam 28:6 fortelles det hvorledes "Saul spurte Herren men Herren svarte ham ikke, verken ved drømmer eller ved urim eller ved profeter".

Urim og Tummim må etter alt dette ha vært liksom et pant på at Israel aldri skulle mangle lys over det som var rett for Herren. Derfor kalles også brystduken for "Rettens brystduk" (d.).

Når Aron hadde disse ting på hjertet sitt, bar han liksom fram for Herrens åsyn Israelsfolkets rett til å få veiledning og lys fra Gud. Det var en nåderett.

Under den korte kjortelen skulle Ypperstepresten bære en overkjortel som nådde lenger ned. Den skulle være av mørkeblått ullgarn.

Den var av ett stykke tøy med en åpning til hodet, som en brynje. Omkring åpningen skulle det være en bord for at den ikke skulle rives opp ved bruk. På kanten nederst skulle det være granatepler og gullklokker til pynt.

Granateple var en godt likt frukt i Østerland. Den er rød utvendig og gul inni, kjøttfull og saftig. Dette skulle lages av blå ull, purpur og skarlagen. Og det taler visstnok om Guds ord som den vakre, livgivende frukt.

De små gullklokkene er vel også et bilde på tonen i Guds vitnesbyrd. Da det bare var i kraft av sitt embete at Ypperstepresten hadde adgang til Herrens umiddelbare nærhet, måtte han ikke gå inn i helligdommen uten å ha embetsdrakten på.

Uten den kom han inn under samme dom som alle andre som gjorde seg skyldig i helligbrøde, og måtte dø.

I v. 36-38 tales om en plate som Ypperstepresten skulle bære på luen over pannen. Den skulle være av rent gull og skulle ha innskriften: Helliget Herren.

Dermed viste Herren at han ville utruste Ypperstepresten med en helligende kraft. Den hadde han ikke i seg selv, for han var jo også selv en synder som behøvde forsoning. Men Gud knyttet den til hans embete, med tanke på den sanne yppersteprest som skulle komme med makt.

Han skulle i sannhet gjøre syndere hellige. Det står: Så Aron kan bære den synd som henger ved de hellige ting som Israels barn vier til Herren... Den (platen) skal alltid sitte over hans panne, for at gavene kan finne velbehag for Herrens åsyn.

Folkets gaver som de helliget Herren, var også selv besmittet med synd og kunne derfor bare bli velbehagelig for Herren gjennom Yppersteprestens hender.

Også våre offergaver, våre bønner, ja, alt som vi bærer fram for Herren, henger det synd ved, og det kan bare helliges ved å gå gjennom vår store Yppersteprest, Jesus. Bare ved ham kan våre offer være til behag for Gud.

Ypperstepresten i den gamle pakt hadde også bare betydning i embetet ved å være det brennpunkt som den kommende Betlehemssol liksom samlet alle sine stråler i.

Men også på oss har Gud satt innskriften: Helliget Herren. Meningen med hver eneste som er døpt, er at denne innskriften ikke skal bli utslettet og forvandlet.

Da først er dåpens nåde blitt til liv, når alt i vårt liv må være helliget Herren, våre krefter, vår tid, våre penger og hele vårt daglige liv.

Venn, du som leser dette, er alt ditt blitt helliget Herren? Underkjortelen, brystduken, overkjortelen og platen på pannen utgjorde Yppersteprestens embetsdrakt. Men ved siden av hadde Ypperstepresten 4 andre klesplagg felles med de andre prestene. Det var underkjortel, lue, belte og hoftekledning.

Den alminnelige prestedrakt skildres i de siste vers av dette kapitlet og bestod altså av en underkjortel av hvitt lin, som ble båret innerst.

Også luen var hvit, og den hvite fargen skulle betegne det hellige preg som hvilte over prestens stilling. Hofteklærne skulle særlig dekke de legemsdeler som vekket sanseligheten sterkest.

Den som ringeaktet denne befalingen og frekt satte til side ærefrykten som Guds helligdom også krevde her, brakte dødsskyld over seg.

Moses skulle la Aron og hans sønner ha på seg embetsklærne salve dem og "fylle deres hender", dvs, gi dem visse offerstykker av slaktofferet som de skulle bære fram for Gud.

En slik innvielse var nødvendig fordi Aron og sønnene selv var syndere som fattedes Guds ære. Men hele denne innvielse til prestetjenesten står som forbilde på innvielsen til den evige prestetjeneste, som de frelste skal ha for Herrens åsyn i himmelen.

Derfor slutter kapitlet også med at det skal være en evig lov for Aron, og hans ætt etter ham.

Gå til 2Mos 29:1-37
2Mos 29:1-37
Innvielsen skulle foregå i forbindelse med ofring. Den skulle begynne med at Moses skulle føre Aron og hans sønner fram til tabernaklets dør ved inngangen til det Hellige.

Der skulle de først vaskes i vann. Deretter skulle Aron ikles den yppersteprestlige drakten og sønnene prestedrakten. Så skulle Moses salve Aron.

Når dette var skjedd, skulle de bringe et syndoffer for Aron og sønnene hans. De skulle først legge sine hender på oksens hode.

Det viste at dyret ble utvalgt til å være deres stedfortreder og bære deres synder. Deretter skulle oksen slaktes "for Herrens åsyn".

Noe av blodet skulle strykes på alterets horn. Fettet skulle brennes opp på alteret som røykoffer, og resten skulle brennes opp utenfor leiren.

Etter dette syndofferet kom et brennoffer, det var en av værene. Den skulle brennes helt opp som et ildoffer for Herren. Brennofferet betegner hengivelsen til Herren. Når dette offeret kom like etter syndofferet, har det en dyp åndelig betydning. Syndofferet betegner syndenes forlatelse. Og der hjertet har til-egnet seg syndsforlatelsen, vil det også gi seg selv til Gud som et offer og la sitt eget bli helt oppbrent ved Den hellige Ånds ild.

Deretter skulle den andre væren ofres. Blodet av den skulle strykes på Aron og hans sønners høyre ørelapp, tommelfinger og tommeltå.

Det er de lemmene som spesielt ble tatt i bruk ved prestetjenesten. Med øret hørte han Herrens bud, hånden gjorde det Herren befalte, og med foten skulle han gå på Herrens veier. Den høyre side er tenkt som den fornemste.

Dette minner oss om en liten sang: "Alt hva jeg har, jeg gjerne gav deg min Frelser god (...) Her har du mitt øre, ditt ord å akte på, her har du mine føtter for på din vei å gå." Derfor kaller apostelen også dette den rette gudsdyrkelse; å framstille sitt legeme som et "levende, hellig, Gud velbehagelig, offer".

Og denne innvielse til prestetjenesten for Herren, der blodet var det rensende middel, peker på Guds lams blod som renser fra all synd. Arons og hans sønners embetsklær skulle også stenkes med værens blod, blandet med olje.

Blodet og oljen peker på de to store gavene, syndenes forlatelse og den Hellige Ånd. Apostelen Johannes kaller uttrykkelig Den Hellige Ånd for salvelsen fra Gud (1Joh 2:22.27).

Deretter skulle Moses legge fettet av væren (v. 22) og det høyre låret, samt usyret brød og oljekake, i Arons og sønnenes hender.

Disse offergavene skulle han "svinge for Herrens åsyn" for å vise at offeret ble gitt til Gud. Når dette var skjedd, skulle Moses ta det "av deres hånd", og det skulle brennes opp som et ildoffer for Herren.

Ellers ble det fastsatt som en regel at brystet og låret på offerdyret, etter at det var båret fram for Herren, skulle tilhøre prestene som en gave fra Herren.

Offeret var jo gitt til Herren, og han gav det igjen til prestene. Prestene skulle altså dele med alteret, som Paulus stadfester i 1Kor 9:13-14: "Vet dere ikke at de som gjør tjeneste i templet, får sitt underhold fra templet? Og de som tjener ved alteret, får sin del fra alteret? Slik har Herren også fastsatt for dem som forkynner evangeliet, at de skal leve av evangeliet."

Regelen ved takkofferet var altså at fettet skulle brennes opp på alteret. Brystet og låret ble tildelt prestene som en gave fra Herren, etter at de var gitt til Ham.

Resten av kjøttet fikk Israelittene tilbake for at de kunne holde offermåltid med sin slekt.

Ved Arons og sønnenes innvielse skjedde et unntak. Offerdyrets høyre lår ble da ofret med som brennoffer. Moses tok bare av brystet.

Men denne unntagelsen ble begrunnet med at dette var "innvielsesværen" (v. 22). Aron og sønnene skulle for første gang tiltre sin offertjeneste som prester ved det.

Deretter skulle Aron og sønnene holde offermåltid på et hellig sted, dvs i forgården ved inngangen til teltet. Der skulle offermåltidet også tilberedes.

Men ingen uvedkommende, ingen uinnviet, måtte ta del i måltidet, bare Aron og sønnene. Dette måltidet som ble holdt for Herrens åsyn etter innvielse, peker på det måltid Herren har beredt for sine hellige i nattverden.

Der er også adgangen bare åpen for dem som er iført rettferdighetens prestedrakt ved troen. Det som ble igjen av måltidet skulle brennes opp.

Ingen annen måtte ete av det. Denne innvielseshøytiden skulle gjentas 7 dager i trekk, og Arons hellige prestedrakt skulle gå i arv til dem som etter ham skulle være yppersteprester.

Ikke bare prestene, men også selve alteret skulle helliges. For det henger synd ved alt som er på jorden. Også for alteret skulle det bringes syndoffer 7 dager i trekk, samtidig med innvielsen av prestene.

Gå til 2Mos 29:38-46
2Mos 29:38-46
På brennofferalteret skulle det bringes daglige offer. Hver dag skulle det ofres to lam , ett om morgenen og ett om kvelden. "Mellom de to aftenstunder" betyr mellom kl. 3 og 6:se forklaringen til 2Mos 12:6. Samtidig med lammet skulle det bringes matoffer og drikkoffer. Navnet "hin" er betegnelsen på et hulmål. En hin olje var ca. 6 liter.

Alt dette skulle være et daglig brennoffer for Herren. Prestenes daglige gjerning var slik å besørge disse ofrene og å passe lampene og skuebrødene når de skulle fornyes, samt røkofferalteret.

Dette daglige offer år etter år peker framfor alt på ofringen av det lam som gjorde fyldest for all verdens synd. Og ved at ofringen skulle skje morgen og kveld, var hele det daglige liv omsluttet av ofrene. Man skulle begynne og slutte dagen for Herrens åsyn. Når Israels folk slik daglig brakte Herrens sitt offer, ville Herren også la dem kjenne at han bodde blant dem og var deres trofaste Gud.

Gå til 2Mos 30:1-10
2Mos 30:1-10
I dette kapitlet beskrives først røkofferalteret, som skulle stå i det hellige like foran forhenget inn til det Aller Helligste.

Mens brennofferalteret bare var beslått med kobber, var røkofferalteret beslått med gull. Det var også en gullkrans øverst, antagelig for å hindre at røkelsen falt ned.

På dette alteret skulle Aron ofre røkelse morgen og kveld, altså samtidig med det daglige brennofferet. De måtte ikke ofre fremmed røkelse på alteret, dvs, ingen annen røkelse enn den Herren hadde forordnet (v. 34-35).

Også dette alteret skulle helliges med blod fra et syndoffer en gang om året, ved ypperstepresten. Vi vet at den åndelige betydning av røkelse er bønn.

Slik den velluktende røk steg opp mot himmelen, slik stiger hver hjertebønn fra Guds folk som en vellukt opp til Gud.

Iflg Åp 8:3 ser Johannes også et slikt røkofferalter i den himmelske helligdommen. Der settes det også i forbindelse med de helliges bønner.

Hver dag skulle røkelsen ofres til bestemte tider, hva dagen så brakte med seg. Slik skal heller ikke vår bønn være avhengig av tilfeldigheter eller av stemning, men være regelmessig. Den som ikke ber til regelmessige tider, ber neppe heller til andre tider.

Man har spurt hvorfor det først nå er tale om røkofferalteret. Det kan synes å passe bedre ved talen om det hellige. Men det har sin dype, vise sammenheng at røkelsesalteret først omtales her. For ofringen på røkofferalteret har ofringen av lammet på brennofferalteret som forutsetning.

Det er bare det forsonede folk som kan bringe Gud et velbehagelig bønneoffer. Det hjerte som ikke først har gått veien om slaktofferet, som for oss er Golgata, kan bare komme til Gud med fremmed røkelse.

All bønn som ikke har forsoningsofferet som sitt grunnlag, er en vederstyggelighet og en fremmed røkelse for Gud.

Og liksom virkningen av røkofferet varte hele dagen, ettersom helligdommen var lukket på alle kanter, slik kan virkningen av bønnen vare ved.

Den virker også etter at vi har reist oss fra bønnen, slik at vi kan vandre i bønnens ånd gjennom hele dagen. Skal det skje, må også hjertedøren være lukket for alt som vil ødelegge Kristi vellukt.

Hjertet skal være som en lukket helligdom for Herren.

Gå til 2Mos 30:11-38
2Mos 30:11-38
Alle menn ble opptatt i manntallslisten når de var 20 år. Da skulle de gi Herren løsepenger for at Israels barn også på dette punktet kunne lære at de var uverdige av natur til å tjene Herren.

Derfor trengte de et sonemiddel. Hver mann skulle gi 1/2 sekel etter helligdommens vekt. De hadde ikke pregede mynter på den tid, men helst sølvmynter med angivelse av vekten.

Den omtalte halve sekel veidde omkring 5-6 gram sølv. Sekelen ble delt i 20 gera. I dagliglivet ble brukt en sekel av ringere verdi, derfor sies det uttrykkelig her at det skulle være etter helligdommens sekel.

Disse løsepengene skulle være lik for alle, både for fattig og rik. Det skulle vise at alle hadde lik verdi for Herren og i like stor grad behøvde forsoning. Det avgjørende var troens lydighet mot Herrens ord.

Disse løsepengene hadde også deres åndelige betydning og pekte fram mot den store gjenløsningsbetaling. Den bestod ikke av sølv eller gull, men i Kristi dyre blod. Med det kjøpte han oss, for at vi skulle være hans egne og tjene ham og tilhøre hans hellige hær. Det som kom inn ved løsepengene, skulle brukes til tjenesten i tabernaklet. Senere gikk denne avgiften over til å bli en regelmessig tempelavgift, som var i bruk like til Jesu tid (Matt 17:24-27).

Tallet på menn over 20 år var 603550 (2Mos 38:26). Den fullstendige opptelling av folket ble likevel først gjort etter at tabernaklet var ferdig.

I v. 18-21 er bestemmelser om kobberalteret som skulle stå i forgården, mellom brennofferalteret og tabernaklet. Aron og sønnene skulle kunne vaske hender og føtter der, før de gikk inn i helligdommen eller ofret på brennofferalteret.

Det skulle de gjøre for å bli mint om at de stadig behøvde renselse. Dette peker framover mot den stadige renselse vi har behov for også i den nye pakt. Det viste Jesus for disiplene ved fotvaskingen (Joh 1).

Guds folk er ved troen rent for Gud, men det trenger renselse i det daglige liv. Nettopp de som er rene ved nåden, vil forstå at de trenger å renses daglig under vandringen i livets helliggjørelse.

Ville Aron og sønnene ikke adlyde denne befalingen, men ringeakte budet om renselse, skulle de straffes med døden. For en slik gjenstridighet vitnet om et ugudelig sinn.

Bare hendene og føttene skulle vaskes, hendene for å kunne ta i de hellige redskaper på rett måte, og med føttene skulle de vandre på de hellige steder.

I v. 22-33 får vi først en beskrivelse av hvorledes den hellige salveolje skulle lages. Den bestod av en bestemt blanding av den fineste myrra, kanelbark, kalmus og kasia med en "hin" (ca. 6 liter) olivenolje.

500 sekel myrra vil si omkring 6 kg. Myrra var en velluktende harpiks som kom fra myrratreet. Av kalmus ble roten brukt til røkelse, og kasia er barken av et tre som ligner kaneltreet.

Av alt dette ble kokt en salveolje som alle ting i tabernaklet og forgården skulle salves med . Ingen måtte røre ved disse salvede og innviede tingene uten at han var helliget til Herrens tjeneste.

Det var dødsstraff for å etterligne denne salven eller bruke den på andre mennesker som vanlig salve. Dette peker hen på hvor vederstyggelig det er for Herren å etterligne Åndens helliggjørelse og alle forsøk på å bruke det hellige på kjødelig vis.

Det samme gjaldt røkelsen på røkofferalteret. Den skulle også lages på en bestemt måte etter Herrens anvisning. Og heller ikke den måtte etterlignes til verdslig bruk. Røkelsen skulle lages av fire forskjellige stoffer, nemlig av noe som kalles stakten, av onyks, galbane og virak. Stakten, Galbane og Virak er en velluktende harpiks av forskjellige trær, galbane av en busk. Virak var særlig høyt aktet på grunn av sin fine vellukt. Onyks er skallen på en slags musling som finnes i vann i Midtøsten. Den skulle brennes til en røkelse, som sammen med annen røkelse tjente til å forsterke vellukten.

Disse fire delene blir noen ganger tolket som forbilder på det som må være i en bønn som er Gud til behag. Røkelse er jo et bilde på bønn. Og bønnen har i seg både lovprisning, takksigelse, begjæring og forbønn.

Gå til 2Mos 31:1-18
2Mos 31:1-18
Herren avslutter nå med å si til Moses hvem han hadde utvalgt til å utføre arbeidet ved tabernaklet. Besalel var sønnesønn av Hur, Moses og Arons svoger.

Herren hadde fylt han med sin Ånd og satte ham i stand til arbeidet. Han hadde fått visdom til å forstå arbeidet, og praktisk kunnskap om hvorledes arbeidet skulle gjøres best. Herren la stor omhu inn i alt som skulle gjøres ved tabernaklet. For tabernaklet var et bilde av den himmelske helligdom og et forbilde på den åndelige helligdom som skulle reises i den nye pakt.

Til medhjelper hadde Besalel først og fremst Oholiab, sammen med andre dyktige menn. Gud ledet slik ved sin Ånd hele byggingen av tabernaklet, så det kunne bli nøye etter hans ord.

At Gud gjorde sin bolig i Israel så kunstferdig og kostbar, vitner om at kunsten i og for seg er velbehagelig for Herren. Alt det Gud har skapt, både himmelen, med de mange stjernene, og enhver liten blomst og fugl, er jo et vidunderlig og vakkert kunstverk. Det stygge og grimme stammer fra synden. Derfor skulle vi som vil være Guds barn, også ha øynene åpne for det vakre og ha lov til pryde våre kirker, bedehus og våre egne små hjem med alt det vakre som kan ære Gud.

Vi ser også at Satan prøver å ta kunsten i sin tjeneste for å spre roser over syndens slanger. Men det må ikke forvirre oss. Vi må ikke mene som noen av kirkens menn har gjort, at kunsten skulle være Gud til mishag, enten det er malerkunst, musikk eller annet.

Nei, dersom bare kunsten vil kjenne sin oppgave og tjene Guds rike, er den også velbehagelig for Gud.

I v. 12-17 innskjerper Herren på ny at hviledagen skal holdes hellig. Sabbaten var jo paktstegnet mellom Gud og Israel. Det var tegnet på at Gud hadde antatt folket, ikke først og fremst for at det skulle få jordisk rikdom, men for å hellige det. Når dette blir sagt her, kommer det kanskje av at folket kunne tenke at de kunne bygge tabernaklet på sabbaten. Det var jo et hellig arbeid.

Men det var ikke Herrens vilje. Nei, nettopp fordi sabbaten var paktstegnet for Israel, var det stor synd om de foraktet Herrens helligdag.

Den som vanhelliget den, skulle utryddes av folket og dø. Også i den nye pakt blir død en følge av ringeakt for Herrens dag. Her blir det ikke timelig død, men den åndelige. Og hvis ikke det skjer en omvendelse, kommer den evige død der en blir utelukket fra den evige sabbatshvile som venter Guds folk.

Dermed sluttet Herrens ord til Moses, og han gav Moses de to steintavlene. Dette var Guds eget arbeid, og de ti bud var skrevet med hans egen finger.

Steintavlene har ikke vært større enn at Moses kunne bære dem ned fra fjellet. Men det var skrevet på begge sider av dem (2Mos 32:15).

Det Herren hadde talt til folket fra Sinai (2Mos 20:2-17), var jo på disse tavlene. Hvor mye som stod på hver tavle, er umulig å si for oss.

Man har tenkt seg at de tre første bud stod på den ene tavlen og de sju siste på den andre. Det stemmer over ens med budene om kjærlighet til Gud og kjærlighet til nesten. Men vi vet ingen ting om det.

At tavlene var av stein peker på Guds ords uforgjengelighet og vedvarende gyldighet.

Gå til 2Mos 32:1-6
2Mos 32:1-6
Moses hadde vært på fjellet i nesten 6 uker. Han hadde vært så nær Herren og smakt det evige livs krefter. Mose indre liv har sikkert vokst sterkt disse dagene. Den samme tiden skulle vært til vokster for folket nede i dalen. Etter Herrens majestetiske åpenbaring har det sikkert vært en vekkelsens og besøkelsens tid over folket.

Men der Herren er nær, arbeider også Djevelen sterkest imot, og Israels folk glemte å våke. Da Moses uteble dag etter dag, begynte folket å bli utålmodig. Med Moses var liksom den levende Gud også blitt borte for dem.

For folket hadde vesentlig gått på Mose tro. Nå trengte vantroens gift seg inn blant dem. De begynte å se med vantroens kjødelige øye på sin stilling i Sinai ørken. De gav rom for den tanken at Moses hadde forlatt dem, og at de nå selv måtte ta saken i sin hånd.

De hadde lenge vært slaver under egypterne. Når lederen, Moses nå var borte, ville de selv regjere. Det første de da krevde var å få en håndgripelig gud, som hedningene. De ville ha en synlig gud iblant seg.

Vel hadde Herren nylig forbudt dem å lage slike utskårne bilder, men det brydde de seg ikke om. De ville ha det slik nå. I sannhet er menneskehjertet troløst og sløves fort når en ikke våker og ber.

Også Arons fall var meget dypt, for han stod med ansvaret som var overdratt ham av Moses. Han skulle ha vist folket Guds klare, bestemte ord. Men han sviktet. I stedet for å stå fast, forsøkte han å slippe fra den utålmodige og opphissede folkemassen ved en krokvei, omtrent som Pilatus gjorde langfredag. Aron sa til folket: Vil dere lage en gud, må dere gi fra dere gullet. Han tenkte vel at folket og særlig kvinnene, da ville foretrekke å beholde gullsmykkene.

Men da forregnet han seg. Intet offer er for tungt for mennesket når det vil gjennomføre sin egen ugudelige vilje. Menneskene har ofte lett for å ofre på Djevelens alter, men det faller så vanskelig å ofre på Guds alter. Det ser vi også i våre dager.

Menneskene gir til verdens avguder, til drikk, spill, "uterlighet" og all annen verdslighet. Det står at folket rev av seg gullsmykkene som de hadde i ørene og bar dem til Aron. Der stod Aron, men han stod der ikke lenger som Guds tjener. Nei, han var folkets slave.

Han laget nå en gullkalv av smykkene. Det indre var vel av tre, men utvendig var kalven beslått med gull. At han laget en kalv, var sikkert etter egyptisk mønster. Egypterne hadde nemlig to okser.

Den ene var Apis med bolig i byen Memfis, og den andre var Mnevis i byen On. Aron forsøkte vel å berolige seg med at det bare var en ytre avbildning av den Gud som hadde ført dem opp fra Egypt.

Både han og folket våget ikke i det ytre å gjøre annet enn å holde fast ved Herren. Men samtidig avvek de bevisst fra hans vei!

Aron bygde endog et alter for gullkalven og holdt en offerfest dagen etter. Den kalte han Herrens høytid. Han forsøkte å knytte tilbedelsen av gullkalven til de ytre former for den sanne Gudstjeneste og gi det navn av å være en fest for Herren.

Slik er det også den dag i dag med verdens såkalte kristendom. Man vil ha lov til å tjene sine avguder, men ved siden av bevare et kristelig skinn. Og dessverre finnes det også i våre dager prester som inntar Arons plass og lar seg bruke etter verdens behag.

Men Gud lar seg ikke bedra. Han kaller hver ting ved sitt rette navn. Og i hans ord kalles dette avgudsdyrkelse (1Kor 10:7). Folket satte seg ned for å ete og drikke og stod opp for å leke, står det.

De holdt offermåltid og danset omkring gullkalven under sang og kjødelig jubel. Ja, slik så det ut nede i dalen, mens Moses var på fjellet.

Med hele sin sjel senket han seg ned i Herrens fylde og frydet seg ved å skulle fortelle folket alt det Herren hadde åpenbart for ham.

Gå til 2Mos 32:7-14
2Mos 32:7-14
Herren ser alle ting og det står i sannhet skrevet om ham: "Det er ikke et ord på min tunge - se, Herre, du vet det alt sammen" (Sal 139:4).

Nå fortalte han Moses hva folket hadde gjort. Han gjengav ord for ord folkets fryktelige tale om gullkalven: At det var den gud som hadde ført dem ut av Egypt. Herren kalte ikke lenger folket sitt folk. Han brukte uttrykket ditt folk, overfor Moses. Han sa det liksom fra seg og overgav det til Moses.

Herren måtte ved sin rettferdighet knuse det hardnakka folket. Det ville ikke bøye sin nakke inn under hans velsignede åk. Det er Herrens rettferdighet og brennende nidkjærhet som taler i dette ordet: "La nå meg få råde, så min vrede kan bli opptent mot dem, og jeg kan ødelegge dem. Så vil jeg gjøre deg til et stort folk."

Dette er virkelig et underlig ord. La nå meg få råde, sier Herren. Dermed gir han tilkjenne hvilken makt troens bønn etter hans vilje, har over ham. Den kan holde dommen tilbake. Han legger liksom hele saken over på Moses, etter at han har sagt hva hans rettferdighet driver ham til.

I dette ordet ligger det en veldig trosprøve for Moses. Herren lar ham skimte en utvei som kan redde folket fra dommen. Det kan skje hvis Moses vil benytte sin myndighet som mellommann mellom Gud og folket og stille seg i gapet for Guds rettferdige vrede. Gud gjør seg avhengig av at Moses griper inn og gir tilkjenne hvilken makt troens bønn har, til å stanse Gud i hans dom. Samtidig viser han en annen vei.

Folket ville da gå til grunne med unntak av Moses. Men Gud ville da gjøre Moses til en ny stamfar for et stort folk, i likhet med Abraham.

Denne siste veien åpner store utsikter for Moses. Tenk, han kunne selv bli stamfar, og i hans ætt skulle alle jordens slekter velsignes.

Han ble den eneste som ble spart, noe lignende Noah. Hvilken stor og herlig plass ville det ikke bli! Her lå prøvelsen fra Gud.

Hva ville Moses velge? Ville han være tro mot sitt kall som mellommann og kjempe en forbønnens kamp for det elendige, frafalne folket, for å stanse dommen. Eller ville han gå den andre veien, som syntes å føre stor ære over ham selv?

Men Moses bestod den vanskelige prøven. Han bestod den ikke ved sin egen kraft, men ved Guds kraft. Den hadde han samlet seg ved å ha fordypet seg i Herren og hans ord i mange dager.

Mose hjerte var fylt med den kjærlighet som ikke søker sitt eget, men som forstår Herrens dype tanker. Slik det var velbehagelig for Herren da Abraham bad for Sodoma, slik var det etter Herrens hjerte at Moses gikk i bønnekamp for å frelse dette elendige folk.

Denne veien gikk jo Herren selv senere, da Guds Sønn på Golgata stod i gapet for Guds fortærende vrede over den falne slekt.

Med inderlig, barnslig fortrolighet og tillit og med gripende kjærlighet til sitt folk, trengte Moses inn på Herren. Hans sjel var sønderknust over folkets brøde. Han unnskyldte ikke folket med ett ord.

Han stilte seg helt på Herrens side i det hellige hatet over synden. Dette er nødvendig hvis vi vil vente bønnesvar fra Gud. Nei, Moses søkte grunnen til at han ville bevege Gud til å stanse dommen, hos Gud selv.

For Herrens navns skyld - det er den dype grunntone som klinger gjennom Mose bønn. Den første grunn til bønnesvar er minnet om hva Herren allerede hadde gjort mot Israel, all den nåde han hadde vist folket da han førte det ut av Egypt. "Ditt folk" sier Moses til Herren. Slik gir han liksom folket tilbake til Herren. For det andre søker han grunnen i Guds egen ære overfor egypterne. Nå stod Israels Gud stor og veldig for egypterne.

Men hva ville de, som ikke forstod Guds rettferdighets hellige dybde, si om ham når de hørte at hele folket var ødelagt ved Sinai?

De ville vel spotte ham og kalle ham en grusom tyrann. Endelig, for det tredje, peker Moses på Guds sanndruhet, på de løfter Herren hadde gitt Abraham, Isak og Jakob.

Gud lot seg overvinne av Mose bønn! Men han som før lot seg overvinne av både Jakob og av Moses, han lar seg ennå overvinne av enhver ydmyk troens bønn som holder ut og ikke vil slippe ham. Mose bønn som grep så dypt inn i Guds hjerte, la det tunge lodd i vektskålen så nåden kunne få overhånd, uten at Guds rettferdighet ble krenket. Den eneste av folket som ikke hadde brutt pakten, ble mellommann for alle de skyldige. Dette minner oss om ham som var den eneste blant menneskene som det ikke ble funnet svik i. Han ble ikke bare en timelig mellommann som Moses, men en evig mellommann for det skyldige folket.

Selve den mektige troens bønn som Moses bad, var også virket ved Guds egen Ånd hos Moses.

Først i evigheten vil vi få oppklart til fulle den vidunderlige sammenheng det er mellom Guds styring av verden og Guds barns forbønner.

De virkes av Guds egen Ånd og formidler den innflytelse Gud har tildelt sine små venner her på jord. Slik ærer han dem og deler sin makt med dem.

Nå står det at Herren angret det onde han hadde talt om å gjøre mot sitt folk, v. 14. Det er en barnslig uttrykksform, som svarer til formen i Mose bønn.

Han bad jo nettopp slik til Herren: Vend om fra din brennende vrede og angre det onde du har tenkt å gjøre mot ditt folk!" Meningen er altså den at Herren holdt tilbake den rettferdige dom og lot nåde gå for rett, på grunn av Mose bønn.

Men Moses fikk ikke straks vite at Gud hadde bønnhørt ham, for at han ikke skulle lammes i det hellige alvor som var nødvendig overfor folket.

Folket skulle kjenne hvor alvorlig det hadde krenket Guds hellige majestet.

Gå til 2Mos 32:15-35
2Mos 32:15-35
Moses hadde vel ofte frydet seg ved tanken på den stund da han ville vende tilbake til folket og meddele dem alt det Herren hadde sagt.

Men nå var det blitt ganske annerledes. Med tungt hjerte måtte han begynne vandringen nedover fjellet. Josva hadde ventet trofast på Moses, og nå vandret de sammen nedover. Da de kom nærmere leiren, hørte de støyen fra avgudsfesten.

Josva mente først at det var krigsalarm. Han tenkte kanskje at amalekittene hadde gjort et nytt overfall. Men den gamle Guds tjener, Moses, visste bedre. Med bange anelse og forpint hjerte gikk han nedover fjellet. Til slutt så han det grusomme synet:

kalven i midten og folket som danset omkring. Da ble en hellig vrede tent i sjelen hans. Han kastet lovens tavler ned på fjellet slik at de ble knust. Folket skulle forstå at pakten med Gud var brutt.

Så gikk han fram i hellig kraft uten spor av menneskefrykt, midt inn i den støyende skaren. Ved synet av Moses med et åsyn fullt av flammende vrede, forstummet larmen. Redsel la seg over folket, for den onde samvittighet er kraftløs.

Moses tok kalven og kastet den på ilden. Han strødde gullstøvet på vannet. Det skulle Israelsfolket drikke, og slik fikk de lov til å drikke sin egen synd.

I åndelig forstand skal alle syndens slaver en gang drikke den bitre syndens kalk. Skjer det ingen omvendelse, blir det helvetes evige, beske drikk.

Også ved denne anledning viste Moses at deres avguder var intet. På vegne av Israelsfolket handlet han ansvarlig.

Så vendte Moses seg til den elendige, falne Aron og sa han hadde gjort folket så mye ondt. Ingen fiende kunne tatt en verre hevn over folket enn å gjøre det Aron hadde gjort.

Aron viste seg som et Adams barn. Han forsøkte å gi folket skylden, og dermed viste han også at han i sannhet ikke var blir ydmyket for Herren.

Unnskyldningen var elendig: "Jeg kastet dem (gullsmykkene) i ilden. Slik ble denne kalven til," som om kalven var blitt til av seg selv.

Moses verdiget ikke Arons tomme utfiukter noe svar. Han bad bare for Mon (5Mos 9:20). Men Moses vendte seg nå til folket.

Han så at folket var blitt tøylelsesløst som et par løpske hester som har revet seg løs fra kusken. Det står: "Aron hadde sluppet det løs, så de ble til spott for sine fiender."

Med fiender kan vi både tenke på de usynlige mørkets makter og på de ytre fiender. De så med glede på at folket avvek fra den Gud som alene var deres styrke. Ble folket overlatt til seg selv, ville det gå det som det gikk Samson da han mistet kraften og ble til spott for filisterne.

Moses grep igjen tøylene med kraftig hånd, som en trofast tjener.

Han viste at en mann med Gud er majoriteten. Bare ord var unyttige her, overfor et forvillet folk. Det måtte handling til. Så stilte Moses seg i porten og ropte: Hver den som er på Herrens side, la ham komme til meg!

Det var visdom å sette et skarpt og klart skille. Slik kunne de mindre hårdnakkede, som bare hadde drevet med strømmen, forstå hva det gjeldt: enten for eller mot Herren. Slik fikk de også anledning til å besinne seg.

Da samlet Levis barn seg hos Moses. Han bad dem ta sverdet og gå i Herrens navn som rettferdighetens tjenere. De skulle slå i hjel alle de gjenstridige som turet fram i sin trass.

Dette skulle de gjøre uten å gjøre forskjell på folk, like mye over sin nærmeste slekt og venner. Herrens ære skulle veie mer enn naturlig slektskap og vennskap. Jfr. Luk 14:26: "Om noen kommer til meg, og ikke hater sin far og mor og hustru og sine barn og brødre og søstre, ja også sitt eget liv, da kan han ikke være min disippel." Egentlig var jo hele folket skyldig, men Guds nåde hadde åpnet en vei for alle de som angret, ved at de kunne slutte seg til Moses.

Bare de som ikke ville inn under nådens vinger, måtte falle for rettferdighetens sverd. Da Moses sa: "Fylder Eders Hånd i Dag for Herren" (D), vil det si at de skulle bringe de gjenstridige fram for dommen.

Stamfaren for Levis slekt var kommet under dommen for sin syndige nidkjærhet for sin egen ære (2Mos 34). Her var nå anledning til, ved hellig nidkjærhet for Guds ære, å forvandle forbannelsen til velsignelse.

Lydighetsprøven var tung også for Moses, men dommen måtte gå sin gang. Nærmere 3000 menn falt som et vitnesbyrd om at Gud ikke lar seg spotte.

Neste dag sa Moses til folket at han ville stige opp til Herren. Kanskje kunne han gjøre soning for deres synd. Moses var ikke sikker på det, for Gud hadde ennå ikke svart ham. Da Moses kom opp til Herren, brøt han først ut i syndsbekjennelse på folkets vegne.

Deretter ber han inderlig om nåde for dem at ikke alle måtte omkomme. Nå sier Moses disse merkelige ordene til Herren: "Å, om du ville forlate dem deres synd! Men hvis ikke, da stryk meg ut av din bok som du har skrevet!"

Det var vanlig i oldtiden å lage en liste eller bok med navene på de som tilhørte et ordnet samfunn. Dermed var de anerkjent som borgere i samfunnet med de rettigheter som hørte med.

Også Herren har en slik bok, sier Skriften. Her er navnene på hans folk innskrevet. I Sal 69:29 er "de levendes bok" omtalt, og i Dan 12:1 står: "På den tid skal alle de av ditt folk bli frelst som finnes oppskrevet i boken."

Herren gir selv et løfte om at han ikke skal utslette hans navn av livets bok (Åp 3:5). Det Moses altså ba om, var å lide med folket. Ville Gud ødelegge det, ønsket Moses heller ikke å leve. Det minner klart om Pauli ord i Rom 9:3: "For jeg skulle ønske at jeg selv var forbannet bort fra Kristus for mine brødres skyld, mine frender etter kjødet."

Både hos Moses og hos Paulus er det en veldig, nesten ubegripelig kjærlighet til deres folk. Når vi forstår det så lite, er det fordi vi selv er så fattige på kjærlighet.

La oss huske at det var den samme Moses som uten skånsel lot 3000 gjenstridige bli drept. Det viser hvilken usigelig kjærlighet til dette folket som bodde i hans hjerte. Ja, den ekte kjærlighet slår ofte hardt til, nettopp fordi den er ekte.

Aron var mild og føyelig overfor folket, men det var nettopp fordi han ikke elsket folket slik, men søkte sitt eget. Hvor ofte er ikke det som kalles mildhet, i virkeligheten hardhet og likegyldighet.

Gud ville ikke høre denne bønn av Moses. Han svarte: "Hver den som har syndet mot meg, ham vil jeg stryke ut av min bok." Bare de skyldige skulle dø.

Men Herren fant likevel behag i det sinn som var i Moses. For Mose kjærlighet til folket var jo i slekt med hans kjærlighet som ble en forbannelse for Gud, for vår skyld (Gal 3:13).

Dette viste Gud ved at han foreløpig ville skåne folket og la det komme til Kana'an, slik han hadde lovet. Men Herren sa at det ville komme en hjemsøkelsens dag da denne synd ville få sin dom. Mer nåde kunne Herren ikke vise folket. Han så at hjertene ennå bare var bøyet på overflaten. En fullstendig ettergivelse av straffen kunne bare finne sted i forbindelse med en sann omvendelse fra folkets side.

Omvendelse og syndenes forlatelse har Gud føyet sammen (Luk 24:47), og de kan ikke skilles ad.

Gå til 2Mos 33:1-11
2Mos 33:1-11
Herren forklarte nå for Moses at den tukt han straks måtte la gå over folket, bestod i at han ikke lenger kunne bo iblant dem. Han ville la en engel gå foran folket og berede vei for det. Denne engelen er ikke Herrens engel, som er ett med Guds enbårne Sønn, men en skapt engel.

Herren kunne ikke bo i folket lenger, for det er skrevet: "Hva samklang er det mellom Kristus og Belial?" (2Kor 6:15). Belials, eller Djevelens, makt i folket var ennå så stor at Herren ikke kunne være iblant dem, uten å la sin hellige nidkjærhets dom komme over det.

For jo nærmere Herren er, jo tyngre veier hver synd og hvert fall.

Derfor ville Herren bare la en alminnelig engel føre dem inn i Kana'an.

Herren kan ofte ikke gi oss det han gjerne vil gi, men noe mindre, fordi vi ikke er i stand til å ta imot de store ting.

Men dermed mistet folket sin største herlighet, som nettopp bestod i at Herren selv var midt iblant dem. Da folket hørte det, ble det også stor sorg.

Det viste de i det ytre ved å legge av alle smykker og pryd, som de ellers pleide å gå med. Det var dette sinn som skulle fram hos dem, og det var Herrens vilje at de la av seg sine smykker.

Det er ikke tiden til å pryde seg og ha fornøyelser når saken står dårlig overfor Herren. Derfor er også verdens fornøyelser så lite på sin plass, så lenge sjelen ikke er frelst. Hva ligner det å bære smykker og leve i moro, så lenge Guds vrede hviler over et menneske?

Men i ordet fra Herren lyser en håpets stjerne fram: "Legg nå dine smykker av deg, så jeg kan vite hva jeg skal gjøre med deg" (v. 5).

Dette betyr at Herren kanskje ville forandre dommen, dersom folket i sannhet forandret sinn.

Nå kunne de ikke tenke på å bygge tabernaklet som Herren hadde vist Moses. Han flyttet et telt langt utenfor leiren og kalte det "Sammenkomstens telt".

Alle som ville spørre Herren, måtte nå samles der. På den måten forstod folket at det var blitt en skilsmisse mellom det og Herren.

I teltet talte Herren med Moses "ansikt til ansikt, som når en mann taler med sin neste". Slik æret Gud sin tjener Moses, ved ågi ham en slik fortrolighet.

Når folket så at Moses gikk ut av teltet, reiste de seg og stod i sin teltdør og så etter ham. Og når de så skystøtten senke seg ned over inngangen til teltet, bøyde folket seg i dyp ærefrykt. Bare Mose tjener, den unge Josva, var betrodd å bli ved teltet. Han var som en hellig vaktpost som skulle våke over at ingen uvedkommende kom nær.

Gå til 2Mos 33:12-23
2Mos 33:12-23
Moses kunne ikke slå seg til ro med dette, at bare en engel skulle dra foran dem. Han kunne ikke holde ut den tanken å ha Herren mot seg.

Herren hadde jo ikke sagt noe om hvem han ville sende med ham, bare at engelen skulle gå foran. Så prøver Moses med en barnslig, ydmyk trosfrimodighet å be Herren at han selv ville gå med dem. Både i den gamle og den nye pakt er det sagt og vist oss at "en rettferdig manns bønn formår mye når den er alvorlig".

Ja, Herren ser gjerne at hans venner er påtrengende overfor ham i bønn (Luk 11:5-13). Denne pågåenhet var også Moses godt kjent med.

Moses påberoper seg Herrens nådeord: Jeg kjenner deg ved navn, og du har funnet nåde for mine øyne" (v. 12). Da Jesus var på jord, ble det sagt til ham: "Herre, se ham som du elsker, er syk" (Joh 11:3).

Slik støtter også Moses seg til Herren med den samme tanke:

Herre, du har meg kjær. Ja, slik skulle vi som er Guds barn gå inn i bønnekamp.

Vi kan støtte oss alene til Herrens nådes tilsagn, at han elsker oss. Det er en fastere grunn å bygge på enn vår lille og svake kjærlighet til ham.

Det Moses ber om (v. 13), er å få visshet og klarhet over Herrens vei med folket. "La meg se din vei så jeg kan kjenne deg."

Slik sier han til Herren og støtter sin bønn på at folket jo var Herrens folk: Kom i hu at dette folket er ditt folk!

Og Herren bønnhørte ham. Moses fikk det ordet av Herren som hans sjel lengtet etter: "Mitt åsyn skal gå med, og jeg vil føre deg til hvile."

Guds åsyn vil si Herren selv. Det betyr det samme som Herrens engel, som uttrykkelig kalles "Guds åsyns engel" (Jes 63:9). Han er lik Guds evige Sønn.

Liksom ansiktet åpenbarer og avspeiler menneskets person, slik er Guds enbårne Sønn Hans herlighets glans og vesen (Heb 1:3). "Jeg vil føre deg til hvile," sier Herren. Herren vil føre Moses og folket lykkelig til målet.

Ja, Herren skaffer sitt folk hvile her på jord som en forsmak på den evige sabbatshvile. Om bare Herrens åsyn er med, er det ingen nød.

Moses våget knapt å tro bønnhørelsen. Han må liksom ha forsikring om det ennå en gang. Dette forstår Guds barn godt, og vi kjenner det så godt fra våre egne barn. Når det er noe barna lengter meget etter, og de har fått far og mors ja, da ser vi at de ønsker å høre det stadfestet gang etter gang.

De tviler ikke på det, men fryder seg over å høre det igjen. Slik stod også Moses overfor Herren.

Han gjentar: "Dersom ditt åsyn ikke går med, da la oss ikke dra opp herfra." Da var det bedre å ikke gå et eneste steg. Hva hjalp det om vi fikk alt det ytre, når ikke du var med oss. For det som utmerker oss framfor alle andre folk, er jo bare dette at du er med, og ikke noe hos oss selv. Det er betydningen av Mose ord (v. 15-16).

Herren stadfestet sitt ord for Moses (v. 17). Denne bønnen viser klart bønnens makt. Bønnen kan lukke slusene til for vreden, og kan bringe velsignelse selv der hvor forbannelsen truet.

Bønnen virker også etter at den munn som bad den er forstummet i graven.

Og jo større fortroligheten blir overfor Herren, jo større blir også frimodigheten til å be ham om mer. Likesom det gamle menneske er umettelig etter verden, er Guds barn umettelig etter Gud.

Moses var nå kommet så nær Guds hjerte, at han våger å gå videre fram med den store bønnen: "La meg da få se din herlighet."

Da Jakob kjempet om natta ved Jabok, fikk han så stor lengsel etter å skue inn i Guds vesen, at han bad: "Jeg ber deg, si meg ditt navn!" (1Mos 32:29). Slik gikk det også med Moses. Vi har hørt at Moses talte med Gud, åsyn til åsyn.

Det betyr ikke at Moses hadde sett Guds herlighet. Herren sier om dette i 4Mos 12:8: "Munn til munn taler jeg med ham, klart, og ikke i gåter.

Og han skuer Herrens skikkelse." Moses skuet altså Gud i en "lignelse" (d.), liksom under et dekke. Men han bad nå om å få se Gud umiddelbart, uten noe dekke. Det var ikke av nysgjerrighet, men fordi han stod som mellommann mellom Gud og folket. En mellommann må kjenne begge parter like godt, om han skal være det fullkomment.

Moses kjente folket, både dets synd og lengsel etter Herren. Han var jo selv en av dem. Men han følte den veldige avstand som skilte ham fra Herren. Og han lengtet etter å kjenne ham helt ut etter hans vesens uendelige rikdom.

Også denne bønn av Moses peker fram mot den fullkomne mellommann, Jesus Kristus, som både hadde del i Guds og menneskets natur.

Moses var ikke slik mellommann, men bare et lite, ufullkommet forbilde på den store fullkomne mellommann. Derfor kunne Moses' bønn ikke oppfylles fullt ut.

Det sanselige menneske kan ikke romme Guds herlighets glans. Det ville tilintetgjøre dem, slik vårt legemlige øye blir blendet når en ser inn i sollyset og en mister sin synsevne.

Her på jord vandrer vi i tro, ikke i beskuelse. Først når vi blir ham lik i himmelen, skal vi se ham som han er. Da skal vi ikke lenger kjenne stykkevis, men slik som vi og er kjent. 1Kor 13:12.

Likevel, det Gud kan vise et menneske her på jord, skulle Moses få se.

Gud ville la all sin godhet gå forbi hans åsyn. Og det Moses fikk se med sitt øye, skulle støttes ved det han hørte. Gud ville rope ut sitt navn for hans åsyn.

All Guds godhet betegner Guds innerste vesen, slik det åpenbares her på jord. Det skjer på svært mange måter, endog i hver eneste liten blomst.

Men først og fremst skjer det i menneskelivet i all de utallige velgjerninger han overøser oss med. All denne godhet samler seg liksom i en framtidig åpenbarelse. Ja, hvilket dyp av herlighets fylde! For at Moses ikke skulle hovmode seg av de høye åpenbarelser, sier Herren at det ikke var på grunn av hans egen verdighet eller fortjeneste. Det var bare nåde og barmhjertighet at Herren viste ham dette.

Herren sier: "For jeg vil være nådig imot den som jeg er nådig imot, og miskunne meg over den som jeg miskunner meg over." Det minner om Herrens ord i den nye pakt: Den som har, til ham skal det bli gitt, Luk 19:26.

Herren vil gjerne gi mye der det er mottagelige hjerter. Men æren er hans. Til å hjelpe Moses til å bli i den rette ydmykhet, tjente også det at han bare fikk se Herrens hellighet bakfra. Herrens åsyn kunne han ikke se og leve. Derfor dekket Herren over Moses med sin hånd til hans åsyn var gått forbi.

Gå til 2Mos 34:1-17
2Mos 34:1-17
Når Herren på Mose forbønn ville fornye pakten med folket, skulle også lovens tavler fornyes. Denne gangen skulle tavlene ikke være Herrens arbeidet alene, som første gang.

Moses skulle hogge ut tavlene for å minne om at pakten ble fornyet ved hans tjeneste som mellommann. Men Herren ville selv skrive de ti bud på dem. Moses skulle også denne gang gå alene opp på fjellet.

Ikke en gang Josva skulle være med. Også dette var en tukt for folket. De skulle forstå at det var ved Mose forbønn at pakten ble fornyet. Liksom første gang, da pakten ble sluttet, måtte ingen komme nær fjellet, heller ikke dyrene. Men nå ble det ikke foretatt noe offer.

Så steg Moses i den stille, tidlige morgenstund opp på fjellet. Han fryktet ikke som første gang, men kom med barnets takknemlighet overfor sin far som hadde vært så langmodig overfor et dypt fall.

Kjærligheten hadde drevet frykten ut. En usigelig glede hadde fylt hans hjerte ved tanken på det møte han gikk til. Nå stod han i kløften på fjellets topp. Han synes en usynlig kjærlig hånd legger seg over hans ansikt. Og som en stille mild sus hører han det store navnet: Herren. Han sier intet om hva han så. Det har han ikke kunnet beskrive. Men i ordet som fulgte med, fikk han sikkert se mer av Guds vesen enn i et strålende syn. Moses hørte den herligste preken som er holdt av noen predikant, av Gud selv. Det lød til ham med himmelsk klang: "Herren, Herren er en barmhjertig og nådig Gud, langmodig og rik på miskunn og sannhet.

Han lar miskunn vare i tusen ledd. han forlater misgjerning og overtredelse og synd. Men han lar ikke den skyldige være ustraffet. Han hjemsøker fedres misgjerning på barn og på barnebarn, på dem i tredje og på dem i fjerde ledd."

Hvilket evangelium, fullt av nåde, er ikke dette fra det samme Sinai hvor loven hadde talt! Den dype grunntonen som går gjennom det hele, er jo denne: Gud er kjærlighet (1Joh 4:8).

Det er kjærlighetens forskjellige sider som stråler oss i møte i de mange uttrykk: barmhjertighet, nåde, langmodighet, trofasthet, miskunnhet og syndsforlatelse. Slik er Gud altså, etter sitt eget utsagn.

Men ikke slik som verden gjerne vil forvanske det til, at Guds kjærlighet skal bestå i at Gud ser gjennom fingrene med synden slik at han ikke fordømmer den. Nei, Herrens hellighet er like urokkelig som hans kjærlighet. Derfor lyder det også her fra hans egen munn, at han "ikke lar den skyldige være ustraffet. Han hjemsøker fedres misgjerning". Ennå kan en se en liten kløft oppe på Mose klippe (Djebel Musa). Toppen består ellers av en flate på omtrent 26 m i tverrmål. Da Moses fikk nåde til å få dette innblikk i Guds herlighet, bøyde han seg straks til jorden og tilbad. Men dette gav ham fornyet mot til å legge saken fram for Gud på nytt. Han bad om at Herren igjen måtte gå midt iblant Israels folk, selv om Moses måtte bekjenne, også nå, at det var et hårdnakket folk.

"Du vil jo tilgi oss vår misgjerning og vår synd og gjøre oss til din eiendom," slik ber Moses i ydmykhet. Han sier "oss", og tar seg selv med som medskyldig i folkets synder. Det er den rette ydmykhet, som ser på skylden hos seg selv.

Moses følte at hvis han hadde vært et kraftigere salt, hadde det kanskje også sett annerledes ut. Slik tenker ydmykheten: hadde jeg vært annerledes, ville kanskje alt vært annerledes. Derfor føler den ekte ydmykhet seg medskyldig.

Like så lite som Moses kunne bli trett av å gjenta sin bønn for folket, like lite ble Herren trett av å gjenta sin stadfestelse av pakten.

Husk det, du som ber. Herren blir ikke trett av å høre, bare du ikke blir trett av å be. Herren lovet å gjøre underlige ting med hele folket.

Det skulle snart få se noe "forferdelig", dvs. forferde folkets motstandere. Herren ville drive kana'anittene ut, for folkets åsyn. Folkets framtid skulle igjen bli lys, bare folket ville lyde Herren og ikke på noen måte inngå pakt med kana'anittene.

Deres alter og avgudsbilder og Astartebilder skulle de rive ned, og ikke tilbe noen annen enn Herren. Når den hedenske gudinne, Astarte, nevnes spesielt, var det fordi dyrkingen av henne og avguden Baal på en særlig måte var knyttet til utukt.

Israels folk måtte aldri glemme at Herrens navn var "Nidkjær". Han var det navnet sa, en nidkjær Gud. Han hadde utvalgt Israels menighet til brud. Derfor ville han ikke tåle noen utroskap hos bruden.

Her finner vi for første gang Herrens forhold til Israel betegnet med bildet fra ekteskapet. Derfor blir avgudsdyrkelse kalt hor, for å ofre til avgudene er å bo med dem. All vantro er, åndelig talt, hor.

Israels barn måtte ikke delta i de hedenske offermåltidene, og heller ikke inngå ekteskap med hedningene. Og ennå gjelder det å komme i hu dette for Guds folk: ekteskap mellom troende og vantro er en vederstyggelighet for Herren.

Den troende fornekter da sin åndelige adel, frister Gud, finner ingen sann lykke i ekteskapet og lider ofte skipbrudd på troen.

 

Gå til 2Mos 34:18-35
2Mos 34:18-35
I v. 18-27 blir forskjellige tidligere bestemmelser innskjerpet (2Mos 13. 23).

Disse bestemmelsene gjentas her fordi de i særlig grad skulle minne Israel om dets høye kall, og den hengivelse til Herren som kallet forpliktet dem til.

Vi viser til forklaringen til de nevnte kapitlene. Her vil vi bare peke på det løfte (v. 24) Herren knytter til befalingen om "å vise seg for Herren", dvs, samles ved helligdommen. Herren lovte nemlig at han ville utvide landet.

Hedningene skulle slik holdes på avstand og ikke få lov å angripe landet når mennene var samlet til Herrens høytid. Det kunne ikke være ukjent for Israels fiender at mennene tre ganger om året var samlet ved helligdommen. Menneskelig sett var dette et gunstig tidspunkt for å angripe landet, som på de fleste steder var blottet for forsvarere.

Herren er trofast. I hele folkets historie kan vi ikke påvise noe tilfelle av angrep på høytidene, uten ved Jerusalems ødeleggelse i år 70 e. Kr.

Men da var pakten brutt. Folket var kommet under forherdelsens dom og foreløpig overgitt i hedningenes makt.

Da Moses kom ned fra Sinaifjellet etter å ha vært der i 40 døgn, strålte ansiktet hans. Det var gjenskinnet av Herrens herlighet som lyste over Moses. Moses selv visste ikke at Gud ga sin tjener ære på denne måten.

Men Aron og hele Israels folk så det. Folket hadde bestått prøven og vært stille for Herren mens Moses var på fjellet denne gang.

Men de fryktet likevel for å komme nær ham. Moses måtte kalle på dem, og da han hadde fortalt dem alt det Herren hadde sagt ham på fjellet, la han et dekke over ansiktet.

Denne glansen betegner den Guds herlighet som hvilte både over det embete Moses hadde som mellommann, og over den gamle pakts tjeneste.

Men herligheten forsvant (2Kor 3:7) og måtte stadig fornyes. Hver gang Moses møtte Herren, tok han dekket bort fra ansiktet, og Guds herlighet strålte igjen ut fra ham.

Mens glansen over Mose åsyn stadig måtte fornyes, stråler Jesu åsyn evig og hans herlighet skal aldri fornyes. Han er den nye pakts mellommann. Moses hadde bare herligheten utenfra. Jesus Kristus har en evig herlighet i seg.

Dekket som Moses la over ansiktet, er et stort bilde på hele den gamle pakts stilling. Den gamle pakt står nettopp med den tilslørte herlighet. Alt er forbilledlig og peker fram, som morgenrøden varsler soloppgangen.

I 2Kor 3 peker Paulus på hvorledes dette dekke ennå hviler over Israels folk "når Moses leses". Men når det omvender seg til Herren, blir dekket tatt bort, sier han. Den nye pakts barn kan med utildekket åsyn skue Herrens herlighet, om enn som i et speil, her på jord.

Kristi folk har fått øye opplatt til å skue inn i stråleglansen fra Golgata kors. Om dem gjelder det som Paulus vitner, at de blir forvandlet etter det samme bilde fra herlighet til herlighet (2Kor 3:1 8). Jo nærmere Guds barn er Herren med sitt hjerte, jo inderligere det lever for hans åsyn, jo mer vil også det ytre åsyn få en glans av Guds herlighet over seg.

Som Israels barn med et kjødelig sinn flyktet bort fra glansen i Moses ansikt, føler også verdens barn det når de møter et slikt Guds barn.

De kjenner de er i nærheten av en høyere makt, og det gjør dem beklemt. De søker som oftest bort fra slike Guds barns nærhet. Måtte vi bli rett preget av den himmelske glans. Skal vi få det her på jord, må vi som Moses stadig komme fram for Herrens åsyn og dvele hos ham.

Det finnes noen små såkalte "lysende kors" som lyser også i mørket. Men skal de beholde glansen, må de igjen og igjen bli påvirket av lyset. Slik er det også med Guds barn. Hvis vi skal bli forvandlet fra herlighet til herlighet, må vi møte Ham igjen og igjen.

Det er bare vår Frelser som har herlighetsglansen i seg, som sitt vesen. Men husk at Moses selv ikke visste noe om at ansiktet hans strålte.

De Guds barn som virkelig utbrer en lysglans fra Herrens herlighet, vet heller ikke noe om det. For det er de ydmyke Guds barn. Jo større herligheten fra Gud er over et menneske, jo dypere vil følelsen av egen usselhet og uverdighet gjennomstrømme det mennesket. Det ser bare sin egen skam hos seg selv (Dan 9:7).

Det uttrykket som er brukt på hebraisk her for å betegne at Mose ansikt skinte, henger egentlig sammen med det hebraiske ordet for horn.

De kraftige lysstrålene som gikk ut fra hans åsyn, lignet horn. Morgensolens stråler er også sammenlignet med horn i østerlandske diktning. Derfor er dette uttrykket blitt misforstått av enkelte. Derfor er Moses avbildet med horn noen ganger. Ja, i pavekirken skal man endog blant mange såkalte relikvier ha disse "Mose horn" (i byen Genua).

Gå til 2Mos 35:1-35
2Mos 35:1-35
Med hensyn til bestemmelsene om helligholdelse av hviledagen, viser vi til forklaringen av 2Mos 31:13-17. 20:8-11 Bestemmelsen om at Israels folk ikke skulle tenne ild i husene på sabbaten, er selvsagt ingen lov for oss og passer ikke til forholdene i de nordiske land, hvor klimaet er et annet.

Men denne bestemmelsen hindret selvsagt all koking av mat denne dagen, og det hadde mindre å si i et varmt land. Men det ligger likevel et vink her, for Kristi folk. Ånden i denne bestemmelsen taler også til oss, nemlig at arbeidet på hviledagen skal innskrenkes mest mulig.

De troende bør akte på dette vink fra Israels gamle sabbatslov og ikke la hviledagen bli for opptatt med matlaging. Der hjertet er våkent for dette, kan en lett finne mat som krever mindre arbeid.

Mye åndelig velsignelse kan gå tapt både for en selv og andre, om en ikke er våken på dette punktet.

De følgende vers (v. 9) er en gjentagelse av det Herren sa til Moses på fjellet (2Mos 25-26). Dette sier nå Moses til folket. I v. 20-29 fortelles om hvorledes Israels folk frivillig kom med gaver til tabernaklet, både menn og kvinner kom.

Kvinnene spant både til de indre teppene av blå-, purpur- og skarlagensrød ull, og hvitt lin til de ytre teppene av geitehår.

Både fattige og rike kom med sine gaver. Det gikk fint og alt var frivillig. På dette punktet kan Israel stå som et vakkert forbilde for Guds barn også i vår tid. I v. 30-35 fortelles om hvorledes Moses kunngjorde for Israel at Herren hadde kalt Besalel og Oholiab til å lede arbeidet og gitt dem visdom til det.

Gå til 2Mos 36:1-38
2Mos 36:1-38
I de første sju vers fortelles hvorledes Besalel og Oholiab og alle som forstod seg på tok imot gaver som Israels barn hadde gitt til å bygge Herrens bolig.

Det kom inn frivillige gaver hver dag. De som forstod seg på kunst, gikk til Moses og sa det var mer enn de behøvde. De hadde mer enn nok.

Det er sjelden at det kan sies ved innsamling av gaver til Guds rike, men det er verd å ta det til hjerte. Denne iver hos Israels folk er en fin motsetning til den iver de viste da gullkalven ble laget.

I v. 8-38 fortelles hvorledes først teppene til tabernaklet, dernest dekket over tabernaklet samt stengene med fotender og tverrstykker ble laget.

Deretter ble forhenget til det Aller Helligste og dekket ved inngangen til det Hellige laget. Alt ble gjort nøyaktig etter det som Herren hadde sagt.

Gå til 2Mos 37:1-29
2Mos 37:1-29
I dette kapitlet fortelles om hvorledes arbeidet med paktens ark (v. 1-5), nådestolen (v. 6-9), skuebrødsbordet (v. 10-16), den sjuarma lysestaken (v. 17-24) og røkofferalteret, samt salvingsoljen og røkelsen (v. 25-29) ble laget etter Herrens ord. Til lysestaken med tilbehør gikk det med 1 talent rent gull, det utgjør ca. 33 kg.

Gå til 2Mos 38:1-31
2Mos 38:1-31
Først (v. 1-8) fortelles om hvorledes brennofferalteret og kobberkaret der prestene skulle vaske seg, ble laget.

Til karet ble brukt speil av kobber som tilhørte kvinnene. I oldtiden hadde de bare speil av polert kobber, sølv eller annet metall. Speil av glass forekommer først i det 13. århundre e. Kr.

Det er fint å se at kvinnene ga disse speilene til helligdommen. Kvinnene bar den gang ofte speilene i hånden, særlig brukte egyptiske kvinner det ved avgudsdyrkelsen.

I alle tilfelle kunne speilene lett bli et redskap i forfengelighetens avgudsdyrkelse. Derfor er det dobbelt fint å se hvorledes speilene ble gitt til Herrens tjeneste. Kvinnene gjorde tjeneste ved inngangen til sammenkomstens telt. De søkte kanskje dit for å ære Herren, som vi hører om i Luk 2:37.

Anna Fanuelsdatter vek ikke fra templet, men tjente Gud med faste og bønn natt og dag. Kvinnene har altså, da som nå, ikke vært de minst ivrige for Guds rike.

I v. 9-20 fortelles om hvorledes forgården med forheng og støtter ble gjort ferdige.

I v. 21-31 gjøres regnskap for hvor mye som kom inn av gull, sølv og kobber. Moses holdt nøye regnskap med gavene og gir nøyaktige opplysninger om bruken.

Han hadde hjelp av levittene til større beregninger. De arbeidet under tilsyn av Itamar, presten Arons sønn. Det innviede gull var 29 talenter og 730 sekel, og sølvet var 100 talenter og 1775 sekel. Det var vektenheter. Hver manntallsført mann (over 20 år) betalte 1 beka, dvs. 1/2 sekel, se 2Mos 30:13. Det var 603 550 slike menn, og det kom slik inn 301 775 sekel sølv. 3000 sekel utgjorde 1 talent.

I alt kom det da inn 100 talenter og 1775 sekel sølv. Det ble brukt til fotstykkene og hakene på stolpene m.m. (v. 27-28).

Man har undret seg over at Israels folk kunne ha så mye verdifullt metall. Folket hadde jo vært slaver i Egypt.

Til det er å si at disse tallene er små i forhold til de veldige mengder edelt metall som folk i østerland hadde i oldtiden.

Da kong Alexander den store (død år 323 f. Kr.) drog inn i Medias hovedstad Ekbatana, fant han ikke mindre enn 1200000 talenter gull i byens skattkammer.

I det kongelige palass i denne byen var alle søylehaller og gardsrom brolagt med sølv og gullplater. Taksteinene var av sølv. Bare avgudsbildene i et babylonsk tempel inneholdt flere tusen talenter gull. Den assyriske kongen Sardanapal, som døde i år 840 f. Kr., skal ha eid 150 gullsenger, 150 gullbord og en million talenter gull.

I sammenligning med slike tall er det bare ubetydelig, det som nevnes her. Så vet vi også at egypterne gav dem en mengde gull-og sølvkar med på reisen. Blant Israels folk var det selvsagt også noen mer velstilte menn.

Gå til 2Mos 39:1-43.
2Mos 39:1-43
I v. 1-7 fortelles om hvorledes livkjortelen med beltet og onykssteinene ble laget. På steinen var navnene på Israels stammer inngravert.

I v. 8-21 fortelles om hvorledes yppersteprestens brystduk ble laget, og i v. 22-31 om de andre presteklærne.

I v. 32-43 fortelles at det som var gjort ferdig, ble gitt til Moses som tok imot det på Guds vegne. Og alt var nøyaktig slik som Herren hadde befalt Moses, og som han hadde sett det på fjellet.

Dette viste at det var Herren som var den egentlige byggmester. For det ville ha vært umulig for mennesker å få det så likt det forbilde Moses hadde sett, ved bare å høre om det. Da Moses så hvorledes det var nøyaktig slik Herren hadde befalt det, velsignet han dem.

Han velsignet både giverne og arbeiderne. Velsignelsen har kanskje lydt som slutten av salme 90:som jo er en bønn av Moses. Der heter det i det siste verset: "Må Herrens velbehag være over oss! Må du fremme våre henders gjerning for oss, ja, fremme våre henders gjerning!" Gå til 2Mos 40:1-38
2Mos 40:1-38
I dette kapitlet fortelles om hvorledes Herren befalte Moses å bygge tabernaklet og sette hver ting på sitt sted, samt å hellige tabernaklet og innboet ved å salve det med olje (v. 1-15).

Brennofferet skulle være høyhellig (v. 10) eller på en spesiell måte hellig. Det betyr vel at fristelsen til å komme det alteret for nær, uten den rette ærefrykt, lå nær ettersom det stod i forgården der folket hadde adgang. Nettopp derfor skulle dette alteret på en særlig måte stemples som hellig. Der skulle også de stadige offer for folkets synder bringes.

Gud gav også Moses fornyet pålegg om å innvie Aron og hans sønner. Når de ble salvet, gjaldt det ikke bare dem personlig. Det betyr at prestedømmet skulle tilhøre deres etterkommere for alltid.

"Et evig prestedømme" betyr at alle de hellige kar og tjenesten i tabernaklet hadde evighetsbetydning og evighetsgyldighet i sin åndelige oppfyllelse. Dette finnes til en viss grad i Det nye testamente og i sin fulle oppfyllelse i den himmelske helligdom. Salvingen av tabernaklet og prestene skjedde først noen dager etter at tabernaklet var reist (3Mos 8).

Tabernaklet ble reist på den første dag i den første måned i det andre år etter utgangen av Egypt. Dette ene året hadde gitt en veldig forandring for folket. For ett år siden hadde folket vært i Egypt som slaver under Farao. Nå var det det mest benådede folk, som hadde erfart en rikdom av mektige opplevelser fra Herrens hånd.

Arbeidet med tabernaklet hadde bare vart bortimot 1/2 år på grunn av Herrens velsignelse over arbeidet og folkets iver. Moses bygde tabernaklet slik at han begynte med det Aller Helligste, etter at teppene var lagt over stengene.

Deretter satte han alt i stand i det Hellige, skuebrød på skuebrødsbordet, tente lampene og røkelse og hengte dekket for døren. Deretter kom han til forgården, satte brennofferalteret og det andre på sin plass og ofret straks brennoffer og matoffer, slik Herren hadde befalt.

Tabernaklets hellighet berodde først og fremst på at det var utført i overensstemmelse med Guds ord og ordning. Derfor kunne Moses straks ta det i bruk, før det var innviet. Ved salvingen ble det derimot innviet til menighetens bruk, som skjedde ved prestenes daglige tjeneste.

Da Moses nå hadde "fullendt verket", la skyen seg over sammenkomstens telt. Den hadde alltid vært et synlig tegn på Herrens nærvær.

Herrens herlighet fylte tabernaklet. Skyen og Herrens herlighet er ikke det samme. Skyen var bare det ytre, synlige tegn, mens Herrens herlighet er "hans ansikt", den Herrens engel vi så ofte allerede har omtalt.

Han formildet Guds nærvær mellom Israels folk. Også i den nye pakt kalles Guds enbårne Sønn for "avglansen av hans herlighet" (Heb 1:3).

Og Johannes vitner: "Vi så hans herlighet, en herlighet som den en enbåren Sønn har fra sin Far" (Joh 1:14). Herrens herlighet fylte ikke bare det Aller Helligste, men hele tabernaklet, slik at Moses ikke kunne gå inn der. Herren innviet selv sin helligdom.

Han har også en helligdom i hver eneste troende i den nye pakt. Og han vil fylle oss med sin herlighet. Jesu venner smaker glimtvis hans herlighet her på jord. Herren var veiviser for folket ved skyen.

Den løftet seg fra tabernaklet når Israels folk skulle dra videre, og den ble over tabernaklet når de skulle hvile. Slik vil Herren også veilede sitt Israel i dag gjennom ørkenen til det himmelske Kana'an.

"Jeg vil selv være hyrde for min hjord og selv la den hvile, sier Herren, Herren" (Esek 34:15). Israel hadde det synlige tegn ikke bare om dagen, men også om natten. Da viste skyen seg som en ildstøtte.

Dag og natt var Herren hos sitt folk. De synlige tegn, skyen og ildstøtten, opphørte da ørkenvandringen var slutt. Den nye pakts folk ledes heller ikke ved slike ytre midler. Men Herrens herlighet ble værende over Israel, selv om den ytre skyen forsvant. Herrens herlighet forlater heller aldri sitt sanne Israel.

Kilde : Gullgruben. C.Asschenfeldt-Hansen bibelkommentarer

 

Du kan bruke Google Translate for å oversette deler av teksten til Norsk.

 

Exodus 1 - 14, Section 1 of 2.

C. H. Mackintosh.

Preface to the Third Edition.

The writer cannot suffer a new edition of this volume to issue from the press without a line or two of deep thankfulness to the Lord for His grace, in making use of such a feeble instrumentality in the furtherance of His truth, and the edification of His people. Blessed be His name, when He takes up a book or a tract, He can make it effectual in the accomplishment of His gracious ends. He can clothe, with spiritual power, page and paragraphs which, to us, might seem pointless and powerless. May He continue to own and bless this service, and His name shall have all the praise.

C.H.M. Dublin, April, 1862.

 

Exodus 1

We now approach, by the mercy of God, the study of the Book of Exodus, of which the great prominent theme is redemption. The first five verses recall to the mind the closing scenes of the preceding book. The favoured objects of God's electing love are brought before us; and we find ourselves, very speedily, conducted, by the inspired penman, into the section of the book.

In our meditations on the Book of Genesis, we were led to see that the conduct of Joseph's brethren toward him was that which led to their being brought down into Egypt. This fact is to be looked at in two ways. In the first place, we can read therein a deeply solemn lesson as taught in Israel's actings toward God; and, secondly, we have, therein unfolded, an encouraging lesson, as taught in God's actings toward Israel.

And, first, as to Israel's actings toward God, what can be more deeply solemn than to follow out the results of their treatment of him who stands before the spiritual mind as the marked type of the Lord Jesus Christ? They, utterly regardless of the anguish of his soul, consigned Joseph into the hands of the uncircumcised. And what was the issue, as regards them They were carried down into Egypt, there to experience those deep and painful exercises of heart which are so graphically and touchingly presented in the closing chapters of Genesis. Nor was this all. A long and dreary season awaited their offspring in that very land in which Joseph had found a dungeon.

But then God was in all this, as well as man; and it is His prerogative to bring good out of evil. Joseph's brethren might sell him to the Ishmaelites, and the Ishmaelites might sell him to Potiphar, and Potiphar might cast him into prison; but Jehovah was above all, and He was accomplishing His own mighty ends. "The wrath of man shall praise him." The time had not arrived in which the heirs were ready for the inheritance, and the inheritance for the heirs. The brickkilns of Egypt were to furnish a rigid school for the seed of Abraham, while, as yet, "the iniquity of the Amorites" was rising to a head, amid the "hills and valleys" of the promised land.

All this is deeply interesting and instructive. There are "wheels within wheels" in the government of God. He makes use of an endless variety of agencies, in the accomplishment of His unsearchable designs. Potiphar's wife, Pharaoh's butler, Pharaoh's dreams, Pharaoh himself, the dungeon, the throne, the fetters, the royal signet, the famine — all are at His sovereign disposal, and all be made instrumental in the development of His stupendous counsels. The spiritual mind delights to dwell upon this. It delights to range through the wide domain of creation and providence, And to recognise, in all, the machinery which an All-wise and an Almighty God is using for the purpose of unfolding His counsels of redeeming love. True, we may see many traces of the serpent; many deep and well-defined footprints of the enemy of God and man; many things which we cannot explain nor even comprehend; suffering innocence and successful wickedness may furnish an apparent basis for the infidel-reasoning of the sceptic mind; but the true believer can piously repose in the assurance that "the Judge of all the earth shall do right." He knows right well that,

Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan His ways in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

and He will make it plain."

Blessed be God for the consolation and encouragement flowing out of such reflections as these. We need them, every hour, while passing through an evil world, in which the enemy has wrought such appalling mischief, in which the lusts and passions of men produce such bitter fruits, and in which the path of the true disciple presents roughnesses which mere nature could never endure. Faith knows, of a surety, that there is One behind the scenes whom the world sees not nor regards; and, in the consciousness of this, it can calmly say, "it is well," and, "it shall be well."

The above train of thought is distinctly suggested by the opening lines of our book. "God's counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure." The enemy may oppose; but God will ever prove Himself to be above him; and all we need is a spirit of simple, child-like confidence and repose in the divine purpose. Unbelief will rather look at the enemy's efforts to countervail, than at God's power to accomplish. It is on the latter that faith fixes its eye. Thus it obtains victory, and It has to do with God and His infallible faithfulness. It rests not upon the ever shifting sands of human affairs and earthly influences, but upon the immovable rock of God's eternal Word. That is faith's holy and solid resting-place. Come what may, it abides in that sanctuary of strength. "Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation." What then? Could death affect the counsels of the living God? Surely not. He only waited for the appointed moment, the due time, and then the most hostile influences were made instrumental in the development of His purposes.

"Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: come on, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass that when there falleth out any war they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land." (Vv. 8-10) All this is the reasoning of a heart that had never learnt to take God into its calculations. The unrenewed heart never can do so; and hence, the moment you introduce God, all its reasonings fall to the ground. Apart from, or independent of Him, they may seem very wise; but only bring Him in, and they are proved to be perfect folly.

But why should we allow our minds to be, in any wise, influenced by reasonings and calculations which depend, for their apparent truth, upon the total exclusion of God? To do so is, in principle, and according to its measure, practical atheism. In Pharaoh's case, we see that he could accurately recount the various contingencies of human affairs, the multiplying of the people, the falling out of war, their joining with the enemy, their escape out of the land. All these circumstances he could, with uncommon sagacity, put into the scale; but it never once occurred to him that God could have anything whatever to do in the matter. Had he only thought of this, it would have upset his entire reasoning, and have written folly upon all his schemes.

Now it is well to see that it is ever thus with the reasonings of man's sceptic mind. God is entirely shut out; yea, the truth and consistency thereof depend upon His being kept out. The death-blow to all scepticism and infidelity is the introduction of God into the scene. Till He is seen, they may strut up and down upon the stage, with an amazing show of wisdom and cleverness; but the moment the eye catches even the faintest glimpse of that Blessed One, they are stripped of their cloak, and disclosed in all their nakedness and deformity.

In reference to the king of Egypt, it may, assuredly, be said, he did "greatly err," not knowing God, or His changeless counsels. He knew not that, hundreds of years back, before ever he had breathed the breath of mortal life, God's word and oath — "two immutable things" — had infallibly secured the full and glorious deliverance of that very people whom he was going, in his wisdom, to crush. All this was unknown to him; and, therefore, all his thoughts and plans were founded upon ignorance of that grand foundation-truth of all truths, namely, that GOD IS. He vainly imagined that he, by his management, could prevent the increase of those concerning whom God had said, "they shall be as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore." His wise dealing, therefore, was simply madness and folly.

The wildest mistake which a man can possibly fall into is to act without taking God into his account. Sooner or later, the thought of God will force itself upon him, and then comes the awful crash of all his schemes and calculations. At best, everything that is undertaken, independently of God, can last but for the present time. It cannot, by any possibility, stretch itself into eternity. All that is merely human, however solid, however brilliant, or however attractive, must fall into the cold grasp of death, and moulder in the dark, silent tomb. The clod of the valley must cover man's highest excellencies and brightest glories; mortality is engraved upon his brow, and all his schemes are evanescent. On the contrary, that which is connected with, and based upon, God, shall endure for ever. "His name shall endure for ever, and his memorial to all generations."

What a sad mistake, therefore, for a feeble mortal to set himself up against the eternal God, to "rush upon the thick bosses of the shield of the Almighty!" As well might the monarch of Egypt have sought to stem, with his puny hand, the ocean's tide, as to prevent the increase of those who were the subjects of Jehovah's everlasting purpose. Hence, although "they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens," yet, "the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." Thus it must ever be. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision." (Ps. 2: 4) Eternal confusion shall be inscribed upon all the opposition of men and devils. This gives sweet rest to the heart, in the midst of a scene where all is, apparently, so contrary to God and so contrary to faith. Were it not for the settled assurance that "the wrath of man shall praise" the Lord, the spirit would often be cast down, while contemplating the circumstances and influences which surround one in the world. Thank God, "we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4: 18) In the power of this, we may well say, "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his may, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass." (Ps. 37: 7) How fully might the truth of this be seen in the case of both the oppressed and the oppressor, as set before us in our chapter! Had Israel "looked at the things that are seen," what were they? Pharaoh's wrath, stern taskmasters, afflictive burdens, rigorous service, hard bondage, mortar and brick. But, then, "the things which are not seen," what were they? God's eternal purpose, His unfailing promise, the approaching dawn of a day of salvation, the "burning lamp" of Jehovah's deliverance. Wondrous contrast Faith alone could enter into it. Nought save that precious principle could enable any poor, oppressed Israelite to look from out the smoking furnace of Egypt, to the green fields and vine-clad mountains of the land of Canaan. Who could possibly recognise in those oppressed slaves, toiling in the brick-kilns of Egypt, the heirs of salvation, and the objects of Heaven's peculiar interest and favour.

Thus it was then, and thus it is now. "We walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5: 7) "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." (l John 3: 2) We are "here in the body pent," "absent from the Lord." As to fact, we are in Egypt, yet, in spirit, we are in the heavenly Canaan. Faith brings the heart into the power of divine and unseen things, and thus enables it to mount above everything down here, in this place "where death and darkness reign. Oh! for that simple child-like faith that sits beside the pure and eternal fountain of truth, there to drink those deep and refreshing draughts, which lift up the fainting spirit, and impart energy to the new man, in its upward and onward course.

The closing verses of this section of our book present an edifying lesson in the conduct of those God-fearing women, Shiphrah and Puah. They would not carry out the king's cruel scheme, but braved his wrath, and hence, God made them houses. "Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Sam. 2: 30) May we ever remember this, and act for God, under all circumstances!

 

Exodus 2

This section of our book abounds in the weightiest principles of divine truth — principles, which range themselves under the three following heads, namely, the power of Satan, the power of God, and the power of faith.

In the last verse of the previous chapter, we read, "And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river." This was Satan's power. The river was the place of death; and, by death, the enemy sought to frustrate the purpose of God. It has ever been thus. The serpent has, at all times, watched, with malignant eye, those instruments which God was about to use for his own gracious ends. Look at the case of Abel, in Genesis 4. What was that but the serpent watching God's vessel and seeking to put it out of the way by death? Look at the case of Joseph, in Gen. 37. There you have the enemy seeking to put the man of God's purpose in the place of death. Look at the case of "the seed royal," in 2 Chr. 22, the act of Herod, in Matt. 2, the death of Christ, in Matt. 27. In all these cases, you find the enemy seeking, by death, to interrupt the current of divine action.

But, blessed be God, there is something beyond death. The entire sphere of divine action, as connected with redemption, lies beyond the limits of death's domain. When Satan has exhausted his power, then God begins to show Himself. The grave is the limit of Satan's activity; but there it is that divine activity begins. This is a glorious truth. Satan has the power of death; but God is the God of the living; and He gives life beyond the reach and power of death — a life which Satan cannot touch. The heart finds sweet relief in such a truth as this, in the midst of a scene where death reigns. Faith can stand and look on at Satan putting forth the plenitude of his power. It can stay itself upon God's mighty instrumentality of resurrection. It can take its stand at the grave which has just closed over a beloved object, and drink in, from the lips of Him who is "the resurrection and the life," the elevating assurance of a glorious immortality. It knows that God is stronger than Satan, and it can, therefore, quietly wait for the full manifestation of that superior strength, and, in thus waiting, find its victory and its settled peace. We have a noble example of this power of faith in the opening verses of our chapter.

"And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived and bare a son; and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him." (Ex. 2: 1-4)Here we have a scene of touching interest, in whatever way we contemplate it. In point of fact, it was simply faith triumphing over the influences of nature and death, and leaving room for the God of resurrection to act in His own proper sphere and character. True, the enemy's power is apparent, in the circumstance that the child had to be placed in such position — a position of death, in principle. And, moreover, a sword was piercing through the mother's heart, in thus beholding her precious offspring laid, as it were, in death. Satan might act, and nature might weep; but the Quickener of the dead was behind the dark cloud, and faith beheld Him there, gilding heaven's side of that cloud with His bright and life-giving beams. "By faith Moses when he was born was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment." (Heb. 11: 23)

Thus, this honoured daughter of Levi teaches us a holy lesson. Her "ark of bulrushes, daubed with slime and pitch," declares her confidence in the truth that there was a something which could keep out the waters of death, in the case of this "proper child," as well as in the case of Noah, "the preacher of righteousness. Are we to suppose, for a moment, that this "Ark" was the invention of mere nature? Was it nature's mere thought that devised it, or nature's ingenuity that constructed it? Was the babe placed in the ark at the suggestion of a mother's heart, cherishing the fond but visionary hope of thereby saving her treasure from the ruthless hand of death? Were we to reply to the above inquiries in the affirmative, we should, I believe, lose the beauteous teaching of this entire scene. How could we ever suppose that the "ark" was devised by one who saw no other portion or destiny for her child but death by drowning? Impossible. We can only look upon that significant structure, as faith's draft handed in at the treasury of the God of resurrection. devised by the hand of faith, as a vessel of mercy, to carry "a proper child" safety over death's dark waters, into the place assigned him by the immutable purpose of the living God. When we behold this daughter of Levi bending over that ark of bulrushes," which her faith had constructed, and depositing therein her babe, we see her "walking in the steps of that faith of her father Abraham, which he had," when "he rose up from before his dead," and purchased the cave of Machpelah from the sons of Heth. (Gen. 23) We do not recognise in her the energy of mere nature, hanging over the object of its affections, about to fall into the iron grasp of the king of terrors. No; but we trace in her the energy of a faith which enabled her to stand, as a conqueror, at the margin of death's cold flood, and behold the chosen servant of Jehovah in safety at the other side.

Yes, my reader, faith can take those bold and lofty flights into regions far removed from this land of death and wide-spread desolation. Its eagle eye can pierce the gloomy clouds which gather around the tomb, and behold the God of resurrection displaying the results of His everlasting counsels, in the midst of a sphere which no arrow of death can reach. It can take its stand upon the top of the Rock of Ages, and listen, in holy triumph, while the surges of death are lashing its base.

And what, let me ask, was "the king's commandment" to one who was in possession of this heaven-born principle? What weight had that commandment with one who could calmly stand beside her "ark of bulrushes" and look death straight in the face? The Holy Ghost replies, "they were not afraid of the king's commandment." The spirit that knows ought of communion with Him who quickens the dead, is not afraid of anything. Such an one can take up the triumphant language of 1 Cor: 15 and say, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." He can give forth these words of triumph over a martyred Abel; over Joseph in the pit; over Moses in his ark of bulrushes; in the midst of "the seed royal," slain by the hand of Athaliah; and in the babes of Bethlehem, murdered by the mandate of the cruel Herod; and far above all, he can utter them at the tomb of the Captain of our salvation.

Now, it may be, there are some who cannot trace the activities of faith, in the matter of the ark of bulrushes. Many may not be able to travel beyond the measure of Moses' sister, when "she stood afar off, to wit, what would be done to him." It is very evident that "his sister" was not up to " the measure of faith" possessed by "his mother." No doubt, she possessed deep interest and true affection, such as we may trace in "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulchre." (Matt. 27: 61) But there was something far beyond either interest or affection in the maker of the "ark." True, she did not "stand afar off to wit what would be done to" her child, and hence, what frequently happens, the dignity of faith might seem like indifference, on her part. It was not, however, indifference, but true elevation — the elevation of faith. If natural affection did not cause her to linger near the scene of death, it was only because the power of faith was furnishing her with nobler work, in the presence of the God of resurrection. Her faith had cleared the stage for Him, and most gloriously did He show Himself thereon.

"And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; and when she saw the ark among the flags she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it she saw the child; and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children." Here, then, the divine response begins to break, in sweetest accents, on the ear of faith. God was in all this. rationalism, or scepticism, or infidelity, or atheism, may laugh at such an idea. And faith can laugh also; but the two kinds of laughter are very different. The former laughs, in cold contempt, at the thought of divine interference in the trifling affair of a royal maiden's walk by the river's side. The latter laughs, with real heart-felt gladness, at the thought that God is in everything. And, assuredly, if ever God was in anything, He was in this walk of Pharaoh's daughter, though she knew it not.

The renewed mind enjoys one of its sweetest exercises, while tracing the divine footsteps in circumstances and events in which a thoughtless spirit sees only blind chance or rigid fate. The most trifling matter may, at times, turn out to be a most important link in a chain of events by which the Almighty God is helping forward the development of His grand designs. Look, for instance, at Esther 4: 1, and what do you see? A heathen monarch, spending a restless night. No uncommon circumstance, we may suppose; and, yet, this very circumstance was a link in a great chain of providence at the end of which you find the marvellous deliverance of the oppressed seed of Israel.

Thus was it with the daughter of Pharaoh, in her walk by the river's side. Little did she think that she was helping forward the purpose of "the Lord God of the Hebrews" How little idea had she that the weeping babe, in that ark of bulrushes, was yet to be Jehovah's instrument in shaking the land of Egypt to its very centre! Yet so it was. The Lord can make the wrath of man to praise Him, and restrain the remainder. How plainly the truth of this appears in the following passage!

"Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee? And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child sway, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child and nursed it. And the child grew and she brought him unto Pharaohs daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water." (Ex. 2: 7-10) The beautiful faith of Moses' mother here meets its full reward; Satan is confounded; and the marvellous wisdom of God is displayed. Who would have thought that the one who had said, "If it be a son, then ye shall kill him," and, again, "every son that is born ye shall cast into the river," should have in his court one of those very sons, and such "a son." The devil was foiled by his own weapon, inasmuch as Pharaoh, whom he was using to frustrate the purpose of God, is used of God to nourish and bring up Moses, who was to be His instrument in confounding the power of Satan. Remarkable providence! Admirable wisdom! Truly, Jehovah is "wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." May we learn to trust Him with more artless simplicity, and thus our path shall be more brilliant, and our testimony more effective.

In considering the history of Moses, we must look at him in two ways, namely, personally and typically.

First, in his personal character, there is much, very much, for us to learn. God had not only to raise him up, but also to train him, in one way or another, for the lengthened period of eighty years-first in the house of Pharaoh's daughter; and then at "the backside of the desert." This, to our shallow thoughts, would seem an immense space of time to devote to the education of a minister of God. But then God's thoughts are not as our thoughts. He knew the need of those forty years, twice told, in the preparation of His chosen vessel. When God educates, He educates in a manner worthy of Himself and His most holy service. He will not have a novice to do His work. The servant of Christ has to learn many a lesson, to undergo many an exercise, to pass through many a conflict, in secret, ere he is really qualified to act in public. Nature does not like this. It would rather figure in public than learn in private. It would rather be gazed upon and admired by the eye of man than be disciplined by the hand of God. But it will not do. We must take God's way. Nature may rush into the scene of operation; but God does not want it there. It must be withered, crushed, set aside. The place of death is the place for nature. If it will be active, God will so order matters, in His infallible faithfulness and perfect wisdom, that the results of its activity will prove its utter defeat and confusion. He knows what to do with nature, where to put it, and where to keep it. Oh that we may all be in deeper communion with the mind of God, in reference to self and all that pertains thereto. Then shall we make fewer mistakes. Then shall our path be steady and elevated, our spirit tranquil, and our service effective.

"And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens; and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand." This was zeal for his brethren; but it was "not according to knowledge." God's time was not yet come for judging Egypt and delivering Israel; and the intelligent servant will ever wait for God's time. "Moses was grown;" and "he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians;" and, moreover, "he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them." all this was true; yet he evidently ran before the time, and when one does this failure must be the issue. [In Stephen's address to the council, at Jerusalem, there is an allusion to Moses' acting, to which it may be well to advert. "And when he was full forty years old it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian; for he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God, by his hand, would deliver them; but they understood not." (Acts 7: 23-25) It is evident that Stephen's object, in his entire address, has to bring the history of the nation to bear upon the consciences of those whom he had before him; and it would have been quite foreign to this object, and at variance with the Spirit's rule in the New Testament, to raise a question as to whether Moses had not acted before the divinely-appointed time.

Moreover, he merely says, "it came into his heart to visit his brethren." He does not say that God sent him, at that time. Nor does this, in the least, touch the question of the moral condition of those who rejected him. "They understood not." This was the fact as to them, whatever Moses might have personally to learn in the matter. The spiritual mind can have no difficulty in apprehending this.

Looking at Moses, typically, we can see the mission of Christ to Israel, and their rejection of Him, and refusal to have Him to reign over them. On the other hand, looking at Moses, personally, we find that he, like others, made mistakes and displayed infirmities; sometimes went too fast, and sometimes too slow. All this is easily understood, and only tends to magnify the infinite grace and exhaustless patience of God.]

 And not only is there failure in the end, but also manifest uncertainty, and lack of calm elevation and holy independence in the progress of a work begun before God's time. Moses "looked this way and that way." There is no need of this when a man is acting with and for God, and in the full intelligence of His mind, as to the details of his work. If God's time had really come, and if Moses was conscious of being divinely commissioned to execute judgement upon the Egyptian, and if he felt assured of the divine presence with him, he would not have "looked this way and that way."

This action teaches a deep practical lesson to all the servants of God. There are two things by which it is superinduced: namely, the fear of man's wrath, and the hope of man's favour. The servant of the living God should neither regard the one nor the other. What avails the wrath or favour of a poor mortal, to one who holds the divine commission, and enjoys the divine presence? It is, in the judgement of such an one, less than the small dust of the balance. "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest." (Joshua 1: 9) "Thou, therefore, gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak, unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defended city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee." (Jer 1: 17-19)

When the servant of Christ stands upon the elevated ground set forth in the above quotations, he will not "look this way and that way;" he will act on wisdom's heavenly counsel, "let thine eyes look straight on, and thine eyelids look straight before thee." Divine intelligence will ever lead us to look upward and onward. Whenever we look around to shun a mortal's frown or catch his smile, we may rest assured there is something wrong; we are off the proper ground of divine service. We lack the assurance of holding the divine commission, and of enjoying the divine presence, both of which are absolutely essential.

True, there are many who, through profound ignorance, or excessive self-confidence, stand forward in a sphere of service for which God never intended them, and for which He, therefore, never qualified them. And not only do they thus stand forward, but they exhibit an amount of coolness and self-possession perfectly amazing to those who are capable of forming an impartial judgement about their gifts and merits. But all this will very speedily find its level; nor does it in the least interfere with the integrity of the principle that nothing can effectually deliver a man from the tendency to "look this way and that way," save the consciousness of the divine commission and the divine presence. When these are possessed, there is entire deliverance from human influence, and consequent independence. No man is in a position to serve others who is not wholly independent of them; but a man who knows his proper place can stoop and wash his brethren's feet.

When we turn away our eyes from man, and fix them upon the only true and perfect Servant, we do not find him looking this way and that way, for this simple reason, that He never had His eye upon men, but always upon God. He feared not the wrath of man nor sought his favour. He never opened His lips to elicit human applause, nor kept them closed to avoid human censure. This gave holy stability and elevation to all He said and did. Of Him alone could it be truly said, "His leaf shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Everything He did turned to profitable account, because everything was done to God. Every action, every word, every movement, every look, every thought, was like a beauteous cluster of fruit, sent up to refresh the heart of God. He was never afraid of the results of His work, because He always acted with and for God, and in the full intelligence of His mind. His own will, though divinely perfect, never once mingled itself in ought that He did, as a man, on the earth. He could say, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." Hence, He brought forth fruit, "in its season" He did "always those things which pleased the Father," and, therefore, never had any occasion to "fear," to "repent," or to "look this way and that way."

Now in this, as in everything else, the blessed Master stands in marked contrast with His most honoured and eminent servants. Even a Moses "feared," and a, Paul "repented;" but the Lord Jesus never did either. He never had to retrace a step, to recall a word, or correct a thought. All was absolutely perfect. All was "fruit in season." The current of His holy and heavenly life flowed onward without a ripple and without a curve. His will was divinely subject. The best and most devoted men make mistakes; but it is perfectly certain that the more we are enabled, through grace, to mortify our own will, the fewer our mistakes will be. Truly happy it is when, in the main, our path is really a path of faith and single-eyed devotedness to Christ.

Thus it was with Moses. He was a man of faith-a man who drank deeply into the spirit of his Master, and walked with marvellous steadiness in His footprints. True, he anticipated, as has been remarked, by forty years, the Lord's time of judgement on Egypt and deliverance for Israel; yet, when we turn to the inspired commentary, in Hebrews 11, we find nothing about this. We there find only the divine principle upon which, in the main, his course was founded. "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible." (Ver. 24-27)

This quotation furnishes a most gracious view of the actings of Moses. It is ever thus the Holy Ghost deals with the history of Old Testament saints. When He writes a man's history, He presents him to us as he is, and faithfully sets forth all his failures and imperfections. But when, in the New Testament, he comments upon such history, He merely gives the real principle and main result of a man's life. Hence, though we read, in Exodus, that "Moses looked this way and that way" — that "he feared and said, surely this thing is known" — and, finally, "Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh;" yet, we are taught, in Hebrews, that what he did, he did "by faith" — that he did not fear" the wrath of the king" — that "he endured as seeing him who is invisible."

Thus will it be, by and by, when "the Lord comes, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." (1 Cor. 4: 5) This is a precious and consolatory truth for every upright mind and every loyal heart. Many a "Counsel" the "heart" may form, which, from various causes, the hand may not be able to execute. All such "counsels" will be made "manifest" when "the Lord comes." Blessed be the grace that has told us so! The affectionate counsels of the heart are far more precious to Christ than the most elaborate works of the hand. The latter may shine before the eye of man; the former are designed only for the heart of Jesus. The latter may be spoken of amongst men; the former will be made manifest before God and His holy angels. May all the servants of Christ have their hearts undividedly occupied with His person, and their eyes steadily fixed upon His advent.

In contemplating the path of Moses, we observe how that faith led him entirely athwart the ordinary course of nature. It led him to despise all the pleasures, the attractions, and the honours of Pharaoh's court. And not only that, but also to relinquish an apparently wide sphere of usefulness. Human expediency would have conducted him along quite an opposite path. It would have led him to use his influence on behalf of the people of God — to act for them instead of suffering with them. According to man's judgement, Providence would seem to have opened for Moses a wide and most important sphere of labour; and surely if ever the hand of God was manifest in placing a man in a distinct position, it was in his case. By a most marvellous interposition — by a most unaccountable chain of circumstances, every link of which displayed the finger of the Almighty — by an order of events which no human foresight could have arranged, had the daughter of Pharaoh been made the instrument of drawing Moses out of the water, and of nourishing and educating him until he was "full forty years Old." With all these circumstances in his view, to abandon his high, honourable, and influential position, could only be regarded as the result of a misguided zeal which no sound judgement could approve.

Thus might poor blind nature reason. But faith thought differently; for nature and faith are always at issue. They cannot agree upon a single point. Nor is there anything, perhaps, in reference to which they differ so widely as what are commonly called "openings of Providence." Nature will constantly regard such openings as warrants for self-indulgence; whereas faith will find in them opportunities for self-denial. Jonah might have deemed it a very remarkable opening of Providence to find a ship going to Tarshish; but in truth it was an opening through which he slipped off the path of obedience.

No doubt, it is the Christian's privilege to see his Father's hand, and hear His voice, in everything; but he is not to be guided by circumstances. A Christian so guided is like a vessel at sea without rudder or compass; she is at the mercy of the waves and the winds. God's promise to His child is, "I will guide thee with mine eye." (Ps: 32: 8) His warning is, "Be not as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee." It is much better to be guided by our Father's eye, than by the bit and bridle of circumstances; and we know that in the ordinary acceptation of the term, "Providence" is only another word for the impulse of circumstances.

Now, the power of faith may constantly be seen in refusing and forsaking the apparent openings of Providence. It was so in the case of Moses. "By faith he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;" and "by faith he forsook Egypt." Had he judged according to the sight of his eyes, he would have grasped at the proffered dignity, as the manifest gift of a kind Providence, and he would have remained in the court of Pharaoh as in a sphere of usefulness plainly thrown open to him by the hand of God. But, then, he walked by faith, and not by the sight of his eyes; and, hence, he forsook all. Noble example! May we have grace to follow it!

And observe what it was that Moses "esteemed greater riches than the treasures in Egypt;" it was the "reproach of Christ." It was not merely reproach for Christ. "The reproaches of them that reproached thee have fallen upon me." The Lord Jesus, in perfect grace, identified Himself with His people. He came down from heaven, leaving His Father's bosom, and laying aside all His glory, He took His people's place, confessed their sins, and bore their judgement on the cursed tree. Such was His voluntary devotedness, He not merely acted for us, but made Himself one with us, thus perfectly delivering us from all that was or could be against us.

Hence, we see how much in sympathy Moses was with the spirit and mind of Christ, in reference to the people of God. He was in the midst of all the ease the pomp and dignity of Pharaoh's house, where "the pleasures of sin," and "the treasures of Egypt," lay scattered around him, in richest profusion. All these things he might have enjoyed if he would. He could have lived and died in the midst of wealth and splendour. His entire path, from first to last, might, if he had chosen, have been enlightened by the sunshine of royal favour: but that would not have been "faith;" it would not have been Christ-like. From his elevated position, he saw his brethren bowed down beneath their heavy burden, and faith led him to see that his place was to be with them. Yes; with them, in all their reproach, their bondage, their degradation, and their sorrow. Had he been actuated by mere benevolence, philanthropy, or patriotism, he might have used his personal influence on behalf of his brethren. He might have succeeded in inducing Pharaoh to lighten their burden, and render their path somewhat smoother, by royal grants in their favour; but this would never do, never satisfy a heart that had a single pulsation in common with the heart of Christ. Such a heart Moses, by the grace of God, carried in his bosom; and, therefore, with all the energies and all the affections of that heart, he threw himself, body, soul, and spirit, into the very midst of his oppressed brethren. He "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God." And, moreover, he did this "by faith."

Let my reader ponder this deeply. We must not be satisfied with wishing well to, doing service for, or speaking kindly on behalf of, the people of God. We ought to be fully identified with them, no matter how despised or reproached they may be. It is, in a measure, an agreeable thing to a benevolent and generous spirit, to patronise Christianity; but it is a wholly different thing to be identified with Christians, or to suffer with Christ. A patron is one thing, a martyr is quite another. This distinction is apparent throughout the entire book of God. Obadiah took care of God's witnesses, but Elijah was a witness for God. Darius was so attached to Daniel that he lost a night's rest on his account, but Daniel spent that selfsame night in the lion's den, as a witness for the truth of God. Nicodemus ventured to speak a word for Christ, but a more matured discipleship would have led him to identify himself with Christ.

These considerations are eminently practical. The Lord Jesus does not want patronage; He wants fellowship. The truth concerning Him is declared to us, not that we might patronise His cause on earth, but have fellowship with His Person in heaven. He identified Himself with us, at the heavy cost of all that love could give. He might have avoided this. He might have continued to enjoy His eternal place "in the bosom of the Father." But how, then, could that mighty tide of love, which was pent up in His heart, flow down to us guilty and hell-deserving sinners? Between Him and us there could be no oneness, save on conditions which involved the surrender of everything on His part. But, blessed, throughout the everlasting ages, be His adorable Name, that surrender was voluntarily made. "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2: 14) He would not enjoy His glory alone. His loving heart would gratify itself by associating "many sons" with Him in that glory. "Father," He says, "I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with Me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John 17: 24) Such were the thoughts of Christ in reference to His people; and we can easily see how much in sympathy with these precious thoughts was the heart of Moses. He, unquestionably, partook largely of his Master's spirit; and he manifested that excellent spirit in freely sacrificing every personal consideration, and associating himself, unreservedly, with the people of God.

The personal character and actings of this honoured servant of God will come before us again in the next section of our book. We shall here briefly consider him as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. That he was a type of Him is evident from the following passage, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken." (Deut. 18: 15) We are not, therefore, trafficking in human imagination in viewing Moses as a type; it is the plain teaching of scripture, and, in the closing verses of Exodus 2. we see this type in a double way: first, in the matter of his rejection by Israel; and, secondly, in his union with a stranger in the land of Midian. These points have already been, in some measure, developed in the history of Joseph, who, being cast out by his brethren, according to the flesh, forms an alliance with an Egyptian bride. Here, as in the case of Moses, we see shadowed forth Christ's rejection by Israel, and His union with the Church, but in a different phase. In Joseph's case, we have the exhibition of positive enmity against his person. In Moses it is the rejection of his mission. In Joseph's case we read, "they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him." (Gen. 37: 4) In the case of Moses, the word is, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?" In short, the former was personally hated; the latter, officially refused.

So also in the mode in which the great mystery of the Church is exemplified, in the history of those two Old Testament saints. "Asenath" presents quite a different phase of the Church from that which we have in the person of "Zipporah." The former was united to Joseph in the time of his exaltation; the latter was the companion of Moses, in the obscurity of his desert life. (Comp. Gen. 41: 41-45 with Ex. 2: 15; 3: 1) True, both Joseph and Moses were, at the time of their union with a stranger, rejected by their brethren; yet the former was "governor over all the land of Egypt;" whereas the latter tended a few sheep at "the backside of the desert."

Whether, therefore, we contemplate Christ, as manifested in glory: or as hidden from the world's gaze, the Church is intimately associated with Him. And now, inasmuch as the world seeth Him not, neither can it take knowledge of that body which is wholly one with Him. "The world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." (2 John 3: 1) By and by, Christ will appear in His glory, and the Church with Him. "When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Col. 3: 4) And, again, "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved Me." (John 17: 22, 23)

[There are two distinct unities spoken of in John 17: 21, 23. The first is that unity which the Church was responsible to have maintained, but in which she has utterly failed. The second, that unity which God will infallibly accomplish, and which He will manifest in glory. If the reader will turn to the passage he will at once see the difference, both as to character and result, of the two.]

Such, then, is the Church's high and holy position. She is one with Him who is cast out by this world, but who occupies the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. The Lord Jesus made Himself responsible for her on the cross, in order that she might share with Him His present rejection and His future glory. Would that all who form a part of such a highly privileged body were more impressed with a sense of what becomes them as to course and character down here! Assuredly, there should be a fuller and clearer response on the part of all the children of God, to that love wherewith He has loved them, to that salvation wherewith He has saved them, and to that dignity wherewith He has invested them. The walk of the Christian should ever be the natural result of realised privilege, and not the constrained result of legal vows and resolutions, the proper fruit of a position known and enjoyed by faith, and not the fruit of one's own efforts to reach a position "by works of law." All true believers are a part of the bride of Christ. Hence they owe Him those affections which become that relation. The relationship is not obtained because of the affections, but the affections flow out of the relationship.

So let it be, O Lord, with all thy beloved and blood bought people.

 

Exodus 3

We shall now resume the personal history of Moses, and contemplate him during that deeply-interesting period of his career which he spent in retirement-a period including, as we should say, forty of his very best years — the prime of life. This is full of meaning. The Lord had graciously, wisely, and faithfully, led His dear servant apart from the eyes and thoughts of men, in order that He might train him under His own immediate hand. Moses needed this. True, he had spent forty years in the house of Pharaoh; and, while his sojourn there was not without its influence and value, yet was it as nothing when compared with his sojourn in the desert. The former might be valuable; but the latter was indispensable.

Nothing can possibly make up for the lack of secret communion with God, or the training and discipline of His school "All the wisdom of the Egyptians" would not have qualified Moses for his future path. He might have pursued a most brilliant course through the schools and colleges of Egypt. He might have come forth laden with literary honours — his intellect stored with learning, and his heart full of pride and self-sufficiency. He might have taken out his degree in the school of man, and yet have to learn his alphabet in the school of God. Mere human wisdom and learning; how valuable soever in themselves, can never constitute any one a servant of God, nor equip him for any department of divine service. Such things may qualify unrenewed nature to figure before the world; but the man whom God will use must be endowed with widely different qualifications — such qualifications as can alone be found in the deep and hallowed retirement of the Lord's presence.

All God's servants have been made to know and experience the truth of these statements. Moses at Horeb, Elijah at Cherith, Ezekiel at Chebar, Paul in Arabia, and John at Patmos, are all striking examples of the immense practical importance of being alone with God. and when we look at the Divine Servant, we find that the time He spent in private was nearly ten times as long as that which He spent in public. He, though perfect in understanding and in will, spent nearly thirty years in the obscurity of a carpenter's house at Nazareth, ere He made His appearance in public. And, even when He had entered upon His public career, how oft did He retreat from the gaze of men, to enjoy the sweet and sacred retirement of the divine presence!

Now we may feel disposed to ask, how could the urgent demand for workmen ever be met, if all need such protracted training, in secret, ere they come forth to their work? This is the Master's care — not ours. He can provide the workmen, and He can train them also. This is not man's work. God alone can provide and prepare a true minister. Nor is it a question with Him as to the length of time needful for the education of such an one. We know He could educate him in a moment, if it were His will to do so. One thing is evident, namely, that God has had all His servants very much alone with Himself, both before and after their entrance upon their public work; nor will any one ever get on without this. The absence of secret training and discipline will, necessarily leave us barren, superficial, and theoretic. A man who ventures forth upon a public career ere he has duly weighed himself in the balances of the sanctuary, or measured himself in the presence of God, is like a ship putting out to sea without proper ballast: he will doubtless overset with the first stiff breeze. On the contrary, there is a depth, a solidity, and a steadiness flowing from our having passed from form to form in the school of God, which are essential elements in the formation of the character of a true and effective servant of God.

Hence, therefore, when we find Moses, at the age of forty years, taken apart from all the dignity and splendour of a court, for the purpose of spending forty years in the obscurity of a desert, we are led to expect a remarkable course of service; nor are we disappointed. The man whom God educates, is educated, and none other. It lies not within the range of man to prepare an instrument for the service of God. The hand of man could never mould "a vessel meet for the Master's use." The One who is to use the vessel can alone prepare it; and we have before us a singularly beautiful sample of His mode of preparation.

"Now, Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb." (Ex. 3: 1) Here, then, we have a marvellous change of circumstances. In Genesis 46: 31, we read, "every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians;" and yet Moses, who was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," is transferred from the Egyptian court to the back of a mountain to tend a flock of sheep, and to be educated for the service of God. Assuredly, this is not "the manner of man." This is not nature's line of things. Flesh and blood could not understand this. We should have thought that Moses' education was finished when he had become master of all Egypt's wisdom, and that, moreover, in immediate connection with the rare advantages which a court life affords. We should have expected to find in one so highly favoured, not only a solid and varied education; but also such an exquisite polish as would fit him for any sphere of action to which he might be called. But then, to find such a man with such attainments, called away from such a position to mind sheep at the back of a mountain, is something entirely beyond the utmost stretch of human thought and feeling. It lays prostrate in the dust all man's pride and glory. It declares plainly that this world's appliances are of little value in the divine estimation; yea, they are as "dung and dross," not only in the eyes of the Lord, but also in the eyes of all those who have been taught in His school.

There is a very wide difference between human and divine education. The former has for its end the refinement and exaltation of nature; the latter begins with withering it up and setting it aside. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2: 14) Educate the "natural man" as much as you please, and you cannot make him a "spiritual man." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit:" (John 3: 6) If ever an educated "natural man" might look for success in the service of God, Moses might have counted upon it; he was "grown," he was "learned," he was "mighty in word and deed," and yet he had to learn something at "the backside of the desert," which Egypt's schools could never have taught him. Paul learnt more in Arabia than ever he had learnt at the feet of Gamaliel.* None can teach like God; and all who will learn of Him must be alone with Him. "In the desert God will teach thee." There it was that Moses learnt his sweetest, deepest, most influential and enduring lessons. Thither, too, must all repair who mean to be educated for the ministry.

{*Let not my reader suppose for a moment that the design of the above remarks is to detract from the value of really useful information, or the proper culture of the mental powers. By no means. If, for example, he is a parent, let him store his child's mind with useful knowledge; let him teach him everything which may, hereafter, turn to account in the Master's service: let him not burden him with ought which he would have to "lay aside in running his Christian course, nor conduct him, for educational purposes through a region from which it is well-nigh impossible to come forth with an unsoiled mind. You might just as well shut him up for ten years in a coal mine, in order to qualify him for discussing the properties of light and shade, as cause him to wade through the mire of a heathen mythology, in order to fit him for the interpretation of the oracles of God, or prepare him for leading the flock of Christ}

Beloved reader, may you prove, in your own deep experience, the real meaning of "the backside of the desert," that sacred spot where nature is laid in the dust, and God alone exalted. There it is that men and things — the world and self — present circumstances and their influence, are all valued at what they are really worth. There it is, and there alone, that you will find a divinely-adjusted balance in which to weigh all within and all around. There are no false colours, no borrowed plumes, no empty pretensions there. The enemy of your soul cannot gild the sand of that place. All is reality there. The heart that has found itself in the presence of God, at "the backside of the desert," has right thoughts about everything. It is raised far above the exciting influence of this world's schemes. The din and noise! the bustle and confusion of Egypt do not fall upon the ear in that distant place. The crash in the monetary and commercial world is not heard there. The sigh of ambition is not heaved there. This world's fading laurels do not tempt there. The thirst for gold is not felt there. The eye is never dimmed with lust, nor the heart swollen with pride there. Human applause does not elate, nor human censure depress there. In a word, everything is set aside save the stillness and light of the divine presence. God's voice alone is heard — His light enjoyed — His thoughts received. This is the place to which all must go to be educated for the ministry; and there all must remain, if they would succeed in the ministry.

Would that all who come forward to serve in public knew more of what it is to breathe the atmosphere of this place. We should, then, have far less vapid attempts at ministry, but far more effective Christ-honouring service.

Let us now enquire what Moses saw and what he heard at "the backside of the desert." We shall find him learning lessons which lay far beyond the reach of Egypt's most gifted masters. It might appear, in the eyes of human reason, a strange loss of time for a man like Moses to spend forty years doing nothing save to keep a few sheep in the wilderness. But he was there with God, and the time that is thus spent is never lost. It is salutary for us to remember that there is something more than mere doing necessary on the part of the true servant. A man who is always doing will be apt to do too much. Such an one would need to ponder over the deeply-practical words of the perfect Servant, "He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." (Isa. 1: 4) This is an indispensable part of the servant's business. The servant must frequently stand in his master's presence, in order that he may know what he has to do. The "ear" and the "tongue" are intimately connected, in more ways than one; but, in a spiritual or moral point of view, if my ear be closed and my tongue loose, I shall be sure to talk a great deal of folly. "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak." (James 1: 19) This seasonable admonition is based upon two facts, namely, that everything good comes from above, and that the heart is brim full of naughtiness, ready to flow over. Hence, the need of keeping the ear open and the tongue quiet rare and admirable attainments! -attainments in which Moses made great proficiency at "the backside of the desert," and which all can acquire, if only they are disposed to learn in that school.

"And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, And behold the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt." (Ex. 3: 2, 3) This was, truly, "a great sight" — a bush burning, yet not burnt. The palace of Pharaoh could never have afforded such a sight. But it was a gracious sight as well as a great sight, for therein was strikingly exhibited the condition of God's elect. They were in the furnace of Egypt; and Jehovah reveals Himself in a burning bush. But as the bush was not consumed, so neither were they, for God was there. "The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge." (Ps. 46) Here is strength and security — victory and peace. God with us, God in us, and God for us. This is ample provision for every exigence.

Nothing can be more interesting or instructive than the mode in which Jehovah was pleased to reveal Himself to Moses, as presented in the above quotation. He was about to furnish him with his commission to lead forth His people out of Egypt, that they might be His assembly — His dwelling-place, in the wilderness, and in the land of Canaan; and the place from which He speaks is a burning bush. Apt, solemn, and beautiful symbol of Jehovah dwelling in the midst of His elect and redeemed congregation! "Our God is a consuming fire," not to consume us, but to consume all in us and about us which is contrary to His holiness, and, as such, subversive of our true and permanent happiness. "Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for ever."

There are various instances, both in the Old and New Testaments, in which we find God displaying Himself as "a consuming fire." Look, for example, at the case of Nadab and Abihu, in Leviticus 10. This was a deeply solemn occasion. God was dwelling in the midst of His people, and He would keep them in a condition worthy of Himself. He could not do otherwise. It would neither be for His glory nor for their profit, were He to tolerate ought in them inconsistent with the purity of His presence. God's dwelling-place must be holy.

So, also, in Joshua 7 we have another striking proof, in the case of Achan, that Jehovah could not possibly sanction, by His presence, evil, in any shape or form, how covert soever that evil might be. He was "a Consuming fire," and, as such, He should act, in reference to any attempt to defile that assembly in the midst of which He dwelt. To seek to connect God's presence with evil unjudged, is the very highest character of wickedness.

Again, in Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira teach us the same solemn lesson. God the Holy Ghost was dwelling in the midst of the Church, not merely as an influence, but as a divine Person, in such a way as that one could lie to Him. The Church was, and is still, His dwelling place; and He must rule and judge in the midst thereof. Men may walk in company with deceit, covetousness, and hypocrisy; but God cannot. If God is going to walk with us, we must judge our ways, or we will judge them for us. (See also 1 Cor. 11: 29-32)

In all these cases, and many more which might be adduced, we see the force of that solemn word, "holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for ever." The moral effect of this will ever be similar to that produced in the case of Moses, as recorded in our chapter. "Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." (Verse 5) The place of God's presence is holy, and can only be trodden with unshod feet. God, dwelling in the midst of His people, imparts a character of holiness to their assembly, which is the basis of every holy affection and every holy activity. The character of the dwelling place takes its stamp from the character of the Occupant.

The application of this to the Church, which is now the habitation of God, through the Spirit, is of the very utmost practical importance. While it is blessedly true that God, by His Spirit, inhabits each individual member of the Church, thereby imparting a character of holiness to the individual; it is equally true that He dwells in the assembly; and, hence the assembly must be holy. The centre round which the members are gathered is nothing less than the Person of a living, victorious, and glorified Christ. The energy by which they are gathered is nothing less than God the Holy Ghost; and the Lord God Almighty dwells in them and walks in them. (See Matt. 18: 20; 1 Cor. 6: 19; 1 Cor. 3: 16, 17; Eph. 2: 21, 22) Such being the holy elevation belonging to God's dwelling-place, it is evident that nothing which is unholy, either in principle or practice, must be tolerated. Each one connected therewith should feel the weight and solemnity of that word, "the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." "If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy."(1 Cor. 3: 17) Most weighty words these, for every member of God's assembly — for every stone in His holy temple! May we all learn to tread Jehovah's courts, with unshod feet!

However, the visions of Horeb bear witness to the grace of the God of Israel as well as to His holiness. If God's holiness is infinite, His grace is infinite also; and, while the manner in which He revealed Himself to Moses, declared the former, the very fact of His revealing Himself at all evidenced the latter. He came down, because He was gracious; but when come down, He should reveal Himself as holy. "Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God." (Verse 6) The effect of the divine presence must ever be to make nature hide itself; and, when we stand before God, with unshod feet and covered head, i.e. in the attitude of soul which those acts so aptly and beautifully express, we are prepared to hearken to the sweet accents of grace. When man takes his suited place, God can speak, in the language of unmingled mercy.

"And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. . . . . Now, therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come up unto me; and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them." (Ver. 7-9) Here the absolute, free, unconditional grace of the God of Abraham, and the God of Abraham's seed, shines forth in all its native brightness, unhindered by the "ifs" and "buts," the vows, resolutions, and conditions of man's legal spirit. God had come down to display Himself, in sovereign grace, to do the whole work of salvation, to accomplish His promise made to Abraham, and repeated to Isaac and Jacob. He had not come down to see if, indeed, the subjects of His promise were in such a condition as to merit His salvation. It was sufficient for Him that they needed it. Their oppressed state, their sorrows, their tears, their sighs, their heavy bondage, had all come in review before Him; for, blessed be His name, He counts His people's sighs and puts their tears into His bottle. He was not attracted by their excellencies or their virtues. It was not on the ground of aught that was good in them, either seen or foreseen, that he was about to visit them, for He knew what was in them. In one word, we have the true ground of His gracious acting set before us in the words, "I am the God of Abraham," and "I have seen the affliction of my people."

These words reveal a great fundamental principle in the ways of God. It is on the ground of what He is, that He ever acts. "I AM," secures all for "MY PEOPLE." Assuredly He was not going to leave His people amid the brick-kilns of Egypt, and under the lash of Pharaoh's taskmasters. They were His people, and He mould act toward them in a manner worthy of Himself. To be His people — to be the favoured objects of Jehovah's electing love — the subjects of His unconditional promise, settled everything. Nothing should hinder the public display of His relationship with those for whom His eternal purpose had secured the land of Canaan. He had come down to deliver them; and the combined power of earth and hell could not hold them in captivity one hour beyond His appointed time. He might and did use Egypt as a school, and Pharaoh as a schoolmaster; but when the needed work was accomplished, both the school and the schoolmaster were set aside, and His people were brought forth with a high hand and an outstretched arm.

Such, then, was the double character of the revelation made to Moses at Mount Horeb. What he saw and what he heard combined the two elements of holiness and grace — elements which, as we know, enter into, and distinctly characterise, all the ways and all the relationships of the blessed God, and which should also mark the ways of all those who, in any wise, act for, or have fellowship with, Him. Every true servant is sent forth from the immediate presence of God, with all its holiness and all its grace; and he is called to be holy and gracious — he is called to be the reflection of the grace and holiness of the divine character; and, in order that he may be so, he should not only start from the immediate presence of God, at the first, but abide there, in spirit, habitually. This is the true secret of effectual service.

"Childlike, attend what thou wilt say

Go forth and do it, while 'tis day,

Yet never leave my sweet retreat."

The spiritual man alone can understand the meaning of the two things, "go forth and do," and, "yet never leave." In order to act for God outside, I should be with Him inside. I must be in the secret sanctuary of His presence, else I shall utterly fail.

Very many break down on this point. There is the greatest possible danger of getting out of the solemnity and calmness of the divine presence, amid the bustle of intercourse with men, and the excitement of active service. This is to be carefully guarded against. If we lose that hallowed tone of spirit which is expressed in "the unshod foot," our service will, very speedily, become vapid and unprofitable. If I allow my work to get between my heart and the Master, it will be little worth. We can only effectually serve Christ as we are enjoying Him. It is while the heart dwells upon His powerful attractions that the hands perform the most acceptable service to His name; nor is there any one who can minister Christ with unction, freshness, and power to others, if he be not feeding upon Christ, in the secret of his own soul. True, he may preach a sermon, deliver a lecture, utter prayers, write a book, and go through the entire routine of outward service, and yet not minister Christ. The man who will present Christ to others must be occupied with Christ for himself.

Happy is the man who ministers thus, whatever be the success or reception of his ministry. For should his ministry fail to attract attention, to command influence, or to produce apparent results, he has his sweet retreat and his unfailing portion in Christ, of which nothing can deprive him. Whereas, the man who is merely feeding upon the fruits of his ministry, who delights in the gratification which it affords, or the attention and interest which it commands, is like a mere pipe, conveying water to others, and retaining only rust itself. This is a most deplorable condition to be in; and yet is it the actual condition of every servant who is more occupied with his work and its results, than with the Master and His glory.

This is a matter which calls for the most rigid self-judgement. The heart is deceitful, and the enemy is crafty; and, hence there is great need to hearken to the word of exhortation, "be sober, be vigilant." It is when the soul is awakened to a sense of the varied and manifold dangers which beset the servant's path, that it is, in any measure, able to understand the need there is for being much alone with God: it is there one is secure and happy. It is when we begin, continue, and end our work at the Master's feet, that our service will be of the right kind.

From all that has been said, it must be evident to any reader that every servant of Christ will find the air of "the backside of the desert" most salutary. Horeb is really the starting post for all whom God sends forth to act for Him. It was at Horeb that Moses learnt to put off his shoes and hide his face. Forty years before he had gone to work; but his movement was premature. It was amid the flesh-subduing solitudes of the mount of God, and forth from the burning bush, that the divine commission fell on the servant's ear, "Come now, therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." (Ver. 10) Here was real authority. There is a vast difference between God sending a man, and a man running unsent. But it is very manifest that Moses was not ripe for service when first he set about acting. If forty years of secret training were needful for him, how could he have got on without it? Impossible! He had to be divinely educated, and divinely commissioned; and so must all who go forth upon a path of service and testimony for Christ. Oh! that these holy lessons may be deeply graven on all our hearts, that so our every work may wear upon it the stamp of the Master's authority, and the Masters approval.

However, we have something further to learn at the foot of Mount Horeb. The soul finds it seasonable to linger in this place. "It is good to be here." The presence of God is ever a deeply practical place; the heart is sure to be laid open there. The light that shines in that holy place makes everything manifest; and this is what is so much needed in the midst of the hollow pretension around us, and the pride and self complacency within.

We might be disposed to think that, the very moment the divine commission was given to Moses, his reply would be, "Here am I," or "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" But no; he had yet to be brought to this. Doubtless, he was affected by the remembrance of his former failure. If a man acts in anything without God, he is sure to be discouraged, even when God is sending him. "And Moses said unto God, Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Ver. 11) This is very unlike the man who, forty years before, "supposed that his brethren would have understood how that God, by his hand, would deliver them." Such is man! — at one time too hasty; at another time too slow. Moses had learnt a greet deal since the day in which he smote the Egyptian. He had grown in the knowledge of himself, and this produced diffidence and timidity. But, then, he manifestly lacked confidence in God. If I am merely looking at myself, I shall do "nothing;" but if I am looking at Christ, "I can do all things." Thus, when diffidence and timidity led Moses to say, "Who am I" God's answer was, "Certainly I will be with thee." (Ver. 12.) This ought to have been sufficient. If God be with me, it makes very little matter who I am, or what I am. When God says, "I will send thee," and "I will be with thee," the servant is amply furnished with divine authority and divine power; and he ought, therefore, to be perfectly satisfied to go forth.

But Moses puts another question; for the human heart is full of questions. "And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?" It is marvellous to see how the human heart reasons and questions, when unhesitating obedience is that which is due to God; and still more marvellous is the grace that bears with all the reasonings and answers all the questions. Each question seems but to elicit some new feature of divine grace.

"And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." (Ver. 14) The title which God here gives Himself is one of wondrous significancy. In tracing through Scripture the various names which God takes, we find them intimately connected with the varied need of those with whom He was in relation. "Jehovah-jireh," (the Lord will provide.) "Jehovah-nissi," (the Lord my banner.) "Jehovah-shalom," (the Lord send peace.) "Jehovah-tsidkenu," (the Lord our righteousness.) All these His gracious titles are unfolded to meet the necessities of His people; and when He calls Himself "I AM," it comprehends them all. Jehovah, in taking this title, was furnishing His people with a blank cheque, to be filled up to any amount. He calls Himself "I AM," and faith has but to write over against that ineffably precious name whatever me want. God is the only significant figure, and human need may add the ciphers. If we want life, Christ says, "I AM the life." If we want righteousness, He is "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." If we want peace, "He is our peace" If we want wisdom, sanctification, and redemption," He "is made" all these "unto us." In a word, we may travel through the wide range of human necessity, in order to have a just conception of the amazing depth and fullness of this profound and adorable name, "I AM."

What a mercy to be called to walk in companionship with One who bears such a name as this! We are in the wilderness, and there we have to meet with trial, sorrow, and difficulty; but, so long as we have the happy privilege of betaking ourselves, at all times, and under all circumstances, to One who reveals Himself in His manifold grace, in connection with our every necessity and weakness, we need not fear the wilderness: God was about to bring His people across the sandy desert, when He disclosed this precious and comprehensive name; and, although the believer now, as being endowed with the Spirit of adoption, can cry, "Abba Father," yet is he not deprived of the privilege of enjoying communion with God in each and every one of those manifestations which He has been pleased to make of Himself. For example, the title "God" reveals Him as acting in the solitariness of His own being, displaying His eternal power and Godhead in the works of creation. "The Lord God" is the title which He takes in connection with man. Then, as "the Almighty God," He rises before the view of His servant Abraham, in order to assure his heart in reference to the accomplishment of His promise touching the seed. As Jehovah, He made Himself known to Israel, in delivering them out of the land of Egypt, and bringing them into the land of Canaan.

Such were the various measures and various modes in which "God spake in times past unto the fathers, by the prophets:" (Heb. 1: 1) and the believer, under this dispensation or economy, as possessing the spirit of sonship, can say, "It was my Father who thus revealed himself — thus spoke — thus acted."

Nothing can be more interesting or practically important in its way than to follow out those great dispensational titles of God. These titles are always used in strict moral consistency with the circumstances under which they are disclosed; but there is, in the name "I AM," a height, a depth, a length, a breadth, which truly pass beyond the utmost stretch of human conception.

"When God would teach mankind His name,

He calls Himself the great "I AM,"

And leaves a blank — believers may

Supply those things for which they pray."

And, be it observed, it is only in connection with His own people that He takes this name. He did not address Pharaoh in this name. When speaking to him, He calls Himself by that commanding and majestic title, "The Lord God of the Hebrews;" i.e., God, in connection with the very people whom he was seeking to crush. This ought to have been sufficient to show Pharaoh his awful position with respect to God. "I AM" would have conveyed no intelligible sound to an uncircumcised ear — no divine reality to an unbelieving heart. When God manifest in the flesh declared to the unbelieving Jews of His day those words, "before Abraham was, I am," they took up stones to cast at Him. It is only the true believer who can feel, in any measure, the power, or enjoy the sweetness of that ineffable name, "I AM." Such an one can rejoice to hear from the lips of the blessed Lord Jesus such declarations as these: — "I am that bread of life," "I am the light of the world," "I am the good shepherd,'' "I am the resurrection and the life," "I am the way, the truth, and the life," "I am the true vine," "I am alpha and Omega, "I am the bright and morning star." In a word, he can take every name of divine excellence and beauty, and, having placed it after "I AM," find JESUS therein, and admire, adore, and worship.

Thus, there is a sweetness, as well as a comprehensiveness, in the name "I AM," which is beyond all power of expression. Each believer can find therein that which exactly suits his own spiritual need, whatever it be. There is not a single winding in all the Christian's wilderness journey, not a single phase of his soul's experience, not a single point in his condition which is not divinely met by this title, for the simplest of all reasons, that whatever he wants, he has but to place it, by faith, over against " I AM" and find it all in Jesus. To the believer, therefore, however feeble and faltering, there is unmingled blessedness in this name.

But, although it was to the elect of God that Moses was commanded to say, "I AM hath sent me unto you," yet is there deep solemnity and reality in that name, when looked at with reference to the unbeliever. If one who is yet in his sins contemplates, for a moment, this amazing title, he cannot, surely, avoid asking himself the question, "How do I stand as to this Being who calls Himself, "I AM THAT I AM.' If, indeed, it be true that HE Is, then what is He to me? What am I to write over against this solemn name, "I AM" I shall not rob this question of its characteristic weight and power by any words of my own; but I pray that God the Holy Ghost may make it searching to the conscience of any reader who really needs to be searched thereby.

I cannot close this section without calling the attention of the Christian reader to the deeply-interesting declaration contained in the 15th verse: "And God said, moreover, unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial to all generations." This statement contains a very important truth — a truth which many professing Christians seem to forget, namely, that God's relationship with Israel is an eternal one. He is just as much Israel's God now, as when He visited them in the land of Egypt. Moreover, He is just as Positively dealing with them now as then, only in a different way. His word is clear and emphatic: "This is my name for ever." He does not say, 'This is my name for a time, so long as they continue what they ought to be." No; "this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." Let my reader ponder this. "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew." (Rom. 11: 2) They are His people still, whether obedient or disobedient, united together, or scattered abroad; manifested to the nations, or hidden from their view. They are His people, and He is their God. Exodus 3: 15 is unanswerable. The professing church has no warrant whatever, for ignoring a relationship which God says is to endure " for ever." Let us beware how we tamper with this weighty word, "for ever." If we say it does not mean for ever, when applied to Israel, what proof have we that it means for ever when applied to us? God means what He says; and He will, ere long, make manifest to all the nations of the earth, that His connection with Israel is one which shall outlive all the revolutions of time. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." When He said, "this is my name for ever," He spoke absolutely. " I AM" declared Himself to be Israel's God for ever; and all the Gentiles shall be made to understand and bow to this; and to know, moreover, that all God's providential dealings with them, and all their destinies, are connected, in some way or other, with that favoured and honoured, though now judged and scattered, people. "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when be separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people, according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people. Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." (Deut. 32: 8, 9)

Has this ceased to be true? Has Jehovah given up His " portion," and surrendered "the lot of His inheritance?" Does His eye of tender love no longer rest on Israel's scattered tribes, long lost to man's vision are the walls of Jerusalem no longer before Him! or has her dust ceased to be precious in His sight? To reply to these inquiries would be to quote a large portion of the Old Testament, and not a little of the New but this would not be the place to enter elaborately upon such a subject. I would only say, in closing this section, let not Christendom " be ignorant of this mystery, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved." (Rom. 11: 25, 26)

 

Exodus 4

We are still called to linger at the foot of Mount Horeb, at "the backside of the desert;" and, truly, the air of this place is most healthful for the spiritual constitution. Man's unbelief and God's boundless grace are here made manifest in a striking way.

"And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee." How hard it is to overcome the unbelief of the human heart! How difficult man ever finds it to trust God! How slow he is to venture forth upon the naked promise of Jehovah. Anything, for nature, but that. The most slender reed that the human eye can see is counted more substantial, by far, as a basis for nature's confidence, than the unseen "Rock of ages." Nature will rush, with avidity, to any creature stream or broken cistern, rather than abide by the unseen "Fountain of living waters.

"We might suppose that Moses had seen and heard enough to set his fears entirely aside. The consuming fire in the unconsumed bush, the condescending grace, the precious, endearing, and comprehensive titles, the divine commission, the assurance of the divine presence, — all these things might have quelled every anxious thought, and imparted a settled assurance to the heart. Still, however, Moses raises questions, and still God answers them; and, as we have remarked, each successive question brings out fresh grace. "And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod." The Lord would just take him as he was, and use what he had in his hand. The rod with which he had tended Jethro's sheep was about to be used to deliver the Israel of God, to chastise the land of Egypt, to make a way through the deep, for the ransomed of the Lord to pass over, and to bring forth water from the flinty rock to refresh Israel's thirsty hosts in the desert. God takes up the weakest instruments to accomplish His mightiest ends. "A rod," "a ram's horn," "a cake of barley meal," "an earthern pitcher," "a shepherds sling," anything, in short, when used of God, will do the appointed work. Men imagine that splendid ends can only be reached by splendid means; but such is not God's way. He can use a crawling worm as well as a scorching sun, a gourd as well as a vehement east wind. (See Jonah.)

But Moses had to learn a deep lesson, both as to the rod and the hand that was to use it. and the people had to be convinced. Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee." This is a deeply significant sign. The rod became a serpent, so that Moses fled from it; but, being commissioned by Jehovah, he took the serpent by the tail, and it became a rod. Nothing could more aptly express the idea of Satan's power being turned against himself. This is largely exemplified in the ways of God. Moses himself was a striking example. The serpent is entirely under the hand of Christ; and when he has reached the highest point in his mad career, he shall be hurled into the lake of fire, there to reap the fruits of his work throughout eternity's countless ages. "That old serpent, the accuser, and the adversary," shall be eternally crushed beneath the rod of God's Anointed.

"Then the end — beneath His rod,

Man's last enemy shall fall;

Hallelujah! Christ in God,

God in Christ, is all in all."

"And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again, and plucked it out of his bosom; and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh." The leprous hand and the cleansing thereof present to us the moral effect of sin, as also the way in which sin has been met in the perfect work of Christ. The clean hand, placed in the bosom, becomes leprous; and the leprous hand placed there becomes clean. Leprosy is the well-known type of sin; and sin came in by the first man and was put sway by the second. "By man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Cor. 15: 21) Man brought in ruin, man brought in redemption; man brought in guilt, man brought in pardon; man brought in sin, man brought in righteousness; man filled the scene with death, man abolished death and filled the scene with life, righteousness, and glory. Thus, not only shall the serpent himself be eternally defeated and confounded, but every trace of his abominable work shall be eradicated and wiped away by the atoning sacrifice of Him who "was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil."

"And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land; and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land." This was a solemn and most expressive figure of the consequence of refusing to bow to the divine testimony. This sign was only to be wrought in the event of their refusing the other two. It was, first, to be a sign to Israel, and afterwards a plague upon Egypt. (Comp. Ex. 7: 17)

All this, however, fails to satisfy the heart of Moses. "And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue." Terrible backwardness! Nought save Jehovah's infinite patience could have endured it. Surely when God Himself had said, "I will be with thee," it was an infallible security. in reference to everything which could possibly be needed. If an eloquent tongue were necessary, what had Moses to do but to set it over against "I AM?" Eloquence, wisdom, might, energy, everything was contained in that exhaustless treasury. "And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now, therefore, go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say." Profound, adorable, matchless grace! worthy of God! There is none like unto the Lord our God, whose patient grace surmounts all our difficulties, and proves itself amply sufficient for our manifold need and weakness. "I THE LORD" Ought to silence for ever the reasonings of our carnal hearts. But, alas! these reasonings are hard to be put down. Again and again they rise to the surface, to the disturbance of our peace, and the dishonour of that blessed One, who sets Himself before our souls, in all His own essential fullness, to be used according to our need.

It is well to bear in mind that when we have the Lord with us, our very deficiencies and infirmities become an occasion for the display of His all-sufficient grace and perfect patience. Had Moses remembered this, his want of eloquence need not have troubled him. The Apostle Paul learnt to say, "most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak then am I strong." (2 Cor. 12: 9, 10) This is, assuredly, the utterance of one who had reached an advanced form in the school of Christ. It is the experience of one who would not have been much troubled because of not possessing an eloquent tongue, inasmuch as he had found an answer to every description of need in the precious grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The knowledge of this truth ought to have delivered Moses from his diffidence and inordinate timidity. When the Lord had so graciously assured him that He would be with his mouth, it should have set his mind at rest as to the question of eloquence. The Maker of man's mouth could fill that mouth with the most commanding eloquence, if such were needed. This, in the judgement of faith, is most simple; but, alas! the poor doubting heart would place far more confidence in an eloquent tongue than in the One who created it. This would seem most unaccountable, did we not know the materials of which the natural heart is composed. That heart cannot trust God; and hence it is that even the people of God, when they suffer themselves to be, in any measure, governed by nature; exhibit such a humiliating lack of confidence in the living God. Thus, in the scene before us, we find Moses still demurring. "And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send." This was, in reality, casting from him the high honour of being Jehovah's sole messenger to Egypt and to Israel.

It were needless to say that divinely-wrought humility is an inestimable grace. To "be clothed with humility" is a divine precept; and humility is, unquestionably, the most becoming dress in which a worthless sinner can appear. But, it cannot be called humility to refuse to take the place which God assigns, or to tread the path which His hand marks out for us. That it was not true humility in Moses is obvious from the fact that "the anger of the Lord was kindled against him." So far from its being humility, it had actually passed the limit of mere weakness. So long as it wore the aspect of an excessive timidity, however reprehensible, God's boundless grace bore with it, and met it with renewed assurances; but when it assumed the character of unbelief and slowness of heart, it drew down Jehovah's just displeasure; and Moses, instead of being the sole, is made a joint, instrument in the work of testimony and deliverance.

Nothing is more dishonouring to God or more dangerous for us than a mock humility. When we refuse to occupy a position which the grace of God assigns us, because of our not possessing certain virtues and qualifications, this is not humility, inasmuch as if we could but satisfy our own consciences in reference to such virtues and qualifications, We should then deem ourselves entitled to assume the position. If, for instance, Moses had possessed such a measure of eloquence as he deemed needful, we may suppose he would have been ready to go. Now the question is, how much eloquence would he have needed, to furnish him for his mission? The answer is, without God no amount of human eloquence would have availed; but, with God, the merest stammerer would have proved an efficient minister.

This is a real practical truth. Unbelief is not humility, but thorough pride. It refuses to believe God because it does not find, in self, a reason for believing. This is the very height of presumption. If, when God speaks, I refuse to believe, on the ground of something in myself, I make Him a liar. (1 John 5: 10) When God declares His love, and I refuse to believe because I do not deem myself a sufficiently worthy object, I make Him a liar and exhibit the inherent pride of my heart. The bare supposition that I could ever be worthy of ought save the lowest pit of hell, can only be regarded as the most profound ignorance of my own condition and of God's requirements. And the refusal to take the place which the redeeming love of God assigns me, on the ground of the finished atonement of Christ, is to make God a liar, and cast gross dishonour upon the sacrifice of the cross. God's love flows forth spontaneously. It is not drawn forth by my deserts, but by my misery. Nor is it a question as to the place which I deserve, but which Christ deserves. Christ took the sinner's place, on the cross, that the sinner might take His place in the glory. Christ got what the sinner deserved, that the sinner might get what Christ deserves. Thus, self is totally set aside, and this is true humility. No one can be truly humble until he has reached heaven's side of the cross; but there he finds divine life, divine righteousness, and divine favour. He is done with himself for ever, as regards any expectation of goodness or righteousness, and he feeds upon the princely wealth of another. He is morally prepared to join in that cry which shall echo through the spacious vault of heaven, throughout the everlasting ages, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory." (Ps. 115: 1)

It would ill become us to dwell upon the mistakes or infirmities of so honoured a Servant as Moses, of whom we read that he "was verily faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after." (Heb. 3: 5) But, though we should not dwell upon them, in a spirit of self-complacency, as if we would have acted differently, in his circumstances, we should, nevertheless, learn from such things those holy and seasonable lessons which they are manifestly designed to teach. We should learn to judge ourselves and to place more implicit confidence in God — to set self aside, that He might act in us, through us, and for us. This is the true secret of power.

We have remarked that Moses forfeited the dignity of being Jehovah's sole instrument in that glorious work which He was about to accomplish. But this was not all. "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses; and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well: and, also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs." (Ex. 4: 14-17) This passage contains a mine of most precious practical instruction. We have noted the timidity and hesitation of Moses, notwithstanding the varied promises and assurances with which divine grace had furnished him. And, nom, although there was nothing gained in the way of real power, although there was no more virtue or efficacy in one mouth than in another, although it was Moses after all who was to speak unto Aaron; yet was Moses quite ready to go when assured of the presence and co-operation of a poor feeble mortal like himself; whereas he could not go when assured, again and again, that Jehovah would be with him.

Oh! my reader, does not all this hold up before us a faithful mirror in which you and I can see our hearts reflected? Truly it does. We are more ready to trust anything than the living God. We move along, with bold decision, when we possess the countenance and support of a poor frail mortal like ourselves; but we falter, hesitate, and demur, when we have the light of the Master's countenance to cheer us, and the strength of His omnipotent arm to support us. This should humble us deeply before the Lord, and lead us to seek a fuller acquaintance with Him, so that we might trust Him with a more unmixed confidence, and walk on with a firmer step, as having Him alone for our resource and portion.

No doubt, the fellowship of a brother is most valuable — "Two are better than one" — whether in labour, rest, or conflict. The Lord Jesus, in sending forth His disciples, "sent them two by two," — for unity is ever better than isolation — still, if our personal acquaintance with God, and our experience of His presence, be not such as to enable us, if needful, to walk alone, we shall find the presence of a brother of very little use. It is not a little remarkable, that Aaron, whose companionship seemed to satisfy Moses, was the man who afterwards made the golden calf. (Ex. 32: 21) Thus it frequently happens, that the very person whose presence we deem essential to our progress and success, afterwards proves a source of deepest sorrow to our hearts. May we ever remember this!

However, Moses, at length, consents to go; but ere he is fully equipped for his work, he must pass through another deep exercise; yea, he must have the sentence of death inscribed by the hand of God upon his very nature. He had learnt deep lessons at "the backside of the desert;" he is called to learn something deeper still, "by the way in the inn." It is no light matter to be the Lord's servant. No ordinary education will qualify a man for such a position. Nature must be put in the place of death and kept there. " We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead. (2 Cor. 1: 9) Every successful servant will need to know something of this. Moses was called to enter into it, in his own experience, ere he was morally qualified. He was about to sound in the ears of Pharaoh the following deeply-solemn message, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn." Such was to be his message to Pharaoh; a message of death, a message of judgement; and, at the same time, his message to Israel was a message of life and salvation. But, be it remembered, that the man who will speak, on God's behalf, of death and judgement, life and salvation, must, ere he does so, enter into the practical power of these things in his own soul. Thus it was with Moses. We have seen him, at the very outset, in the place of death, typically; but this was a different thing from entering into the experience of death in his own person. Hence we read, "And it came to pass, by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision." This passage lets us into a deep secret, in the personal and domestic history of Moses. It is very evident that Zipporah's heart had, up to this point, shrunk from the application of the knife to that around which the affections of nature were entwined. She had avoided that mark which had to be set in the flesh of every member of the Israel of God. She was not aware that her relationship with Moses was one involving death to nature. She recoiled from the cross. This was natural. But Moses had yielded to her in the matter; and this explains to us the mysterious scene "in the inn." If Zipporah refuses to circumcise her son, Jehovah will lay His hand upon her husband; and if Moses spares the feelings of his wife, Jehovah will "seek to kill him." The sentence of death must be written on nature; and if we seek to avoid it in one way, we shall have to encounter it in another.

It has been already remarked, that Zipporah furnishes an instructive and interesting type of the Church. She was united to Moses, during the period of his rejection; and from the passage just quoted, we learn that the Church is called to know Christ, as the One related to her "by blood." It is her privilege to drink of his cup, and be baptised with His baptism. Being crucified with Him, she is to be conformed to His death; to mortify her members which are on the earth; to take up the cross daily, and follow Him. Her relationship with Christ is founded upon blood, and the manifestation of the power of that relationship will, necessarily, involve death to nature. "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, mho hath raised him from the dead." (Col. 2: 10-12)

Such is the doctrine as to the Church's place with Christ — a doctrine replete with the richest privileges for the Church, and each member thereof. Everything, in short, is involved: the perfect remission of sin, divine righteousness, complete acceptance, everlasting security, full fellowship with Christ in all His glory. "Ye are complete in him." This, surely, comprehends everything. What could be added to one who is "complete" Could "philosophy, "the tradition of men," "the rudiments of the world," "meats, drinks, holy days, new moons," "Sabbaths" "Touch not" this, "taste not that, "handle not" the other, "the commandments and doctrines of men," "days and months, and times, and years," could any of these things, or all of them put together, add a single jot or tittle to one whom God has pronounced "complete?" We might just as well enquire, if man could have gone forth upon the fair creation of God, at the close of the six days' work, to give the finishing touch to that which God had pronounced "very good?"

Nor is this completeness to be, by any means, viewed as a matter of attainment, some point which we have not yet reached, but after which we must: diligently strive, and of the possession of which we cannot be sure until we lie upon a bed of death, or stand before a throne of judgement. It is the portion of the feeblest, the most inexperienced, the most unlettered child of God. The very weakest saint is included in the apostolic "ye." All the people of God "are complete in Christ." The apostle does not say, "ye will be," "ye may be," "hope that ye may be," "pray that ye may be:" no; he, by the Holy Ghost, states, in the most absolute and unqualified manner, that "ye are complete." This is the true Christian starting-post: and for man to make a goal of what God makes a starting-post, is to upset everything.

But, then, some will say, "have we no sin, no failure, no imperfection?" Assuredly we have. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1: 8) We have sin in us, but no sin on us. Moreover, our standing is not in self, but in Christ. It is "in him" we "are complete." God says the believer in Christ, with Christ, and as Christ. This is his changeless condition, his everlasting standing. "The body of the sins of the flesh" is "put off by the circumcision of Christ." The believer is not in the flesh, though the flesh is in him. He is united to Christ in the power of a new and an endless life, and that life is inseparably connected with divine righteousness in which the believer stands before God. The Lord Jesus has put away everything that was against the believer, and He has brought him nigh to God, in the self-same favour as that which He Himself enjoys. In a word, Christ is his righteousness. This settles every question, answers every objection, silences every doubt. "Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one." (Heb. 2: 11)

The foregoing line of truth has flowed out of the deeply-interesting type presented to us in the relationship between Moses and Zipporah. We must, now, hasten to close this section, and take our leave, for the present, of "the backside of the desert," though not of its deep lessons and holy impressions, so essential to every servant of Christ, and every messenger of the living God. All who would serve effectually, either in the important work of evangelization, or in the varied ministries of the house of God — which is the Church — will need to imbibe the precious instructions which Moses received at the foot of Mount Horeb, and "by the way in the inn."

Were these things properly attended to, we should not have so many running unsent — so many rushing into spheres of ministry for which they were never designed. Let each one who stands up to preach, or teach, or exhort, or serve in any way, seriously enquire if, indeed, he be fitted, and taught, and sent of God. If not, his work will neither be owned of God nor blessed to men, and the sooner he ceases, the better for himself and for those upon whom he has been imposing the heavy burden of hearkening to him. Neither a humanly-appointed, nor a self-appointed ministry, will ever suit within the hallowed precincts of the Church of God. All must be divinely gifted, divinely taught, and divinely sent.

"And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him." This was a fair and beauteous scene — a scene of sweet brotherly love and union — a scene which stands in marked contrast with many of those scenes which were afterwards enacted in the wilderness-career of these two men. Forty years of wilderness life are sure to make great changes in men and things. Yet it is sweet to dwell upon those early days of one's Christian course, before the stern realities of desert life had, in any measure, checked the gush of warm and generous affections — before deceit, and corruption, and hypocrisy had well-nigh dried up the springs of the heart's confidence, and placed the whole moral being beneath the chilling influences of a suspicious disposition.

That such results have been produced, in many cases, by years of experience, is, alas! too true. Happy is he who, though his eyes have been opened to see nature in a clearer light than that which this world supplies, can, nevertheless, Serve his generation by the energy of that grace which flows forth from the bosom of God. Who ever knew the depths and windings of the human heart as Jesus knew them? "He knew all, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." (John 2: 24, 25) So well did He know man that He could not commit Himself unto him. He could not accredit man's professions, or endorse his pretensions. And yet, who so gracious as He? Who so loving, so tender, so compassionate, so sympathising?  With a heart that understood all, He could feel for all. He did not suffer His perfect knowledge of human worthlessness to keep Him aloof from human need. "He went about doing good." Why? Was it because He imagined that all those who flocked around Him were real? No; but because God was with him." (Acts 10: 38) This is our example. Let us follow it, though, in doing so, we shall have to trample on self and all its interests, at every step of the way.

Who would desire that wisdom, that knowledge of nature, that experience, which only lead men to ensconce themselves within the enclosures of a hard-hearted selfishness, from which they look forth with an eye of dark suspicion upon everybody? Surely such a result could never follow from ought of a heavenly or excellent nature. God gives wisdom; but it is not a wisdom which locks the heart against all the appeals of human need and misery. He gives a knowledge of nature; but it is not a knowledge which causes us to grasp with a selfish eagerness that which we, falsely, call " our own." He gives experience; but it is not an experience which results in suspecting everybody except myself. If I am walking in the footprints of Jesus, if I am imbibing, and therefore manifesting, His excellent spirit, if, in short, I can say, "to me to live is Christ;" then, would I walk through the world, with a knowledge of what the world is; while I come in contact with man, with a knowledge of what I am to expect from him; I am able, through grace, to manifest Christ in the midst of it all. The springs which move me, and the objects which animate me, are all above, where He is, who if "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Heb. 13: 8) It was this which sustained the heart of that beloved and honoured servant, whose history, even so far, has furnished us with such deep and solid instruction. It was this which carried him through the trying and varied scenes of his wilderness course. And we may safely assert that, at the close of all, notwithstanding the trial and exercise of forty years, Moses could embrace his brother, when he stood on Mount Hor, with the same warmth as he had when first he met him, "in the mount of God." True, the two occasions were very different. At "the mount of God" they met, and embraced, and started together on their divinely-appointed mission. Upon "Mount Hor" they met by the commandment of Jehovah, in order that Moses might strip his brother of his priestly robes, and see him gathered to his fathers, because of an error in which he himself had participated. (How solemn! How touching!) Circumstances vary: men may turn away from one; but with God "is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1: 17)

"And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel; and Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped." (Ver. 29-31) When God works, every barrier must give way. Moses had said, "the people will not believe me." But the question was not, as to whether they would believe him, but whether they would believe God. When a man is enabled to view himself simply as the messenger of God. he may feel quite at ease as to the reception of his message. It does not detract, in the smallest degree, from his tender and affectionate solicitude, in reference to those whom he addresses. Quite the contrary; but it preserves him from that inordinate anxiety of spirit which can only tend to unfit him for calm, elevated, steady testimony. The messenger of God should ever remember whose message he bears. When Zacharias said to the angel, "Whereby shall I know this?" was the latter perturbed by the question? Not in the least. His calm, dignified reply was, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee: these glad tidings." (Luke 1: 18, 19) The angel rises before the doubting mortal, with a keen and exquisite sense of the dignity of his message. It is as if he would say, "How can you doubt, when a messenger has actually been dispatched from the very Presence-chamber of the Majesty of heaven?" Thus should every messenger of God, in his measure, go forth, and, in this spirit, deliver his message.

 

Exodus 5 & 6

The effect of the first appeal to Pharaoh seemed ought but encouraging. The thought of losing Israel made him clutch them with greater eagerness and watch them with greater vigilance. Whenever Satan's power becomes narrowed to a point, his rage increases. Thus it is here. The furnace is about to be quenched by the hand of redeeming love; but, ere it is, it blazes forth with greater fierceness and intensity. The devil does not like to let go any one whom he has had in his terrible grasp. He is "a strong man armed," and while he "keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace." But, blessed be God, there is "a stronger than he," who has taken from him "his armour wherein he trusted," and divided the spoils among the favoured objects of His everlasting love.

"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." (Ex. 5: 3) Such was Jehovah's message to Pharaoh. He claimed full deliverance for the people, on the ground of their being His; and, in order that they might hold a feast to Him in the wilderness. Nothing can ever satisfy God in reference to His elect, but their entire emancipation from the yoke of bondage. "Loose him, and let him go" is, really, the grand motto in God's gracious dealings with those who, though held in bondage by Satan, are, nevertheless, the objects of His eternal love.

When we contemplate Israel amid the brick-kilns of Egypt, we behold a graphic figure of the condition of every child of Adam by nature. There they were, crushed beneath the enemy's galling yoke, and having no power to deliver themselves. The mere mention of the word liberty only caused the oppressor to bind his captives with a stronger fetter, and to lade them with a still more grievous burden. It was absolutely necessary that deliverance should come from without. But from whence has it to come? Where were the resources to pay their ransom? or where was the power to break their chains? And, even were there both the one and the other, where was the will? Who would take the trouble of delivering them? Alas! there was no hope, either within or around. They had only to look up, their refuge was in God. He had both the power and the will. He could accomplish a redemption both by price and by power. In Jehovah, and in Him alone, was there salvation for ruined and oppressed Israel.

Thus is it in every case. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4: 12) The sinner is in the hands of one who rules him with despotic power. He is "sold under sin" "led captive by Satan at his will" — fast bound in the fetters of lust, passion, and temper, "without strength" — "without hope" — "without God." Such is the sinner's condition. How, then, can he help himself? What can he do? He is the slave of another, and everything he does is done in the capacity of a slave. His thoughts, his words, his acts, are the thoughts, words, and acts of a slave. Yea, though he should weep and sigh for emancipation, his very tears and sighs are the melancholy proofs of his slavery. He may struggle for freedom; but his very struggle, though it evinces a desire for liberty, is the positive declaration of his bondage.

Nor is it merely a question of the sinner's condition; his very nature is radically corrupt — wholly under the power of Satan. Hence, he not only needs to be introduced into a new condition, but also to be endowed with a new nature. The nature and the condition go together. If it were possible for the sinner to better his condition, what would it avail so long as his nature was irrecoverably bad? A nobleman might take a beggar off the streets and adopt him; he might endow him with a noble's wealth and set him in a noble's position; but he could not impart to him nobility of nature; and thus the nature of a beggarman would never be at home in the condition of a nobleman. There must be a nature to suit the condition; and there must be a condition to suit the capacity, the desires, the affections, and the tendencies of the nature.

Now, in the gospel of the grace of God, we are taught that the believer is introduced into an entirely new condition; that he is no longer viewed as in his former state of guilt and condemnation, but as in a state of perfect and everlasting justification; that the condition in which God now sees him is not only one of full pardon; but it is such that infinite holiness cannot find so much as a single stain. He has been taken out of his former condition of guilt, and placed absolutely and eternally in a new condition of unspotted righteousness. It is not, by any means, that his old condition is improved. This was utterly impossible. "That which is crooked cannot be made straight." "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" Nothing can be more opposed to the fundamental truth of the gospel than the theory of a gradual improvement in the sinner's condition. He is born in a certain condition, and until he is "born again" he cannot be in any other. We may try to improve. He may resolve to be better for the future turn over a new leaf" — to live a different sort of life; but, all the while, he has not moved a single hair's breadth out of his real condition as a sinner. He may become "religious" as it is called, he may try to pray, he may diligently attend to ordinances, and exhibit an appearance of moral reform; but none of these things can, in the smallest degree, affect his positive condition before God.

The case is precisely similar as to the question of nature. How can a man alter his nature? He may make it undergo a process, he may try to subdue it, to place it under discipline; but it is nature still. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." There must be a new nature as well as a new condition. And how is this to be had? By believing God's testimony concerning His Son. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1: 12, 13) Here we learn that those who believe on the name of the only-begotten Son of God, have the right or privilege of being sons of God. They are made partakers of a new nature. They have gotten eternal life. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." (John 3: 36) "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. " (John 5: 24) "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17.3) "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." "He that hath the Son hath life." (1 John 5: 11, 12)

Such is the plain doctrine of the Word in reference to the momentous questions of condition and nature. But on what is all this founded How is the believer introduced into a condition of divine righteousness and made partaker of the divine nature? It all rests on the great truth that "JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN." That Blessed One left the bosom of eternal love — the throne of glory — the mansions of unfading light came down into this world of guilt and woe — took upon Him the likeness of sinful flesh; and, having perfectly exhibited and perfectly glorified God, in all the movements of His blessed life here below, He died upon the cross, under the full weight of His people's transgressions. By so doing, He divinely met all that was, or could be, against us. He magnified the law and made it honourable; and, having done so, He became a curse by hanging on the tree. Every claim was met, every enemy silenced, every obstacle removed. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Infinite justice was satisfied, and infinite love can flow, in all its soothing and refreshing virtues, into the broken heart of the sinner; while, at the same time, the cleansing and atoning stream that flowed from the pierced side of a crucified Christ, perfectly meets all the cravings of a guilty and convicted conscience. The Lord Jesus, on the cross, stood in our place. He was our representative. He died, "the just for the unjust." "He was made sin for us." (2 Cor. 5: 21; 2 Peter 3: 18) He died the sinner's death, was buried, and rose again, having accomplished all. Hence, there is absolutely nothing against the believer. He is linked with Christ and stands in the same condition of righteousness. "As he is so are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17)

This gives settled peace to the conscience. If I am no longer in a condition of guilt, but in a condition of justification; if God only sees me in Christ and as Christ, then, clearly, my portion is perfect peace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5: 1) The blood of the Lamb has cancelled all the believer's guilt, blotted out his heavy debt, and given him a perfectly blank page, in the presence of that holiness which "cannot look upon sin."

But the believer has not merely found peace with God; he is made a child of God, so that he can taste the sweetness of communion with the Father and the Son, through the power of the Holy Ghost. The cross is to be viewed in two ways: first, as satisfying God's claims; secondly, as expressing God's affections. If I look at my sins in connection with the claims of God as a Judge, I find, in the cross, a perfect settlement of those claims. God, as a Judge, has been divinely satisfied — yea, glorified, in the cross. But there is more than this. God had affections as well as claims; and, in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, all those affections are sweetly and touchingly told out into the sinner's ear; while, at the same time, he is made the partaker of a new nature which is capable of enjoying those affections and of having fellowship with the heart from which they flow. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3: 18) Thus we are not only brought into a condition, but unto a Person, even God Himself, and we are endowed with a nature which can delight in Him.  We also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." (Rom. 5: 11)

What force and beauty, therefore, can we see in those emancipating words, "Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness." "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." (Luke 4: 18) The glad tidings of the gospel announce full deliverance from every yoke of bondage. Peace and liberty are the boons which that gospel bestows on all who believe it, as God has declared it.

And mark, it is "that they may hold a feast to me." If they were to get done with Pharaoh, it was that they might begin with God. This was a great change. Instead of toiling under Pharaoh's taskmasters, they were to feast in company with Jehovah; and, although they were to pass from Egypt into the wilderness, still the divine presence was to accompany them; and if the wilderness was rough and dreary, it was the way to the land of Canaan. The divine purpose was, that they should hold a feast unto the Lord, in the wilderness; and, in order to do this, they should be "let go" out of Egypt.

However, Pharaoh was in no wise disposed to yield obedience to the divine mandate. "Who is the Lord," said he, "that I should obey his voice to let Israel go. I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go." (Ex. 5: 2) Pharaoh most truly expressed, in these words, his real condition. His condition was one of ignorance and consequent disobedience. Both go together. If God be not known, He cannot be obeyed; for obedience is ever founded upon knowledge. When the soul is blessed with the knowledge of God, it finds this knowledge to be life, (John 17: 3) and life is power; and when I get power I can act, It is obvious that one cannot act without life; and therefore it is most unintelligent to set people upon doing certain things, in order to get that by which alone they can do anything.

But Pharaoh was as ignorant of himself as he was of the Lord. He did not know that he was a poor, vile worm of the earth, and that he had been raised up for the express purpose of making known the glory of the very One whom he said he knew not. (Ex. 9: 16; Rom. 9: 17) "And they said, The God of the Hebrews has met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword, And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their work? Get you unto your burdens . . . . . let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words." (Ver. 3-9)

What a development of the secret springs of the human heart we have here! What complete incompetency to enter into the things of God! All the divine titles and the divine revelations were, in Pharaoh's estimation, "vain words." What did he know or care about "three days journey into the wilderness," or "a feast to Jehovah?" How could he understand the need of such a journey, or the nature or object of such a feast? Impossible. He could understand burden-bearing and brick-making; these things had an air of reality about them, in his judgement; but as to ought of God, His service, or His worship, he could only regard it in the light of an idle chimera, devised by those who only wanted an excuse to make their escape from the stern realities of actual life.

Thus has it, too often, been with the wise and great of this world. They have ever been the most forward to write folly and vanity upon the divine testimonies. Hearken, for example, to the estimate which the "most noble Feasts" formed of the grand question at issue between Paul and the Jews: "they had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive." (Acts 25: 19) Alas! how little he knew what he was saying! How little he knew what was involved in the question, as to whether "Jesus" was "dead" or "alive!" He thought not of the solemn bearing of that momentous question upon himself and his friends, Agrippa and Bernice; but that did not alter the matter; he and they know somewhat more about it now, though in their passing moment of earthly glory they regarded it as a superstitious question, wholly beneath the notice of men of common sense, and only fit to occupy the disordered brain of visionary enthusiasts. Yes; the stupendous question which fixes the destiny of every child of Adam — on which is founded the present and everlasting condition of the Church and the world which stands connected with all the divine counsels — this question was, in the judgement of Feasts, a vain superstition.

Thus was it in Pharaoh's case. He knew nothing of "the Lord God of the Hebrews" — the great "I AM," and hence he regarded all that Moses and Aaron had said to him, in reference to doing sacrifice to God, as "vain words." The things of God must ever seem vain, profitless, and unmeaning, to the unsanctified mind of man. His name may be made use of as part of the flippant phraseology of a cold and formal religiousness; but He Himself is not known. His precious name, which, to a believer's heart, has wrapped up in it all that he can possibly need or desire, has no significancy, no power, no virtue for an unbeliever. All, therefore, connected with God, His words, His counsels, His thoughts, His ways, everything, in short, that treats of, or refers to, Him, is regarded as "vain words."

However, the time is rapidly approaching when it will not be thus. The judgement-seat of Christ, the terrors of the world to come, the surges of the lake of fire, will not be "Vain words." Assuredly not; and it should be the great aim of all who, through grace, believe them now to be realities, to press them upon the consciences of those who, like Pharaoh, regard the making of bricks as the only thing worth thinking about — the only thing that can be called reel and solid.

Alas! that even Christians should so frequently be found living in the region of sight, the region of earth, the region of nature, as to lose the deep, abiding, influential sense of the reality of divine and heavenly things. We want to live more in the region of faith, the region of heaven, the region of the "new creation." Then we should see things as God sees them, think about them as He thinks; and our whole course and character would be more elevated, more disinterested, more thoroughly separated from earth and earthly things.

But Moses' sorest trial did not arise from Pharaoh's judgement about his mission The true and Wholehearted servant of Christ must ever expect to be looked on, by the men of this world, as a mere visionary enthusiast. The point of view from which they contemplate him is such as to lead us to look for this judgement and none other. The more faithful he is to his heavenly Master, the more he walks in His footsteps, the more conformed he is to His image, the more likely he is to be considered, by the sons of earth, as one "beside himself." This, therefore, should neither disappoint nor discourage him. But then it is a far more painful thing when his service and testimony are misunderstood, unheeded, or rejected by those who are themselves the specific objects thereof. When such is the case, he needs to be much with God, much in the secret of His mind, much in the power of communion, to have his spirit sustained in the abiding reality of his path and service. Under such trying circumstances, if one be not fully persuaded of the divine commission, and conscious of the divine presence, he will be almost sure to break down.

Had not Moses been thus upheld, his heart must have utterly failed him when the augmented pressure of Pharaoh's power elicited from the officers of the children of Israel such desponding and depressing words as these: — "The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us." This was gloomy enough; and Moses felt it so, for "he returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came unto Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all." The aspect of things had become most discouraging, at the very moment when deliverance seemed at hand; just as, in nature, the darkest hour of the night is often that which immediately precedes the dawn of the morning. Thus will it assuredly be, in Israel's history, in the latter day. The moment of most profound darkness and depressing gloom will precede the bursting of "the Sun of Righteousness" from behind the cloud, with healing in His fingers, to heal eternally, "the hurt of the daughter of His people."

We may well question how far genuine faith, or a mortified will, dictated the "wherefore?" and the "why?" of Moses, in the above quotation. Still, the Lord does not rebuke a remonstrance drawn forth by the intense pressure of the moment. He most graciously replies, " 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." (Ex. 6: 1) This reply breathes peculiar grace. Instead of reproving the petulance which could presume to call in question the unsearchable ways of the great I AM, that ever gracious One seeks to relieve the harassed spirit of His servant, by unfolding to him what He was about to do. This was worthy of the blessed God — the unupbraiding Giver of every good and every perfect gift. "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." (Ps. 103: 24)

Nor is it merely in His actings that He would cause the heart to find its solace, but in Himself — in His very name and character. This is full, divine, and everlasting blessedness. When the heart can find its sweet relief in God Himself — when it can retreat into the strong tower which His name affords — when it can find, in His character, a perfect answer to all its need, then truly, it is raised far above the region of the creature-it can turn away from earth's fair promises — it can place the proper value on man's lofty pretensions. The heart which is endowed with an experimental knowledge of God can not only look forth upon earth, and say "all is vanity," but it can also look straight up to Him, and say, "all my springs are in thee."

"And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant." "JEHOVAH" is the title which He takes as the Deliverer of His people, on the ground of His covenant of pure and sovereign grace He reveals Himself as the great self-existing Source of redeeming love, establishing His counsels, fulfilling His promises, delivering His elect people from every enemy and every evil. It was Israel's privilege ever to abide under the safe covert of that significant title — a title which displays God acting for His own glory, and taking up His oppressed people in order to show forth in them that glory.

"Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgements. And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to yon a God; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land concerning the which I did swear to give it unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord. " (Ver. 6-8.) All this speaks the purest, freest, richest grace. Jehovah presents Himself to the hearts of His people as the One who was to act in them, for them, and with them, for the display of His own glory. Ruined and helpless as they were, He had come down to show forth His glory, to exhibit His grace, and to furnish a sample of His power, in their full deliverance. His glory and their salvation were inseparably connected. They were afterwards reminded of all this, as we read in the book of Deuteronomy. "The Lord did not set His love upon yon nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (Ex. 7: 7, 8)

Nothing is more calculated to assure and establish the doubting, trembling heart than the knowledge that God has taken us up, just as we are, and in the full intelligence of what we are; and, moreover, that He can never make any fresh discovery to cause an alteration in the character and measure of His love. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." (John 13) Whom He loves and as He loves, He loves unto the end. This is an unspeakable comfort. God knew all about us — He knew the very worst of us, when He manifested His love to us in the gift of His Son. He knew what we needed, and He provided it. He knew what was due, and He paid it. He knew what was to be wrought, and He wrought it. His own requirements had to be met, and He met them. It is all His own work. Hence, we find Him saying to Israel, as in the above passage, "I will bring you out" — "I will bring you in" — "I will take you to me" — "I will give you the land" — "I am Jehovah." It was all what He could do, as founded upon what He was. Until this great truth is fully laid hold of, until it enters into the soul, in the power of the Holy Ghost, there cannot be settled peace. The heart can never be happy or the conscience at rest until one knows and believes that all divine requirements have been divinely answered.

The remainder of our section is taken up with a record of "the heads of their fathers' houses," and is very interesting, as showing us Jehovah coming in and numbering those that belonged to Himself, though they were still in the possession of the enemy. Israel was God's people, and He here counts up those on whom He had a sovereign claim. Amazing grace! To find an object in those who were in the midst of all the degradation of Egyptian bondage! This was worthy of God. The One who had made the worlds, who was surrounded by hosts of unfallen angels, ever ready to "do his pleasure," should come down for the purpose of taking up a number of bondslaves with whom He condescended to connect His name. He came down and stood amid the brick-kilns of Egypt, and there beheld a people groaning beneath the lash of the task-masters, and He uttered those memorable accents, "Let my people go;" and, having so said, He proceeded to count them up, as much as to say, "These are mine; let me see how many I have, that not one may be left behind." "He taketh up the beggar from the dunghill, to set him amongst the princes of his people, and to make him inherit the throne of glory." (1 Sam. 2)

 

Exodus 7 — 11

These five chapters form one distinct section, the contents of which may be distributed into the three following divisions, namely, the ten judgements from the hand of Jehovah; the resistance of "Jannes and Jambres;" and the four objections of Pharaoh.

The whole land of Egypt was made to tremble beneath the successive strokes of the rod of God. All from the monarch on his throne to the menial at the mill, were made to feel the terrible weight of that rod. "He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron whom he had chosen. They showed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness and made it dark; and they rebelled not against his word. He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. !heir land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings. He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies and lice in all their coasts. He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. He smote their vines: also, and their fig-trees; and brake the trees of their coasts. He spake, and their locusts came, and the caterpillars, and that without number, and did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground. He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength. (Ps. 105: 26-36)

Here the inspired Psalmist has given a condensed view of those appalling afflictions which the hardness of Pharaoh's heart brought upon his land and upon his people. This haughty monarch had set himself to resist the sovereign will and course of the Most High God; and, as a just consequence, he was given over to judicial blindness and hardness of heart. "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had spoken unto Moses. And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh: and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name. may be declared throughout all the earth." (Ex. 9: 12-16)

In contemplating Pharaoh and his actings, the mind is carried forward to the stirring scenes of the Book of Revelation, in which we find the last proud oppressor of the people of God bringing down upon his kingdom and upon himself the seven vials of the wrath of the Almighty. It is God's purpose that Israel shall be pre-eminent in the earth; and, therefore, every one who presumes to stand in the way of that pre-eminence must be set aside. Divine grace must find its object; and every one who would act as a barrier in the way of that grace must be taken out of the way. Whether it be Egypt, Babylon, or "the beast that was, is not, and shall be present," it matters not. Divine power will clear the channel for divine grace to flow, and eternal woe be to all who stand in the way. They shall taste, throughout the everlasting course of ages, the bitter fruit of having exalted themselves against "the Lord God of the Hebrews." He has said to His people, "no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper," and His infallible faithfulness will assuredly make good what His infinite grace hath promised.

Thus, in Pharaoh's case, when he persisted in holding, with an iron grasp, the Israel of God, the vials of divine wrath were poured forth upon him; and the land of Egypt was covered, throughout its entire length and breadth, with darkness, disease, and desolation. So will it be, by and by, when the last great oppressor shall emerge from the bottomless pit, armed with Satanic power, to crush beneath his "foot of pride" the favoured objects of Jehovah's choice. His throne shall be overturned, his kingdom devastated by the seven last plagues, and, finally, he himself plunged, not in the Red Sea, but "in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." (Comp. Rev. 17: 8; Rev. 20: 10)

Not one jot or one tittle of what God has promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shall fail. He will accomplish all. Notwithstanding all that has been said and done to the contrary, God remembers His promises, and He will fulfil them. They are all "yea and amen in Christ Jesus." Dynasties have risen and acted on the stage of this world; thrones have been erected on the apparent ruins of Jerusalem's ancient glory; empires have flourished for a time, and then fallen to decay; ambitious potentates have contended for the possession of "the land of promise" — all these things have taken place; but Jehovah has said concerning Palestine," the land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine." (Lev. 25: 23) No one, therefore, shall ever finally possess that land but Jehovah Himself, and He will inherit it through the seed of Abraham. One plain passage of scripture is quite sufficient to establish the mind in reference to this or any other subject. The land of Canaan is for the seed of Abraham, and the seed of Abraham for the land of Canaan; nor can any power of earth or hell ever reverse this divine order. The eternal God has pledged His word, and the blood of the everlasting covenant has flowed to ratify that word. Who, then, shall make it void? "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but that word shall never pass away." Truly, "there is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places." (Deut. 33: 46-29)

We shall now consider, in the second place, the opposition of "Jannes and Jambres," the magicians of Egypt. We should not have known the names of these ancient opposers of the truth of God, had they not been recorded by the Holy Ghost, in connection with "the perilous times" of which the Apostle Paul warns his son Timothy. It is important that the Christian reader should clearly understand the real nature of the opposition given to Moses by those magicians, and in order that he may have the subject fully before him, I shall quote the entire passage from St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy. It is one of deep and awful solemnity.

"This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all, as theirs also was." (2 Tim. 3: 1-9)

Now, it is peculiarly solemn to mark the nature of this resistance to the truth. The mode in which "Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses" was simply by imitating, so far as they were able, whatever he did. We do not find that they attributed his actings to a false or evil energy, but rather that they sought to neutralise their power upon the conscience, by doing the same things. What Moses did they could do, so that, after all there was no great difference. One was as good as the other. A miracle is a miracle. If Moses wrought miracles to get the people out of Egypt, they could work miracles to keep them in; so where was the difference?

From all this we learn the solemn truth that the most Satanic resistance to God's testimony, in the world, is offered by those who, though they imitate the effects of the truth, have but "the form of godliness," and "deny the power thereof." Persons of this class can do the same things, adopt the same habits and forms, use the same phraseology, profess the same opinions as others. If the true Christian, constrained by the love of Christ, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, visits the sick, circulates the scriptures, distributes tracts, supports the gospel, engages in prayer, sings praise, preaches the gospel, the formalist can do every one of these things; and this, be it observed, is the special character of the resistance offered to the truth " in the last days'' — this is the spirit of " Jannes and Jambres." How needful to understand this! How important to remember that, "as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do" those self-loving, world-seeking, pleasure-hunting professors, "resist the truth!" They would not be without "a form of godliness;" but, while adopting "the form," because it is customary, they hate "the power," because it involves self-denial. "The power" of godliness involves the recognition of God's claims, the implanting of His kingdom in the heart, and the consequent exhibition thereof in the whole life and character; but the formalist knows nothing of this. "The power" of godliness could never comport with any one of those hideous features set forth in the foregoing quotation; but" the form," while it covers them over, leaves them wholly unsubdued; and this the formalist likes. He does not want his lusts subdued, his pleasures interfered with, his passions curbed, his affections governed, his heart purified. He wants just as much religion as will enable him "to make the best of both worlds." He knows nothing of giving up the world that is, because of having; found "the world to come."

In marking the forms of Satan's opposition to the truth of God, we find that his method has ever been, first, to oppose it by open violence; and then, if that did not succeed, to corrupt it by producing a counterfeit. Hence, he first sought to slay Moses, (Ex. 2: 15), and having failed to accomplish his purpose, he sought to imitate his works.

Thus, too, has it been in reference to the truth committed to the Church of God. Satan's early efforts showed themselves in connection with the wrath of the chief priests and elders, the judgement-seat, the prison, and the sword. But, in the passage just quoted from 2 Timothy, we find no reference to any such agency. Often violence has made way for the far more wily and dangerous instrumentality of a powerless form, an empty profession, a human counterfeit. The enemy, instead of appearing with the sword of persecution in his hand, walks about with the cloak of profession on his shoulders. He professes and imitates that which he once opposed and persecuted; and, by so doing, gains most appalling advantages, for the time being. The fearful forms of moral evil which, from age to age, have stained the page of human history, instead of being found only where we might naturally look for them, amid the dens and caves of human darkness, are to be found carefully arranged beneath the drapery of a cold, powerless, uninfluential profession; and this is one of Satan's grand masterpieces.

That man, as a fallen, corrupt creature, should love himself, be covetous, boastful, proud, and the like, is natural; but that he should be all these, beneath the fair covering of "a form of godliness," marks the special energy of Satan in his resistance to the truth in "the last days." That man should stand forth in the bold exhibition of those hideous vices, lusts, and passions, which are the necessary results of departure from the source of infinite holiness and purity, is only what might be expected, for man will be what he is to the end of the chapter. But on the other hand, when we find the holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ connected with man's wickedness and deadly evil — when we find holy principles connected with unholy practices — when we find all the characteristics of Gentile corruption, referred to in the first chapter of Romans, associated with "a form of godliness," then, truly, we may say, these are the terrible features of "the last days" — this is the resistance of "Jannes and Jambres."

However, there were only three things in which the magicians of Egypt were able to imitate the servants of the true and living God, namely, in turning their rods into serpents, (Ex. 7: 12) turning the water into blood, (Ex. 7: 29) and bringing up the frogs; (Ex. 8: 7) but, in the fourth, which involved the exhibition of life, in connection with the display of nature's humiliation, they were totally confounded, and obliged to own, " this is the finger of God." (Ex. 8: 16-19) Thus it is also with the latter-day resisters of the truth. All that they do is by the direct energy of Satan, and lies within the range of his power. Moreover, its specific object is to "resist the truth."

The three things which "Jannes and Jambres" were able to accomplish were characterised by Satanic energy, death, and uncleanness; that is to say, the serpents, the blood, and the frogs. Thus it was they "withstood Moses;" and "so do these also resist the truth," and hinder its moral weight and action upon the conscience. There is nothing which so tends to deaden the power of truth us the fact that persons who are not under its influence at all, do the self-same things as those who are. This is Satan's agency just now. He seeks to have all regarded as Christians. He would fain make us believe ourselves surrounded by "a Christian world;" but it is counterfeit Christianity, which, so far from being a testimony to the truth, is designed by the enemy of the truth, to withstand its purifying and elevating influence.

In short, the servant of Christ and the witness for the truth is surrounded, on all sides, by the spirit of "Jannes and Jambres;" and it is well for him to remember this — to know thoroughly the evil with which he has to grapple — to bear in mind that it is Satan's imitation of God's reality, produced, not by the wand of an openly-wicked magician, but by the actings of false professors, who have "a form of godliness, hut deny the power thereof," who do things apparently right and good, but who have neither the life of Christ in their souls, the love of God in their hearts, nor the power of the word in their consciences.

"But," adds the inspired apostle, "they shall proceed no further, for their folly shall be manifested unto all, as theirs also was." Truly the "folly" of "Jannes and Jambres" was manifest unto all, when they not only failed to imitate the further actings of Moses and Aaron, but actually became involved in the judgements of God. This is a solemn point. The folly of all who are merely possessed of the form will, in like manner, be made manifest. They will not only be quite unable to imitate the full and proper effects of divine life and power, but they will themselves become the subjects of those judgements which will result from the rejection of that truth which they have resisted.

Will any one say that all this has no voice for a day of powerless profession? Assuredly, it has. It should speak to each conscience in living power; it should tell on each heart, in accents of impressive solemnity. It should lead each one to enquire seriously whether he is testifying for the truth, by walking in the power of godliness, or hindering it, and neutralising its action, by having only the form. The effect of the power of godliness will be seen by our" continuing in the things which we have learned." None will continue, save those who are taught of God; those, by the power of the Spirit of God, have drunk in divine principle, at the pure fountain of inspiration.

Blessed be God, there are many such throughout the various sections of the professing Church. There are many, here and there, whose consciences have been bathed in the atoning blood of "the Lamb of God," whose hearts beat high with genuine attachment to His Person, and whose spirits are cheered by "that blessed hope" of seeing Him as He is, and of being eternally conformed to His image. It is encouraging to think of such. It is an unspeakable mercy to have fellowship with those who can give a reason of the hope that is in them, and for the position which they occupy. May the Lord add to their number daily. May the power of godliness spread far and wide in these last days, so that a bright and well-sustained testimony may be raised to the name of Him who is worthy.

The third point in our section yet remains to be considered, namely, Pharaoh's four subtle objections to the full deliverance and complete separation of God's people from the land of Egypt. The first of these we have in Ex. 8: 25. "And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land." It is needless to remark here, that whether the magicians withstood, or Pharaoh objected, it was in reality, Satan that stood behind the scenes; and his manifest object, in this proposal of Pharaoh, was to hinder the testimony to the Lord's name — a testimony connected with the thorough separation of His people from Egypt. There could, evidently, be no such testimony had they remained in Egypt, even though they were to sacrifice to Him. They would have taken common ground with the uncircumcised Egyptians, and put Jehovah on a level with the gods of Egypt. In this case an Egyptian could have said to an Israelite, "I see no difference between us; you have your  worship and we have ours; it is all alike."

As a matter of course, men think it quite right for every one to have a religion, let it be what it may. Provided we are sincere, and do not interfere with our neighbour's creed, it does not matter what shape our religion may happen to wear. Such are the thoughts of men in reference to what they call religion; but it is very obvious that the glory of the name of Jesus finds no place in all this. The demand for separation is that which the enemy will ever oppose, and which the heart of man cannot understand. The heart may crave religiousness because conscience testifies that all is not right; but it craves the world as well. It would like to "sacrifice to God in the land;" and Satan's object is gained when people accept of a worldly religion, and refuse to "come out and be separate." (2 Cor. 6) His unvarying purpose, from the beginning, has been to hinder the testimony to God's name on the earth. Such was the dark tendency of the proposal, "Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land." What a complete damper to the testimony, had this proposal been acceded to! God's people in Egypt and God Himself linked with the idols of Egypt! Terrible blasphemy!

Reader, we should deeply ponder this. The effort to induce Israel to worship God in Egypt reveals a far deeper principle than we might, at first sight, imagine. The enemy would rejoice, at any time, by any means, or under any circumstances, to get even the semblance of divine sanction for the world's religion. He has no objection to such religion. He gains his end as effectually by what is termed "the religious world" as by any other agency; and, hence, when he can succeed in getting a true Christian to accredit the religion of the day, he gains a grand point. As a matter of actual fact, one knows that nothing elicits such intense indignation as the divine principle of separation from this present evil world. You may hold the same opinions, preach the same doctrines, do the same work; but if you only attempt, in ever so feeble a manner, to act upon the divine commands, " from such turn away," (2 Tim. 3: 5) and "come out from among them," (2 Cor. 6: 17) you may reckon assuredly upon the most vigorous opposition. Now how is this to be accounted for? Mainly by the fact that Christians, in separation from this world's hollow religiousness, bear a testimony for Christ which they never can bear while connected with it.

There is a very wide difference between human religion and Christ. A poor, benighted Hindu might talk to you of his religion, but he knows nothing of Christ. The apostle does not say, "if there be any consolation in religion;" though, doubtless, the votaries of each kind of religion find what they deem consolation therein. Paul, on the other hand, found his consolation in Christ, having fully proved the worthlessness of religion, and that too, in its fairest and most imposing form. (Comp. Gal. 1: 13, 14; Phil. 3: 4-11)

True, the Spirit of God speaks to us of "pure religion and undefiled;" but the unregenerate man cannot, by any means, participate therein; for how could he possibly take part in ought that is "pure and undefiled?" This religion is from heaven, the source of all that is pure and lovely; it is exclusively before the eye of "God and the Father:" it is for the exercise of the functions of that new name, with which all are endowed who believe on the name of the Son of God. (John 1: 12, 13; James 1: 18; 1 Peter 1: 23; 1 John 5: 1) Finally, it ranges itself under the two comprehensive heads of active benevolence and personal holiness; "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1: 27)

Now if you go through the entire catalogue of the genuine fruits of Christianity, you will find them all classed under these two heads; and it is deeply interesting to observe that, whether we turn to the eighth of Exodus or to the first of James, we find separation from the world put forward as an indispensable quality in the true service of God, Nothing could be acceptable before God — nothing could receive from His hand the stamp of "pure and undefiled," which was polluted by contact with an "evil world." "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. 6: 17, 18)

There was no meeting-place for Jehovah and His redeemed in Egypt; yes, with them, redemption and separation from Egypt were one and the same thing. God had said, "I am come down to deliver them," and nothing short of this could either satisfy or glorify Him. A salvation which would have left them still in Egypt, could not possibly be God's salvation. Moreover, we must bear in mind that Jehovah's purpose, in the salvation of Israel, as well as in the destruction of Pharaoh, was, that "His name might be declared throughout all the earth;" and what declaration could there be of that name or character, were His people to attempt to worship Him in Egypt? Either none whatever or an utterly false one. Wherefore, it was essentially necessary, in order to the full and faithful declaration of God's character, that His people should be wholly delivered and completely separated from Egypt, and it is as essentially necessary now, in order to a clear and unequivocal testimony for the Son of God, that all who are really His should be separated from this present world. Such is the will of God; and for this end Christ gave Himself. "Grace unto you, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."(Gal. 1: 3-5)

The Galatians were beginning to accredit a carnal and worldly religion — a religion of ordinances — a religion of "days, and months, and times, and years;" and the apostle commences his epistle by telling them that the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for the purpose of delivering His people from that very thing. God's people must be separate, not, by any means, on the ground of their superior personal sanctity, but because they are His people, and in order that they may rightly and intelligently answer His gracious end in taking them into connection with Himself, and attaching His name to them. A people, still amid the defilements and abominations of Egypt, could not have been a witness for the Holy One; nor can any one, now, while mixed up with the defilements of a corrupt worldly religion, possibly be a bright and steady witness for a crucified and risen Christ.

The answer given by Moses to Pharaoh's first objection was a truly memorable one. "And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God; lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? We mill go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us." (Ex. 8: 26, 27) Here is true separation from Egypt — "three days journey." Nothing less than this could satisfy faith. The Israel of God must be separated from the land of death and darkness, in the power of resurrection. The waters of the Red Sea must roll between God's redeemed and Egypt, ere they can properly sacrifice to Jehovah. Had they remained in Egypt, they would have to sacrifice to the Lord the very objects of Egypt's abominable worship.* This would never do. There could be no tabernacle, no temple, no altar, in Egypt. It had no site, throughout its entire limits, for ought of that kind. In point of fact, as we shall see further on, Israel never presented so much as a single note of praise, until the whole congregation stood, in the full power of an accomplished redemption, on Canaan's side of the Red Sea. Exactly so is it now. The believer must know where the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ have, for ever, set him, ere he can be an intelligent worshipper, an acceptable servant, or an effectual witness.

{*The word "abominations" has reference to that which the Egyptians worshipped.}

It is not a question of being a child of God, and, as such, a saved person. Many of the children of God are very far from knowing the full results, as regards themselves, of the death and resurrection of Christ. They do not apprehend the precious truth, that the death of Christ has made an end of their sins for ever, and that they are the happy partakers of His resurrection life, with which sin can have nothing whatever to do. Christ became a curse for us, not, as some would teach us, by being born under the curse of a broken law, but by hanging on a tree. (Compare attentively Deut. 21: 23; Gal. 3: 13) We were under the curse, because we had not kept the law; but Christ, the perfect Man, having magnified the law and made it honourable, by the very fact of His obeying it perfectly, became a curse for us, by hanging on the tree. Thus, in His life He magnified God's law; and in His death He bore our curse. There is, therefore, now, no guilt, no curse, no wrath, no condemnation for the believer; and, albeit, he must be manifested before the judgement-seat of Christ, he will find that judgement-seat every hit as friendly by and by, as the mercy-seat is now. It will make manifest the truth of his condition, namely, that there is nothing against him; what he is, it is God "that hath wrought him." He is God's workmanship. He was taken up in a state of death and condemnation, and made just what God would have him to be. The Judge Himself has put away all his sins, and is his righteousness, so that the judgement-seat cannot but be friendly to him; yea, it will be the full, public, authoritative declaration to heaven, earth, and hell, that the one who is washed from his sins in the blood of the Lamb, is as clean as God can make him. (See John 5: 24; Rom. 8: 1; 2 Cor. 5: 5, 10, 11; Eph. 2: 10.) All that had to be done, God Himself has done it. He surely will not condemn His own work. The righteousness that was required, God Himself has provided it. He, surely, will not find any flaw therein. The light of the judgement seat will be bright enough to disperse every mist and cloud which might tend to obscure the matchless glories and eternal virtues which belong to the cross, and to show that the believer is "clean every whit." (John 13: 10; John 15: 3; Eph. 5: 27)

It is because these foundation-truths are not laid hold of in the simplicity of faith that many of the children of God complain of their lack of settled peace — the constant variation in their spiritual condition — the continual ups and downs in their experience. Every doubt in the heart of a Christian is a dishonour done to the word of God and the sacrifice of Christ. It is because he does not, even now, bask in the light which shall shine from the judgement-seat, that he is ever afflicted with a doubt or a fear. And yet those things which so many have to deplore — those fluctuation's and waverings are but trifling consequences, comparatively, inasmuch as they merely affect their experience. The effect produced upon their worship, their service, and their testimony, is far more serious, inasmuch as the Lord's honour is concerned. But, alas ! this latter is but little thought of, generally speaking, simply because personal salvation is the grand object — the aim and end, with the majority of professing Christians. We are prone to look upon everything that affects ourselves as essential; whereas, all that merely affects the glory of Christ in and by us is counted non-essential.

However, it is well to see with distinctness, that the same truth which gives the soul settled peace, puts it also into the position of intelligent worship, acceptable service, and effectual testimony. In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, the apostle sets forth the death and resurrection of Christ as the grand foundation of everything. "Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." (Ver. 1-4) Here is the gospel, in one brief and comprehensive statement. A dead and risen Christ is the ground-work of salvation. "He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification." (Rom. 4: 25) To see Jesus, by the eye of faith, nailed to the cross, and seated on the throne, must give solid peace to the conscience and perfect liberty to the heart. We can look into the tomb and see it empty; we can look up to the throne, and see it occupied, and go on our way rejoicing. The Lord Jesus settled everything on the cross on behalf of His people; and the proof of this settlement is that He is now at the right hand of God. A risen Christ is the eternal proof of an accomplished redemption; and if redemption is an accomplished fact, the believer's peace is a settled reality. We did not make peace and never could make it; indeed, any effort on our part to make peace could only tend more fully to manifest us as peace breakers. But Christ, having made peace by the blood of His cross, has taken His scat on high, triumphant over every enemy. By Him God preaches peace. The Lord of the gospel conveys this peace; and the soul that believes the gospel has peace — settled peace before God, for Christ is his peace. (See Acts 10: 36; Rom. 5: 1; Eph. 2: 14; Col. 1: 20.) In this way, God has not only satisfied His own claims, but, in so doing, He has found out a divinely-righteous vent through which His boundless affections may flow down to the guiltiest of Adam's guilty progeny.

Then, as to the practical result of all this. The cross of Christ has not only put away the believer's sins, but also dissolved for ever His connection with the world; and, on the ground of this, he is privileged to regard the world as a crucified thing, and to be regarded by it as a crucified one. Thus it stands with the believer and the world. It is crucified to him and he to it. This is the real, dignified position of every true Christian. The world's judgement about Christ was expressed in the position in which it deliberately placed Him. It got its choice as to whether it would have a murderer or Christ. It allowed the murderer to go free, but nailed Christ to the cross, between two thieves. Now, if the believer walks in the footprints of Christ — if he drinks into, and manifests, His spirit, he will occupy the very same place in the world's estimation; and, in this way, he will not merely know that, as to standing before God, he is crucified with Christ, but be led to realise it in his walk and experience every day.

But while the cross has thus effectually cut the connection between the believer and the world, the resurrection has brought him into the power of new ties and associations. If, in the cross, we see the world's judgement about Christ, in resurrection we see God's judgement. The world crucified Him; but "God hath highly exalted him." Man gave Him the very lowest, God the very highest, place; and, inasmuch as the believer is called into full fellowship with God, in his thoughts about Christ, he is enabled to turn the tables upon the world, and look upon it as a crucified thing. If, therefore, the believer is on one cross and the world on another, the moral distance between the two is vast indeed. And if it is vast in principle, so should it be in practice. The world and the Christian should have absolutely nothing in common; nor will they, except so far as he denies his Lord and Master. The believer proves himself false to Christ, to the very same degree that he has fellowship with the world.

All this is plain enough; but, my beloved Christian reader, where does it put us as regards this world? Truly, it puts us outside and that completely. We are dead to the world and alive with Christ. We are at once partakers of His rejection by earth and His acceptance in heaven; and the joy of the latter makes us count as nothing the trial connected with the former. To be cast out of earth, without knowing that I have a place and a portion on high, would be intolerable; but when the glories of heaven fill the soul's vision, a little of earth goes a great way.

But some may feel led to ask, "What is the world?" It would be difficult to find a term more inaccurately defined than "world," or "worldliness;" for we are generally disposed to make worldliness begin a point or two above where we are ourselves. The Word of God, however, has, with perfect precision, defined what" the world" is, when it marks it as that which is "not of the Father." Hence, the deeper my fellowship with the Father, the keener will be my sense of what is worldly. This is the divine way of teaching. The more you delight in the Father's love, the more you reject the world. But who reveals the Father The Son. How? By the power of the Holy Ghost. Wherefore, the more I am enabled, in the power of an ungrieved Spirit, to drink in the Son's revelation of the Father, the more accurate does my judgement become as to what is of the world. It is as the limits of God's kingdom expand in the heart, that the judgement as to worldliness becomes refined. You can hardly attempt to define worldliness. It is, as some one has said, "shaded off gradually from white to jet black." This is most true. You cannot place a bound and say, "here is where worldliness begins;" but the keen and exquisite sensibilities of the divine nature recoil from it; and all we need is, to walk in the power of that nature, in order to keep aloof from every form of worldliness. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." Walk with God, and ye shall not walk with the world. Cold distinctions and rigid rules will avail nothing. The power of the divine life is what we want. We want to understand the meaning and spiritual application of the "three days' journey into the wilderness" whereby we are separated for ever, not only from Egypt's brick-kilns and taskmasters, but also from its temples and altars.

Pharaoh's second objection partook very much of the character and tendency of the first. "And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away." (Ex. 8: 28) If he could not keep them in Egypt, he would at least seek to keep them near it, so that he might act upon them by its varied influences. In this way, they might be brought back again. and the testimony more effectually quashed than if they had never left Egypt at all. There is always much more serious damage done to the cause of Christ by persons seeming to give up the world and returning to it again, than if they had remained entirely of it; for they virtually confess that, having tried heavenly things, they have discovered that earthly things are better and more satisfying.

Nor is this all. The moral effect of truth upon the conscience of unconverted people is sadly interfered with, by the example of professors going back again into those things which they seemed to have left. Not that such cases afford the slightest warrant to any one for the rejection of God's truth, inasmuch as each one is personally responsible and will have to give account of himself to God. Still, however, the effect in this, as well as in everything else, is bad. " For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to hare known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.(2 Peter 2: 20, 21.)

Wherefore, if people do not "go very far away," they had better not go at all. The enemy knew this well; and hence his second objection. The maintenance of a border position suits his purpose amazingly. Those who occupy this ground are neither one thing nor the other; and, in point of fact, whatever influence they possess, tells entirely in the wrong direction.

It is deeply important to see that Satan's design, in all these objections, was to hinder that testimony to the name of the God of Israel, which could only be rendered by a "three days' journey into the wilderness." This was, in good truth, going "very far away." It was much farther than Pharaoh could form any idea of, or than he could follow them. And oh! how happy it would be if all who profess to set out from Egypt would really, in the spirit of their minds and in the tone of their character, go thus far away from it I if they would intelligently recognise the cross and grave of Christ as forming the boundary between them and the world! No man, in the mere energy of nature, can take this ground. The Psalmist could say," Enter not into judgement with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." (Ps. 143: 2) So also is it with regard to true and effectual separation from the world. "No man living" can enter into it. It is only as "dead with Christ,'' and "risen again with him, through faith of the operation of God," that any one can either be "justified" before God, or separated from the world This is what we may all going " very far away. May all who profess and call themselves Christians go thus far! Then will their lamp yield a steady light. Then would their trumpet give a certain sound. Their path would be elevated; their experience deep and rich. Their peace would flow as a river; their affections would be heavenly and their garments unspotted. And, far above all, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ would be magnified in them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, according to the will of God their Father.

The third objection demands our most special attention. "And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, go, serve the Lord your God; but who are they that shall go? And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds, will we go: for we must hold a feast unto the Lord. And he said unto them, Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let you go and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so; go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence." (Ex. 10: 8-11) Here again we have the enemy aiming a deadly blow at the testimony to the name of the God of Israel. Parents in the wilderness and their children in Egypt! Terrible anomaly! This would only have been a half deliverance, at once useless to Israel and dishonouring to Israel's God. This could not be. If the children remained in Egypt, the parents could not possibly be said to have left it, inasmuch as their children were part of themselves. The most that could be said in such a case was, that in part they were serving Jehovah, and in part Pharaoh. But Jehovah could have no part with Pharaoh. He should either have all or nothing. This is a weighty principle for Christian parents. May we lay it deeply to heart! It is our happy privilege to count on God for our children, and to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6) We should not be satisfied with any other portion for" Our little ones" than that which we ourselves enjoy.

Pharaoh's fourth and last objection had reference to the flocks and herds. "And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you." (Ex. 10: 24.) With what perseverance did Satan dispute every inch of Israel's way out of the land of Egypt! He first sought to keep them in the land, then to keep them near the land, next to keep part of themselves in the land, and, finally, when he could not succeed in any of these three, he sought to send them forth without any ability to serve the Lord. If he could not keep the servants, he would seek to keep their ability to serve, which would answer much the same end. If he could not induce them to sacrifice in the land, he would send them out of the land without sacrifices.

In Moses' reply to this last objection, we are furnished with a fine statement of the Lord's paramount claim upon His people and all pertaining to them. "And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind: for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come. thither." (Ver. 25, 26) It is only when the people of God take their stand, in simple Childlike faith, upon that elevated ground, on which death and resurrection set them, that they can have anything like an adequate sense of His claims upon them. "We know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither." That is, they had no knowledge of the divine claim or their responsibility, until they had gone "three days' journey." These things could not be known amid the dense and polluted atmosphere of Egypt. Redemption must be known as an accomplished fact, ere: there can be any just or full perception of responsibility. All this is perfect and beautiful. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." I must be up out of Egypt, in the power of death and resurrection, and then, but not until then, shall I know what the Lord's service really is. It is when we take our stand, by faith, in that "large room," that wealthy place into which the precious blood of Christ introduces us; when we look around us and survey the rich, rare, and manifold results of redeeming love; when we gaze upon the Person of Him who has brought us into this place, and endowed us with these riches, then we are constrained to say, in the language of one of our own poets,

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my heart, my life, my all."

"There shall not an hoof be left behind." Noble words! Egypt is not the place for ought that pertains to God's redeemed. He is worthy of all, "body, soul, and spirit;" all we are and all we have belongs to Him. "We are not our own, we are bought with a price;" and it is our happy privilege to consecrate ourselves and all that we possess to Him whose we are, and whom we are called to serve. There is nought of a legal spirit in this. The words, "until we come thither," furnish a divine guard against this horrible evil. We have travelled the "three days' journey," ere a word concerning sacrifice can be heard or understood. We are put in full and undisputed possession of resurrection life and eternal righteousness. We have left that land of death and darkness; we have been brought to God Himself, so that we may enjoy Him, in the energy of that life with which we are endowed, and in the sphere of righteousness in which we are placed: thus it is our joy to serve. There is not an affection in the heart of which He is not worthy; there is not a sacrifice in all the flock too costly for His altar. The more closely we walk with Him, the more we shall esteem it to be our meat and drink to do His blessed will. The believer counts it his highest privilege to serve the Lord. He delights in every exercise and every manifestation of the divine nature. He does not move up and down with a grievous yoke upon his neck, or an intolerable weight upon his shoulder. The yoke is broken "because of the anointing," the burden has been for ever removed, by the blood of the cross, while he himself walks abroad, "redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled," in pursuance of those soul-stirring words, "LET MY PEOPLE GO."

NOTE. — We shall consider the contents of Ex. 11 in connection with the security of Israel, under the shelter of the blood of the paschal lamb.

 

Exodus 12

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence: when he shall let you go, he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether." (Ex. 11: 1) One more heavy blow must fall upon this hard-hearted monarch and his land, ere he will be compelled to let go the favoured objects of Jehovah's sovereign grace.

How utterly vain it is for man to harden and exalt himself against God; for, truly, He can grind to powder the hardest heart, and bring down to the dust the haughtiest spirit. "Those that walk in pride he is able to abase." (Dan. 4: 37) Man may fancy himself to be something; he may lift up his head, in pomp and vain glory, as though he were his own master. Vain man how little he knows of his real condition and character He is but the tool of Satan, taken up and used by him, in his malignant efforts to counteract the purposes of God. The most splendid intellect, the most commanding genius, the most indomitable energy, if not under the direct control of the Spirit of God, are but so many instruments in Satan's hand to carry forward his dark designs. No man is his own master; he is either governed by Christ or governed by Satan. The king of Egypt might fancy himself to be a free agent, yet was he but a tool in the hands of another. Satan was behind the throne; and, as the result of Pharaoh's having set himself to resist the purposes of God, he was judicially handed over to the blinding and hardening influence of his self-chosen master.

This will explain to us an expression occurring very frequently throughout the earlier chapters of this book. "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart." There is no need, whatever, for any one to seek to avoid the full, plain sense of this most solemn statement. If man resists the light of divine testimony, he is shut up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart. God leaves him to himself, and then Satan comes in and carries him headlong to perdition. There was abundant light for Pharaoh, to show him the extravagant folly of his course in seeking to detain those whom God had commanded him to let  go. But the real disposition of his heart was to act against God, and therefore God left him to himself, and made him a monument for the display of His glory "through all the earth." There is no difficulty in this to any, save those whose desire is to argue against God — "to rush upon the thick bosses of the shield of the Almighty" — to ruin their own immortal souls.

God gives people, at times, according to the real bent of their hearts' desire. ". . . . . . because of this, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2: 11, 12) If men will not have the truth when it is put before them, they shall, assuredly, have a lie. If they will not have Christ, they shall have Satan; if they will not have heaven, they shall have hell.* Will the infidel mind find fault with this? Ere it does so, let it prove that all who are thus judicially dealt with have fully answered their responsibilities. Let it, for instance, prove, in Pharaoh's case, that he acted, in any measure, up to the light he possessed. The same is to be proved in every case. Unquestionably, the task of proving rests on those who are disposed to quarrel with God's mode of dealing with the rejecters of His truth. The simple-hearted child of God will justify Him, in view of the most inscrutable dispensations; and even if he cannot meet and satisfactorily solve the difficult questions of a sceptical mind, he can rest perfectly satisfied with this word, "shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" There is far more wisdom in this method of settling an apparent difficulty, than in the most elaborate argument; for it is perfectly certain that: the heart which is in a condition to reply against God," will not be convinced by the arguments of man.

{*There is a vast difference between the divine method of dealing with the heathen (Rom. 1) and with the rejecters of the gospel. (2 Thess. 1, 2) In reference to the former, we read, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind:" but with respect to the latter the word is "because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, . . . God shall send them strong  delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned." The heathen refuse the testimony of creation, and are, therefore, left to themselves. The rejecters of the gospel refuse the full blaze of light which shines from the cross, and, therefore, "a strong delusion" will, ere long, be sent from God upon them. This is deeply solemn for an age like this, in the which there is so much light and so much profession.}

However, it is God's prerogative to answer all the proud reasonings, and bring down the lofty imaginations of the human mind. He can write the sentence of death upon nature, in its fairest forms. "It is appointed unto men once to die." This cannot be avoided. Man may seek to hide his humiliation in various ways to cover his retreat through the valley of death, in the most heroic manner possible; to call the last humiliating stage of his career by the most honourable titles he can devise; to gild the bed of death with a false light; to adorn the funeral procession and the grave with the appearance of pomp, pageantry, and glory; to arise above the mouldering ashes a splendid monument, on which are engraven the records of human shame. all these things he may do; but death is death after all, and he cannot keep it off for a moment, or make it ought else than what it is, namely, "the ravages of sin."

The foregoing thoughts are suggested by the opening verse of Ex. 11. "One plague more!" Solemn word! It signed the death-warrant of Egypt's firstborn — "the chief of all their strength." "And Moses said, Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more." (Ex. 11: 4-6) This was to be the final plague — death in every house. "But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast; that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." It is the Lord alone who can "put a difference" between those who are His and those who are not. It is not our province to-say to any one, "stand by thyself, I am holier than thou:" this is the language of a Pharisee. "But when God puts a difference!" we are bound to enquire what that difference is; and, in the case before us, we see it to be a simple question of life or death. This is God's grand "difference." He draws a line of demarcation, and on one side of this line is "life," on the other "death." Many of Egypt's firstborn might have been as fair and attractive as those of Israel, and much more so; but Israel had life and light, founded upon God's counsels of redeeming love, established, as we shall see presently, by the blood of the lamb. This was Israel's happy position; while, on the other hand, throughout the length and breadth of the land of Egypt, from the monarch on the throne to the menial behind the mill, nothing was to be seen but death; nothing to be heard but the cry of bitter anguish, elicited by the heavy stroke of Jehovah's rod. God can bring down the haughty spirit of man. He can make the wrath of man to praise Him, and restrain the remainder. "And all these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves-unto me, saying, Get thee out and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out." God will accomplish His own ends. His schemes of mercy must be carried out at all cost, and confusion of face must be the portion of all who stand in the way. "O! give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for His mercy endureth for ever...... To him that smote Egypt in their first-born: for his mercy endureth for ever: and brought out Israel from among them; for his mercy endureth for ever: with a strong hand, and with a stretched-out arm; for his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalm 136)

"And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you." (Ex. 12: 1, 2) There is, here, a very interesting change in the order of time. The common or civil year was rolling on in its ordinary course, when Jehovah interrupted it in reference to His people, and thus, in principle, taught them that they were to begin a new era in company with Him. Their previous history was, henceforth, to be regarded as a blank. Redemption was to constitute the first step in real life.

This teaches a plain truth. A man's life is really of no account until he begins to walk with God, in the knowledge of full salvation and settled peace, through the precious blood of the Lamb. Previous to this he is, in the judgement of God, and in the language of scripture, "dead in trespasses and sins;" "alienated from the life of God." His whole history is a complete blank, even though, in man's account, it may have been one uninterrupted scene of bustling activity. All that which engages the attention of the man of this world, the honours, the riches, the pleasures, the attractions, of life, so called — all, when examined in the light of the judgement of God, when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, must be accounted as a dismal blank, a worthless void, utterly unworthy of a place in the records of the Holy Ghost. "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life." (John 3: 36) Men speak of "seeing life," when they launch forth into society, travel hither and thither, and see all that is to be seen; but they forget that the only true, the only real, the only divine way to "see life," is to "believe on the Son of God."

How little do men think of this! They imagine that "real life" is at an end when a man becomes a Christian, in truth and reality, not merely in name and outward profession; whereas God's word teaches us that it is only then we can see life and taste true happiness. "He that hath the Son hath life." (1 John 5: 12) And, again, "Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." (Ps. 32: 1) We can get life and happiness only in Christ. Apart from Him, all is death and misery, in Heaven's judgement, whatever the outward appearance may be. It is when the thick veil of unbelief is removed from the heart, and we are enabled to behold, with the eye of faith, the bleeding Lamb, bearing our heavy burden of guilt upon the cursed tree, that we enter upon the path of life, and partake of the cup of divine happiness — a life which begins at the cross, and flows onward into an eternity of glory — a happiness which, each day, becomes deeper and purer, more connected with God and founded on Christ, until we reach its proper sphere, in the presence of God and the Lamb. To seek life and happiness in any other way, is vainer work by far than seeking to make bricks without straw.

True, the enemy of souls spreads a gilding over this passing scene, in order that men may imagine it to be all gold. He sets up many a puppet-show to elicit the hollow laugh from a thoughtless multitude, who will not remember that it is Satan who is in the box, and that his object is to keep them from Christ, and drag them down into eternal perdition. There is nothing real, nothing solid, nothing satisfying, but in Christ. Outside of Him, "all is vanity and vexation of spirit." In Him alone true and eternal joys are to be found; and we only begin to live when we begin to live in, live on, live with, and live for Him. "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. "The time spent in the brick-kilns and by the flesh-pots must be ignored. It is, henceforth, to be of no account save that the remembrance thereof should, ever and anon, serve to quicken and deepen their sense of what divine grace had accomplished on their behalf.

"Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house . . .  Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it out from the sheep or from the goats: and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. "Here we have the redemption of the people founded upon the blood of the lamb, in pursuance of God's eternal purpose. This imparts to it all its divine stability. Redemption was no after-thought with God. Before the world was, or Satan, or sin — before ever the voice of God was heard breaking the silence of eternity, and calling worlds into existence, He had His deep counsels of love; and these counsels could never find a sufficiently solid basis in creation. All the blessings, the privileges, and the dignities of creation were founded upon a creature's obedience, and the moment that failed, all was gone. But, then, Satan's attempt to mar creation only opened the way for the manifestation of God's deeper purposes of redemption.

This beautiful truth is typically presented to us in the circumstance of the lamb's being "kept up" from the "tenth" to "the fourteenth day." That this lamb pointed to Christ is unquestionable. 1 Cor 5: 7, settles the application of this interesting type beyond all question; "for even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." We have, in the first epistle of Peter, an allusion to the keeping up of the lamb: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.(Ex. 1: 18-20)

All God's purposes, from everlasting, had reference to Christ; and no effort of the enemy could possibly interfere with those counsels: yea, his efforts only tended to the display of the unfathomable wisdom and immovable stability thereof. If the "Lamb without blemish and without spot" was "foreordained before the foundation of the world," then, assuredly, redemption must have been in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. The Blessed One had not to pause in order to devise some plan to remedy the terrible evil which the enemy had introduced into His fair creation. No, He had only to bring forth, from the unexplored treasury of His precious counsels, the truth concerning the spotless Lamb, who was foreordained from everlasting, and to be "manifest in these last times for us."

There was no need for the blood of the Lamb in creation, as it came fresh from the hand of the Creator, exhibiting in every stage, and every department of it, the beauteous impress of His hand — "the infallible proofs" of "His eternal power and Godhead." (Rom. 1) But when, "by one man," sin was introduced into the world, then came out the higher, richer, fuller, deeper thought of redemption by the blood of the Lamb. This glorious truth first broke through the thick clouds which surrounded our first parents, as they retreated from the garden of Eden; its glimmerings appear in the types and shadows of the Mosaic economy; it burst upon the world in full brightness, when "the dayspring from on high" appeared in the Person of "God manifest in the flesh;" and its rich and rare results will be realised when the white-robed, palm-bearing multitude shall cluster round the throne of God and the Lamb, and the whole creation shall rest beneath the peaceful sceptre of the Son of David.

Now, the lamb taken on the tenth day, and kept up until the fourteenth day, shows us Christ foreordained of God, from eternity, but manifest for us, in time. God's eternal purpose in Christ becomes the foundation of the believer's peace. Nothing short of this would do. We are carried back far beyond creation, beyond the bounds of time, beyond the entrance in of sin, and everything that could possibly affect the ground-work of our peace. The expression, "fore-ordained before the foundation of the world," conducts us back into the unfathomed depths of eternity, and shows us God forming His own counsels of redeeming love, and basing them all upon the atoning blood of His own precious, spotless Lamb. Christ was ever the primary thought in the divine mind; and, hence, the moment He began to speak or act, He took occasion to shadow forth that One who occupied the highest place in His counsels and affections; and, as we pass along the current of inspiration, we find that every ceremony, every rite, every ordinance, and every sacrifice pointed forward to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," and not one more strikingly than the Passover. The paschal lamb, with all the attendant circumstances, forms one of the most profoundly interesting and deeply instructive types of Scripture.

In the interpretation of Exodus 12 we have to do with one assembly and one sacrifice. "The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening." (Ver. 6) It is not so much a number of families with several lambs — a thing quite true in itself — as one assembly and one lamb. Each house was but the local expression of the whole assembly gathered round the lamb. The antitype of this we have in the whole Church of God, gathered by the Holy Ghost, in the name of Jesus, of which each separate assembly, wherever convened, should be the local expression.

"And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof." (Ver. 7-9) We have to contemplate the paschal lamb in two aspects, namely, as the ground of peace and the centre of unity. The blood on the lintel secured Israel's peace. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." (Ver. 13) There was nothing more required, in order to enjoy settled peace, in reference to the destroying angel, than the application of the blood of sprinkling. Death had to do its work in every house throughout the land of Egypt. "It is appointed unto men once to die. But God, in His great mercy, found an unblemished substitute for Israel on which the sentence of death was executed. Thus God's claims and Israel's need were met by one and the same thing, namely, the blood of the lamb. That blood outside proved that all was perfectly, because divinely, settled; and therefore perfect peace reigned within. A shade of doubt in the bosom of an Israelite, would have been a dishonour offered to the divinely-appointed ground of peace-the blood of atonement.

True it is that each one within the blood-sprinkled door would, necessarily, feel that were he to receive his due reward, the sword of the destroyer should, most assuredly, find its object in him; but then the lamb was treated in his stead. This was the solid foundation of his peace. The judgement that was due to him fell upon a divinely- appointed victim; and believing this, he could feed in peace within. A single doubt would have made Jehovah a liar; for He had said, "when I see the blood, I will pass over you." This was enough. It was no question of personal worthiness. Self had nothing whatever to do in the matter. All under the cover of the blood were safe. They were not merely in a saveable state, they were saved. They were not hoping or praying to be saved, they knew it as an assured fact, on the authority of that word which shall endure throughout all generations. Moreover, they were not partly saved and partly exposed to judgement; they were wholly saved. The blood of the lamb and the word of the Lord formed the foundation of Israel's peace on that terrible night in which Egypt's firstborn were laid low. If an hair of an Israelite's head could be touched, it would have proved Jehovah's word void, and the blood of the lamb valueless.

It is most needful to be simple and clear as to what constitutes the ground of a sinner's peace, in the presence of God. So many things are mixed up with the finished work of Christ, that souls are plunged into darkness and uncertainty, as to their acceptance. They do not see the absolutely-settled character of redemption through the blood of Christ, in its application to themselves. They seem not to be aware that full forgiveness of sins rests upon the simple fact that a full atonement has been offered — a fact attested in the view of all created intelligence, by the resurrection of the sinner's Surety from the dead. They know that there is no other way of being saved but by the blood of the cross — but the devils know this, yet it avails them nought. What is so much needed is to know that we are  saved. The Israelite not merely knew that there was safety in the blood; he knew that he was safe. And why safe? Was it because of anything that he had done, or felt, or thought? By no means, but because God had said, "when I see the blood I will pass over you." He rested upon God's testimony. He believed what God said, because God said it. "He set to his seal that God was true."

And, observe, my reader, it was not upon his own thoughts, feelings, or experiences, respecting the blood, that the Israelite rested. This would have been a poor sandy foundation to rest upon. His thoughts and feelings might be deep or they might be shallow; but deep or shallow, they had nothing to do with the ground of his peace. It was not said, "when you see the blood, and value it as you ought, I will pass over you." This would have been sufficient to plunge him in dark despair about himself, inasmuch as it was quite impossible that the human mind could ever sufficiently appreciate the precious blood of the Lamb. What gave peace was the fact that Jehovah's eye rested upon the blood, and that He knew its worth. This tranquillised the heart. The blood was outside, and the Israelite inside, so that he could not possibly see it; but God saw it, and that was quite enough.

The application of this to the question of a sinner's peace is very plain. The Lord Jesus Christ, having shed His precious blood, as a perfect atonement for sin, has taken it into the presence of God, and sprinkled it there; and God's testimony assures the believing sinner, that everything is settled on his behalf — settled not by his estimate of the blood, but by the blood itself which God estimates so highly, that because of it, without a single jot or tittle added thereto, He can righteously forgive all sin, and accept the sinner as perfectly righteous in Christ. How can any one ever enjoy settled peace, if his peace depends upon his estimate of the blood? Impossible. The loftiest estimate which the human mind can form of the blood must fall infinitely short of its divine preciousness; and, therefore, if our peace were to depend upon our valuing it as we ought, we could no more enjoy settled peace than if we were seeking it by "works of law." There must either be a sufficient ground of peace in the blood alone, or we can never have peace. To mix up our estimate with it, is to upset the entire fabric of Christianity, just as effectually as if we were to conduct the sinner to the foot of mount Sinai, and put him under a covenant of works. Either Christ's atoning sacrifice is sufficient or it is not. If it is sufficient, why those doubts and fears? The words of our lips profess that the work is finished; but the doubts and fears of the heart declare that it is not. Every one who doubts his full and everlasting forgiveness, denies, so far as he is concerned, the completeness of the sacrifice of Christ.

But there are very many who would shrink from the idea of deliberately and avowedly calling in question the efficacy of the blood of Christ, who, nevertheless, have not settled peace. Such persons profess to be quite assured of the sufficiency of the blood, if only they were sure of an interest therein — if only they had the right kind of faith. There are many precious souls in this unhappy condition. They are occupied with their interest and their faith, instead of with Christ's blood, and God's word. In other words, they are looking in at self, instead of out at Christ. This is not faith; and, as a consequence, they have not peace. An Israelite within the blood-stained lintel could teach such souls a most seasonable lesson. He was not saved by his interest in, or his thoughts about, the blood, but simply by the blood. No doubt, he had a blessed interest in it; and he would have his thoughts, likewise; but, then, God did not say, "When I see your interest in the blood, I will pass over you." Oh! no; THE BLOOD, in all its solitary dignity and divine efficacy, was set before Israel; and had they attempted to place even a morsel of unleavened bread beside the blood, as a ground of security: they would have made Jehovah a liar, and denied the sufficiency of His remedy.

We are ever prone to look at something in or connected with ourselves as necessary, in order to make up, with the blood of Christ, the groundwork of our peace. There is a sad lack of clearness and soundness on this vital point, as is evident from the doubts and fears with which so many of the people of God are afflicted. We are apt to regard the fruits of the Spirit in us, rather than the work of Christ for us, as the foundation of peace. We shall see, presently, the place which the work of the Holy Spirit occupies in Christianity; but it is never set forth in Scripture as being that on which our peace reposes. The Holy Ghost did not make peace, but Christ did. The Holy Ghost is not said to be our peace, but Christ is. God did not send preaching peace by the Holy Ghost, but by Jesus Christ. (Compare Acts 10: 36; Eph. 2: 14, 17; Col. 1: 20) My reader cannot be too simple in his apprehension of this important distinction. It is the blood of Christ which gives peace, imparts perfect justification, divine righteousness, purges the conscience, brings us into the holiest of all, justifies God in receiving the believing sinner, and constitutes our title to all the joys, the dignities, and the glories of heaven. (See Rom. 3: 24-28; Rom. 5: 9; Eph. 2: 13-18; Col. 1: 20-22; Heb. 9: 14; Heb. 10: 19; 1 Peter 1: 19; 1 Peter 2: 24; 1 John 1: 7; Rev. 7: 14-17)

It will not, I fondly hope, be supposed that, in seeking to put "the precious blood of Christ" in its divinely-appointed place, I would write a single line which might seem to detract from the value of the Spirit's operations. God forbid. The Holy Ghost reveals Christ; makes us to know, enjoy, and feed upon Christ; He bears witness to Christ; He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. He is the power of communion, the seal, the witness, the earnest, the unction. In short, His blessed operations are absolutely essential. Without Him, we can neither see, hear, know, feel, experience, enjoy, nor exhibit ought of Christ. This is plain. The doctrine of the Spirit's operations is clearly laid down in the word, and is understood and admitted by every true and rightly instructed Christian.

Yet, notwithstanding all this, the work of the Spirit is not the ground of peace; for, if it were, we could not have settled peace until Christ's coming, inasmuch as the work of the Spirit, in the Church, will not, properly speaking, be complete till then. He still carries on His work in the believer. "He maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom 8) He labours to bring us up to the predestinated standard, namely, perfect conformity, in all things, to the image of "the Son." He is the sole Author of every right desire, every holy aspiration, every pure affection, every divine experience, every sound conviction; but, clearly, His work in us will not be complete until we have left this present scene and taken our place with Christ in the glory. Just as, in the case of Abraham's servant, his work was not complete, in the matter of Rebecca, until he had presented her to Isaac.

Not so the work of Christ FOR us. That is absolutely and eternally complete. He could say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (John 17: 4) And, again, "It is finished." (John 19: 30) The Holy Ghost cannot yet say He has finished His work. As the true Vicar of Christ upon earth, He still labours amid the varied hostile influences which surround the sphere of His operations. He works in the hearts of the people of God to bring them up, practically and experimentally, to the divinely-appointed standard. But He never teaches a soul to lean on His work for peace in the presence of God. His office is to speak of Jesus. "He," says Christ, "shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you." (John 16: 13, 14) If, then, it is only by the Spirit's teaching that any one can understand the true ground of peace, it is obvious that He can only present Christ's work as the foundation on which the soul must rest for ever; yea, it is in virtue of that work that He takes up His abode and carries on His marvellous operations in the believer. He is not our title, though He reveals that title and enables us to understand and enjoy it.

Hence, therefore, the paschal lamb, as the ground of Israel's peace, is a marked and beautiful type of Christ as the ground of the believer's peace. There was nothing to be added to the blood on the lintel; neither is there anything to be added to the blood on the mercy-seat. The "unleavened bread" and "bitter herbs" were necessary, but not as forming, either in whole or in part, the ground of peace. They were for the inside of the house and formed the characteristics of the communion there; but THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB WAS THE FOUNDATION OF EVERYTHING. It saved them from death and introduced them into a scene of life, light, and peace.' It formed the link between God and His redeemed people. As a people linked with God, on the ground of accomplished redemption, it was their high privilege to meet certain responsibilities; but these responsibilities did not form the link, but merely flowed out of it.

And I would further remind my reader that the obedient life of Christ is not set forth in Scripture as the procuring cause of our forgiveness. It was His death upon the cross that opened those everlasting floodgates of love which else should have remained pent up for ever. If he had remained to this very hour, going through the cities of Israel, "doing good," the veil of the temple would continue unrent, to bar the worshipper's approach to God. It was His death that rent that mysterious curtain "from top to bottom." It is "by His stripes," not by His obedient life, that "we are healed;" and those "stripes" He endured on the cross, and nowhere else. His own words, during the progress of His blessed life, are quite sufficient to settle this point. "I have a, baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." (Luke 12: 50) To what does this refer but to His death upon the cross, which was the accomplishment of His baptism and the opening up of a righteous vent through which His love might freely flow out to the guilty sons of Adam? Again, He says, "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone." (John 12: 24) He was that precious "corn of wheat:" and He should have remained for ever "alone," even though incarnate, had He not, by His death upon the accursed tree, removed out of the way everything that could have hindered the union of his people with Him in resurrection. "If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

My reader cannot too carefully ponder this subject. It is one of immense weight and importance. He has to remember two points in reference to this entire question, namely, that there could be no union with Christ, save in resurrection; and that Christ only suffered for sins on the cross. We are not to suppose that incarnation was, by any means, Christ taking us into union with Himself. This could not be. How could sinful flesh be thus united? The body of sin had to be destroyed by death. Sin had to be put away, according to the divine requirement; all the power of the enemy had to be abolished. How was all this to be done? Only by the precious, spotless Lamb of God submitting to the death of the cross. "It became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Heb. 2: 10) "Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected." (Luke 13: 32) The expressions "perfect" and "perfected" in the above passages do not refer to Christ in His own Person abstractedly, for He was perfect from all eternity, as Son of God; and as to His humanity, He was absolutely perfect likewise. But then, as "the captain of salvation" — as "bringing many sons unto glory" — as "bringing forth much fruit" — -as associating redeemed people with Himself, He had to reach "the third day" in order to be "perfected." He went down alone into the "horrible pit, and miry clay;" but, directly He plants His "foot on the rock" of resurrection, He associates with Himself the "many sons." (Ps 40: l-3) He fought the fight alone; but, as the mighty Conqueror, He scatters around Him, in rich profusion, the spoils of victory, that we might gather them up and enjoy them for ever.

Moreover, we are not to regard the cross of Christ as a mere circumstance in a life of sin-bearing. It was the grand and only scene of sin-bearing. "His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." (1 Peter 2: 14) He did not bear them anywhere else. He did not bear them in the manger, nor in the wilderness, nor in the garden; but ONLY "ON THE TREE." He never had ought to say to sin, save on the cross; and there He bowed His blessed head, and yielded up His precious life, under the accumulated weight of His people's sins. Neither did He ever suffer at the hand of God save on the cross; and there Jehovah hid His face from Him because He was "made sin." (2 Cor. 5)

The above train of thought, and the various passages of scripture referred to, may, perhaps, enable my reader to enter more fully into the divine power of the words, "When I see The blood I will pass over you." The lamb needed to be without blemish, no doubt, for what else could meet the holy eye of Jehovah? But, had the blood not been shed, there could have been no passing over, for "without shedding of blood is no remission." (Heb. 9: 22) This subject will, the Lord permitting, come more fully and appropriately before us in the types of Leviticus. It demands the prayerful attention of every one who loves our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

We shall now consider the second aspect of the Passover, as the centre round which the assembly was gathered, in peaceful, holy, happy fellowship. Israel, saved by the blood, was one thing; and Israel, feeding on the lamb, was quite another. They were saved only by the blood; but the object round which they were gathered was, manifestly, the roasted lamb. This is not, by any means, a distinction without a difference. The blood of the Lamb forms the foundation both of our connection with God, and our connection with one another. It is as those who are washed in that blood, that we are introduced to God and to one another. Apart from the perfect atonement of Christ, there could obviously be no fellowship either with God or His assembly. Still we must remember that it is to a living Christ in heaven that believers are gathered by the Holy Ghost. It is with a living Head we are connected — to "a living stone" we have come. He is our centre. Having found peace, through His blood, we own Him as our grand gathering point and connecting link. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18: 20) The Holy Ghost is the only Gatherer; Christ Himself is the only object to which we are gathered; and our assembly, when thus convened, is to be characterised by holiness, so that the Lord our God may dwell among us. The Holy Ghost can only gather to Christ. He cannot gather to a system, a name, a doctrine, or an ordinance. He gathers to a Person, and that Person is a glorified Christ in heaven. This must stamp a peculiar character on God's assembly. Men may associate, on any ground, round any centre, or for any object they please; but, when the Holy Ghost associates, it is on the ground of accomplished redemption, around the Person of Christ, in order to form a holy dwelling place for God. (1 Cor. 3: 16, 17; 1 Cor. 6: 19; Eph. 2: 21, 22; 1 Peter 2: 4, 5)

We shall now look in detail at the principles brought before us in the paschal feast. The assembly of Israel, as under the cover of the blood, was to be ordered by Jehovah in a manner worthy of Himself. In the matter of safety from judgement, as we have already seen, nothing was needed but the blood; but in the fellowship which flowed out of this safety, other things were needed which could not be neglected with impunity.

And first, then, we read, "They shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof." (Ver. 8, 9) The lamb, round which the congregation was assembled, and on which it feasted, was a roasted lamb-a lamb which had undergone the action of fire. In this we see "Christ our Passover" presenting Himself to the action of the fire of divine holiness and judgement which found in Him a perfect material. He could say, "Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress." (Ps. 17: 3) All in Him was perfect. The fire tried Him and there was no dross. "His head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof." That is to say, the seat of His understanding; His outward, walk with all that pertained thereto — all was submitted to the action of the fire, and all was entirely perfect. The process of roasting was therefore deeply significant, as is every circumstance in the ordinances of God. Nothing should be passed over, because all is pregnant with meaning.

Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water." Had it been eaten thus, there would have been no expression of the great truth which it was the divine purpose to shadow forth; namely, that our paschal Lamb was to endure, on the cross, the fire of Jehovah's righteous wrath — a truth of infinite preciousness to the soul. We are not merely under the eternal shelter of the blood of the Lamb, but we feed, by faith, upon the Person of the Lamb. Many of us come short here. We are apt to rest satisfied with being saved by what Christ has done for us, without cultivating holy communion with Himself. His loving heart could never be satisfied with this. He has brought us nigh to Himself, that we might enjoy Him, that we might feed on Him, and delight in Him. He presents Himself to us as the One who has endured, to the uttermost, the intense fire of the wrath of God, that He may, in this wondrous character, be the food of our ransomed souls.

But how was this lamb to be eaten? "With unleavened bread and bitter herbs." Leaven is, invariably, used, throughout scripture, as emblematical of evil. Neither in the Old nor in the New Testament is it ever used to set forth anything pure, holy, or good. Thus, in this chapter, "the feast of unleavened bread" is the type of that practical separation from evil which is the proper result of being washed from our sins in the blood of the Lamb, and the proper accompaniment of communion with His sufferings. Nought but perfectly unleavened bread could at all comport with a roasted lamb. A single particle of that which was the marked type of evil, would have destroyed the moral character of the entire ordinance. How could we connect any species of evil with our fellowship with a suffering Christ? Impossible. All who enter by the power of the Holy Ghost, into the meaning of the cross will, assuredly, by the same power, put away leaven from all their borders. "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Cor. 5: 7, 8) The feast spoken of in this passage is that which, in the life and conduct of the Church, corresponds with the feast of unleavened bread. This latter lasted "seven days;" and the Church collectively, and the believer individually, are called to walk in practical holiness, during the seven days, or entire period, of their course here below; and this, moreover, as the direct result of being washed in the blood, and having communion with the sufferings of Christ.

The Israelite did not put away leaven in order to be saved, but because he was saved; and if he failed to put away leaven, it did not raise the question of security through the blood, but simply of fellowship with the assembly. "Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land." (Ver. 19) The cutting off of an Israelite from the congregation answers precisely to the suspension of a Christian's fellowship, if he be indulging in that which is contrary to the holiness of the divine presence. God cannot tolerate evil. A single unholy thought will interrupt the soul's communion; and until the soil contracted by any such thought is got rid of by confession, founded on the advocacy of Christ, the communion cannot possibly be restored. (See 1 John 1: 9-10) The true-hearted Christian rejoices in this. He can ever "give thanks at the remembrance of God's holiness." He would not, if he could, lower the standard a single hair's breadth. It is his exceeding joy to walk in company with one who will not go on, for a moment, with a single jot or tittle of leaven."

Blessed be God, we know that nothing can ever snap asunder the link which binds the true believer to Him. We are "saved in the Lord," not with a temporary or conditional, but "with an everlasting salvation." But then salvation and communion are not the same thing. Many are saved, who do not know it; and many, also, who do not enjoy it. It is quite impossible that I can enjoy a blood-stained lintel if I have leavened borders. This is an axiom in the divine life. May it be written on our hearts! Practical holiness, though not the basis of our salvation, is intimately connected with our enjoyment thereof. An Israelite was not saved by unleavened bread, but by the blood; and yet leaven would have cut him off from communion. And as to the Christian, he is not saved by his practical holiness, but by the blood; but if he indulges in evil, in thought, word, or deed, he will have no true enjoyment of salvation, and no true communion with the Person of the Lamb.

This, I cannot doubt, is the secret of much of the spiritual barrenness and lack of settled peace which one finds amongst the children of God. They are not cultivating holiness; they are not keeping "the feast of unleavened bread." The blood is on the lintel, but the leaven within their borders keeps them from enjoying the security which the blood provides. The allowance of evil destroys our fellowship, though it does not break the link which binds our souls eternally to God. Those who belong to God's assembly must be holy. They have not only been delivered from the guilt and consequences of sin, but- also from the practice of it, the power of it, and the love of it. The very fact of being delivered by the blood of the paschal lamb, rendered Israel responsible to put away leaven from all their quarters. They could not say, in the frightful language of the antinomian, "now that we are delivered, we may conduct ourselves as we please." By no means. If they were saved by grace, they were saved to holiness. The soul that can take occasion, from the freedom of divine grace, and the completeness of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, to "continue in sin," proves very distinctly that he understands neither the one nor the other.

Grace not only saves the soul with an everlasting salvation, but also imparts a nature which delights in everything that belongs to God, because it is divine. We are made partakers of the divine nature, which cannot sin, because it is born of God. To walk in the energy of this nature is, in reality, to keep" the feast of unleavened bread. There is no "old leaven" nor "leaven of malice and wickedness" in the new nature, because it is of God, and God is holy, and "God is love." Hence it is evident that we do not put away evil from us in order to better our old nature, which is irremediable; nor yet to obtain the new nature, but because we have it. We have life, and, in the power of that life, we put away evil. It is only when we are delivered from the guilt of sin that we can understand or exhibit the true power of holiness. To attempt it in any other way is hopeless labour. The feast of unleavened bread can only be kept beneath the perfect shelter of the blood.

We may perceive equal significancy and moral propriety in that which was to accompany the unleavened bread, namely, the "bitter herbs." We cannot enjoy communion with the sufferings of Christ, without remembering what it was which rendered those sufferings needful, and this remembrance must necessarily produce a chastened and subdued tone of spirit, which is aptly expressed by the bitter herbs in the paschal feast. If the roasted lamb expressed Christ's endurance of the wrath of God in His own Person, on the cross, the bitter herbs express the believer's recognition of the truth that He "suffered for us." "The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." (Is 53: 5) It is well, owing to the excessive levity of our hearts, to understand the deep meaning of the bitter herbs. Who can read such Psalms as the 6, 22, 38, 49, 88, and 109, and not enter, in some measure, into the meaning of the unleavened bread with bitter herbs? Practical holiness of life with deep subduedness of soul must flow from real communion with Christ's suffering, for it is quite impossible that moral evil and levity of spirit can exist in view of those sufferings.

But, it may be asked, is there not a deep joy for the soul in the consciousness that Christ has borne our sins; that He has fully drained, on our behalf, the cup of God's righteous wrath? Unquestionably. This is the solid foundation of all our joy. But can we ever forget that it was for "our sins" He suffered? Can we ever lose sight of the soul-subduing truth that the blessed Lamb of God bowed His head beneath the weight of our transgressions. Surely not. We must eat our lamb with bitter herbs, which, be it remembered, do not set forth the tears of a worthless and shallow sentimentality, but the deep and real experiences of a soul that enters, with spiritual intelligence and power, into the meaning and into the practical effect of the cross.

In contemplating the cross, we find in it that which cancels all our guilt. This imparts sweet peace and joy. But we find in it also the complete setting aside of nature, the crucifixion of "the flesh," the death of "the old man." (See Rom. 6: 6; Gal. 2: 20; Gal. 6: 14; Col 2: 11 This, in its practical results, will involve much that is "bitter" to nature. It will call for self-denial, the mortification of our members which are on the earth, (Col. 3: 5) the reckoning of self to be dead indeed unto sin. (Rom. 6) All these things may seem terrible to look at; but when one gets inside the bloodstained door-post he thinks quite differently. The very herbs which, to an Egyptian's taste, would, no doubt, have seemed so bitter, formed an integral part of Israel's redemption feast. Those who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, who know the joy of fellowship with Him, esteem it a "feast" to put away evil and to keep nature in the place of death.

"And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire." (Ver. 10) In this command, we are taught that the communion of the congregation was, in no wise, to be separated from the sacrifice on which that communion was founded. The heart must ever cherish the vivid remembrance that all true fellowship is inseparably connected with accomplished redemption. To think of having communion with God, on any other ground is to imagine that He could have fellowship with our evil; and to think of fellowship with man, on any other ground, is but to form an unholy club, from which nothing could issue but confusion and iniquity. In a word, all must be founded upon, and inseparably linked with, the blood. This is the simple meaning of eating the paschal lamb the same night on which the blood was shed. The fellowship must not be separated from its foundation.

What a beauteous picture, then, we have in the blood-sheltered assembly of Israel, feeding peacefully on the roasted lamb, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs! No fear of judgement, no fear of the wrath of Jehovah, no fear of the terrible hurricane of righteous vengeance which was sweeping vehemently over the land of Egypt, at the midnight hour. All was profound peace within the blood-stained lintel. They had no need to fear anything from without; and nothing within could trouble them, save leaven, which would have proved a death-blow to all their peace and blessedness. What a picture for the Church! What a picture for the Christian! May we gaze upon it with an enlightened eye and a teachable spirit!

However, we are not yet done with this most instructive ordinance. We have been looking at Israel's position, and Israel's food, let us now look at Israel's habit.

"And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover." (Ver. 11) They were to eat it as a people prepared to leave behind them the land of death and darkness, wrath and judgement, to move onward toward the land of promise — their destined inheritance. The blood which had preserved them from the fate of Egypt's firstborn was also the foundation of their deliverance from Egypt's bondage; and they were now to set out and walk with God toward the land that flowed with milk and honey. True, they had not yet crossed the Red Sea; they had not yet gone the "three days' journey." Still they were, in principle, a redeemed people, a separated people, a pilgrim people, an expectant people, a dependent people; and their entire habit was to be in keeping with their present position and future destiny. The girded loins bespoke intense separation from all around them, together with a readiness to serve. The shod feet declared their preparedness to leave that scene; while the staff was the expressive emblem of a pilgrim people, in the attitude of leaning on something outside themselves. Precious characteristics! Would that they were more exhibited by every member of God's redeemed family.

Beloved Christian reader, let us "meditate on these things." We have tasted, through grace, the cleansing efficacy of the blood of Jesus; as such it is our privilege to feed upon His adorable Person and delight ourselves in His "unsearchable riches;" to have fellowship in His sufferings and be made conformable to His death. Oh! let us, therefore, be seen with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, the girded loins, the shoes and staff. In a word, let us be marked as a holy people, a crucified people, a watchful and diligent people — a people manifestly "on our way to God" — on our way to glory — "bound for the kingdom." May God grant us to enter into the depth and power of all these things; so that they may not be mere theories in our intellects mere principles of scriptural knowledge and interpretation; but living, divine realities, known by experience, and exhibited in the life, to the glory of God.

We shall close this section by glancing, for a moment, at verses 43-49. Here we are taught that while it was the place and privilege of every true Israelite to eat the Passover, yet no uncircumcised stranger should participate therein. "There shall no stranger eat thereof ....all the congregation of Israel shall keep it." Circumcision was necessary ere the Passover could be eaten. In other words, the sentence of death must be written upon nature ere we can intelligently feed upon Christ, either as the ground of peace or the centre of unity. Circumcision has its antitype in the cross. The male alone was circumcised. The female was represented in the male. So, in the cross, Christ represented His Church, and, hence, the Church is crucified with Christ; nevertheless, she lives by the life of Christ, known and exhibited on earth, through the power of the Holy Ghost. "And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover unto the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof." "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8: 8)

The ordinance of circumcision formed the grand boundary line between the Israel of God and all the nations that were upon the face of the earth; and the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ forms the boundary between the church and the world. It matters not, in the smallest degree, what advantages of person or position a man possessed, he could have no part with Israel until he submitted to that flesh-cutting operation. A circumcised beggar was nearer to God than an uncircumcised king. So, also, now, there can be no participation in the joys of God's redeemed, save by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that cross sweeps away all pretensions, levels all distinctions, and unites all in one holy congregation of blood-washed worshippers. The cross forms a boundary so lofty, and a defence so impenetrable, that not a single atom of earth or of nature can cross over or pass through to mingle itself with "the new creation." All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself." (2 Cor 5: 18)

But, not only was Israel's separation from all strangers strictly maintained, in the institution of the Passover; Israel's unity was also as clearly enforced. "In one house shall it be eaten: thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house. neither shall ye break a bone thereof." (Ver. 46) Here is as fair and beauteous a type as we could have of the "one body and one Spirit. The Church of God is one. God sees it as such, maintains it as such, and will manifest it as such, in the view of angels, men, and devils, notwithstanding all that has been done to interfere with that hallowed unity. Blessed be God, the unity of His Church is as much in His keeping as is her justification, acceptance, and eternal security. "He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken." (Ps. 34: 20) And, again, "a bone of him shall not be broken." (John 19: 36) Despite the rudeness and hard-heartedness of Rome's soldiery, and despite all the hostile influences which have been set to work, from age to age, the body of Christ is one and its divine unity can never be broken. "THERE IS ONE BODY AND ONE SPIRIT;" and that, moreover, down here, on this very earth. Happy are they who have got faith to recognise this precious truth, and faithfulness to carry it out, in these last days; notwithstanding the almost insuperable difficulties which attend upon their profession and their practice! I believe God will own and honour such.

The Lord deliver us from that spirit of unbelief which would lead us to judge by the sight of our eyes, instead of by the light of His changeless Word!

 

Exodus 13

In the opening verses of this chapter, we are taught, clearly and distinctly, that personal devotedness and personal holiness are fruits which redeeming love produces in those who are the happy subjects thereof. The dedication of the firstborn and the feast of unleavened bread are here set forth in their immediate connection with the deliverance of the people out of the land of Egypt. "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine. And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten." And again, " Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days: and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee: neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters."

Then we have the reason of both these significant observances laid down. "And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt." And, again, "It shall be, when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage. and it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem."

The more fully we enter, by the power of the Spirit of God, into the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, the more decided will be our separation, and the more whole-hearted will be our devotedness. The effort to produce either the one or the other, until redemption is known, will prove the most hopeless labour possible. All our doings must be "because of that which the Lord hath done," and not in order to get anything from Him. Efforts after life and peace prove that we are, as yet, strangers to the power of the blood; whereas the pure fruits of an experienced redemption are to the praise of Him who has redeemed us. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works lest Any man should boast; for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2: 8, 10) God has already prepared a path of good works for us to walk in; and He, by grace, prepares us to walk therein. It is only as saved that we can walk in such a path. Were it otherwise, we might boast; but seeing that we ourselves are as much God's workmanship as the path in which we walk, there is no room whatever for boasting.

True Christianity is but the manifestation of the life of Christ, implanted in us by the operation of the Holy Ghost, in pursuance of God's eternal counsels of sovereign grace; and all our doings, previous to the implantation of this life, are but "dead works," from which we need to have our consciences purged just as much as from "wicked works." (Heb. 9: 14) The term "dead works," comprehends all works which men do with the direct object of getting life. If a man is seeking for life, it is very evident that he has not yet gotten it. He may be very sincere in seeking it, but his very sincerity only makes it the more obvious that, as yet, he has not consciously reached it. Hence, therefore, everything done in order to get life is a dead work, inasmuch as it is done without life — the life of Christ, the only true life, the only source from whence good works can flow. And, observe, it is not a question of "wicked works;" no one would think of getting life by such. No; you will find, on the contrary, that persons continually have recourse to "dead works," in order to ease their consciences, under the sense of "wicked works," whereas divine revelation teaches us that the conscience needs to be purged from the one as well as the other.

Again, as to righteousness, we read that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." It is not said that "all our wickednesses," merely, "are as filthy rags." This would, at once, be admitted. But the fact is, that the very best fruit which we can produce, in the shape of religiousness and righteousness, is represented, on the page of eternal truth, as "dead works," and "filthy rags." Our very efforts after life, do but prove us to be dead; and our very efforts after righteousness do but prove us to be enwrapped in filthy rags. It is only as the actual possessors of eternal life and divine righteousness that we can walk in the divinely-prepared path of good works. Dead works and filthy rags could never be suffered to appear in such a path. None but "the redeemed of the Lord" can walk therein. It was as a redeemed people that Israel kept the feast of unleavened bread, and dedicated their firstborn to Jehovah. The former of these observances we have already considered; as to the latter, it contains a rich mine of instruction.

The destroying angel passed through the land of Egypt to destroy all the firstborn; but Israel's firstborn escaped through the death of a divinely-provided substitute. Accordingly, these latter appear before us, in this chapter, as a living people, dedicated to God. Saved by the blood of the lamb, they are privileged to consecrate their ransomed life to Him who had ransomed it. Thus it was only as redeemed that they possessed life. The grace of God alone had made them to differ, and had given them the place of living men in His presence. In their case, assuredly, there was no room for boasting; for, as to any personal merit or worthiness, we learn from this chapter that they were put on a level with an unclean and worthless thing. "Every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck; and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem." (Ver. 13) There were two classes, the clean and the unclean; and man was classed with the latter. The lamb was to answer for the unclean; and if the ass were not redeemed, his neck was to be broken; so that an unredeemed man was. put upon a level with an unclean animal, and that, moreover, in a condition than which nothing could be more worthless and unsightly. What a humiliating picture of man in his natural condition! Oh! that our poor proud hearts could enter more into it. Then should we rejoice more unfeignedly in the happy privilege of being washed from our guilt in the blood of the Lamb, and having all our personal vileness left be hind for ever, in the tomb where our Surety lay buried.

Christ was the Lamb — the clean, the spotless Lamb. We are unclean. But for ever adored be His matchless name! He took our position; and, on the cross, was made sin, and treated as such. That which we should have endured throughout the countless ages of eternity, He endured for us on the tree. He bore all that was due to us, there and then, in order that we might enjoy what is due to Him, for ever. He got our deserts that we might get His. The clean took, for a time, the place of the unclean, in order that the unclean might take for ever the place of the clean. Thus, whereas, by nature, we are represented by the loathsome figure of an ass with his neck broken; by grace we are represented by a risen and glorified Christ in heaven. Amazing contrast! It lays man's glory in the dust and magnifies the riches of redeeming love. It silences man's empty boastings and puts into his mouth a hymn of praise to God and the Lamb, which shall swell throughout the courts of heaven during the everlasting ages.*

{*It is interesting to see that by nature we are ranked with on unclean animal; by grace we are associated with Christ the spotless Lamb. There can be nothing lower than the place which belongs to us by nature; nothing higher than that which belongs to us by grace. Look, for example, at an ass with his neck broken; there is what an unredeemed man is worth. Look at "the precious blood of Christ;" there is what a redeemed man is worth. "Unto you that believe is the preciousness." That is, all who are washed in the blood partake of Christ's preciousness. As He is "a living stone," they are "living stones;" as He is "a precious stone, they are "precious stones." They get life and preciousness all from Him and in Him. They are as He is. Every stone in the edifice is precious, because purchased at no less a price than "the blood of the Lamb." May the people of God know more fully their place and privileges in Christ!}

How forcibly is one here reminded of the apostle's memorable and weighty words to the Romans, " Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6: 8-14) We are not only ransomed from the power of death and the grave, but also united to Him who has ransomed us at the heavy cost of His own precious life, that we might, in the energy of the Holy Ghost, dedicate our new life, with all its powers, to His service, so that His worthy name may be glorified in us according to the will of God and our Father.

We are furnished, in the last few verses of Exodus 13 with a touching and beautiful example of the Lord's tender consideration of His people's need. "He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust." (Psalm 103: 14) When He redeemed Israel and took them into relationship with Himself, He, in His unfathomed and infinite grace, charged Himself with all their need and weakness. It mattered not what they were or what they needed, when I AM was with them, in all the exhaustless treasures of that name. He had to conduct them from Egypt to Canaan, and we here find Him occupying Himself in selecting a suitable path for them. "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the may of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea." (Ver. 17, 18)

The Lord, in His condescending grace, so orders for His people, that they do not, at their first setting out, encounter heavy trials which might have the effect of discouraging their hearts and driving them back. "The way of the wilderness" was a much more protracted route; but God had deep and varied lessons to teach His people, which could only be learnt in the desert. They were, afterwards, reminded of this fact, in the following passage: "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee, these forty years, in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years." (Deut. 8: 2-4) Such precious lessons as these could never have been learnt in "the way of the land of the Philistines." In that way, they might have learnt what war was, at an early stage of their career; but "in the way of the wilderness," they learnt what flesh was, in all its crookedness, unbelief, and rebellion. But I AM was there, in all His patient grace, unerring wisdom, and infinite power. None but Himself could have met the demand. None but He could endure the opening up of the depths of a human heart. To have my heart unlocked anywhere, save in the presence of infinite grace, would plunge me in hopeless despair. The heart of man is but a little hell. What boundless mercy, then, to be delivered from its terrible depths!

"Oh! to grace how great a debtor

Daily I'm constrained to be;

Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to thee!"

"And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: he took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people." Jehovah not only selected a path for His people, but He also came down to walk with them therein, and make Himself known to them according to their need. He not only conducted them safely outside the bounds of Egypt, but He also came down, as it were, in His travelling chariot, to be their companion through all the vicissitudes of their wilderness journey. This was divine grace. They were not merely delivered out of the furnace of Egypt and then allowed to make the best of their way to Canaan. Such was not God's manner toward them. He knew that they had a toilsome and perilous journey before them, through serpents and scorpions, snares and difficulties, drought and barrenness; and He, blessed be His name for ever, would not suffer them to go alone. He would be the companion of all their toils and dangers; yea, "He went before them." He was "a guide, a glory, a defence, to save from every fear. Alas! that they should ever have grieved that Blessed One by their hardness of heart. Had they only walked humbly, contentedly, and confidingly with Him, their march would have been a triumphant one from first to last. With Jehovah in their forefront, no power could have interrupted their onward progress from Egypt to Canaan. He would have carried them through and planted them in the mountain of His inheritance, according to His promise, and by the power of His right hand; nor should as much as a single Canaanite have been allowed to remain therein to be a thorn in their side. Thus will it be, by and by, when Jehovah shall set His hand, a second time, to deliver His people from under the power of all their oppressors. day the Lord hasten the time!

 

Exodus 14

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep." (Ps. 107: 23, 24) How true is this! and yet our coward hearts do so shrink from those "great waters!" We prefer carrying on our traffic in the shallows, and, as a result, we fail to see "the works" and "wonders" of our God; for these can only be seen and known "in the deep."

It is in the day of trial and difficulty that the soul experiences something of the deep and untold blessedness of being able to count on God. Were all to go on smoothly, this would not be so. It is not in gliding along the surface of a tranquil lake that the reality of the Master's presence is felt; but actually when the tempest roars, and the waves roll over the ship. The Lord does not hold out to us the prospect of exemption from trial and tribulation; quite the opposite: He tells us we shall have to meet both the one and the other; but He promises to be with us in them; and this is infinitely better. God's presence in the trial is much better than exemption from the trial. The sympathy of His heart with us is sweeter far than the power of His hand for us. The Master's presence with His faithful servants, while passing through the furnace, was better far than the display of His power to keep them out of it. (Dan. 3) We would frequently desire to be allowed to pass on our way without trial, but this would involve serious loss. The Lord's presence is never so sweet as in moments of appalling difficulty.

Thus it was in Israel's case, as recorded in this chapter. They were brought into an overwhelming difficulty. They are called to "do business in great waters." "They are at their wit's end." Pharaoh, repenting himself of having let them go out of his land, determines to make one desperate effort to recover them. "And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them....... And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid; and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord." Here was a deeply-trying scene  - one in which human effort could avail nothing. As well might they have attempted to put back with a straw the ocean's mighty tide, as seek to extricate themselves by ought that they could do. The sea was before them, Pharaoh's hosts behind them, and the mountains around them. And all this, be it observed, permitted and ordered of God. He had marked out their position before "Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon." Moreover, He permitted Pharaoh to come upon them, And why? Just to display Himself in the salvation of His people, and the total overthrow of their enemies. "To him that divided the Red Sea into parts; for his mercy endureth for ever. And made Israel to pass through the midst of it; for his mercy endureth for ever: but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea; for his mercy endureth for ever." (Ps. 136)

There is not so much as a single position in all the desert-wanderings of God's redeemed, the boundaries of which are not marked off, with studious accuracy, by the hand of unerring wisdom and infinite love. The special bearings and peculiar influences of each position are carefully arranged. The Pi-hahiroths and the Migdols are all ordered with immediate reference to the moral condition of those whom God is conducting through the windings and labyrinths of the wilderness, and also to the display of His own character. Unbelief may ofttimes suggest the enquiry, "why is it thus?" God knows why; and He will, without doubt, reveal the why, whenever the revelation would promote His glory and His people's good. How often do we feel disposed to question as to the why and the wherefore of our being placed in such and such circumstances! How often do we perplex ourselves as to the reason of our being exposed to such and such trials! How much better to bow our heads in meek subjection, and say, 'it is well,' and 'it shall be well' When God fixes our position for us, we may rest assured it is a wise and salutary one; and even when we foolishly and wilfully choose a position for ourselves, He most graciously overrules our folly, and causes the influences of our self-chosen circumstances to work for our spiritual benefit.

It is when the people of God are brought into the greatest straits and difficulties, that they are favoured with the finest displays of God's character and actings; and for this reason He ofttimes leads them into a trying position, in order that He may the more markedly show Himself. He could have conducted Israel through the Red Sea, and far beyond the reach of Pharaoh's hosts, before ever the latter had started from Egypt; but that would not have so fully glorified His own name, or so entirely confounded the enemy, upon whom He designed to "get him honour." We too frequently lose sight of this great truth, and the consequence is that our hearts give way in the time of trial. If we could only look upon a difficult crisis as an occasion of bringing out, on our behalf, the sufficiency of divine grace, it would enable us to preserve the balance of our souls, and to glorify God, even in the deepest waters.

We feel disposed, it may be, to marvel at Israel's language, on the occasion now before us. We may feel at a loss to account for it; but the more we know of our own evil hearts of unbelief, the more we shall see how marvellously like them we are. They would seem to have forgotten the recent display of divine power on their behalf. They had seen the gods of Egypt judged, and the power of Egypt laid prostrate beneath the stroke of Jehovah's omnipotent hand. They had seen the iron chain of Egyptian bondage riven, and the furnace quenched by the same hand. All these things they had seen, and yet the moment a dark cloud appeared upon their horizon, their confidence gave way, their hearts failed, and they gave utterance to their unbelieving murmurings in the following language: Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt! ......It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness." (Ver. 11, 12) Thus is "blind unbelief," ever, "sure to err, and scan God's ways in vain." This unbelief is the same in all ages. It led David, in an evil hour, to say, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines." (1 Sam. 27: 1) And how did it turn out? Saul fell on Mount Gilboa; and David's throne was established for ever. Again, it led Elijah the Tishbite, in a moment of deep depression, to flee for his life, from the wrathful threatenings of Jezebel. How did it turn out? Jezebel was dashed to pieces on the pavement, and Elijah was taken in a chariot of fire to heaven.

So it was with Israel in their very first moment of trial. They really thought that the Lord had taken such pains to deliver them out of Egypt merely to let them die in the wilderness. They imagined that they had been preserved by the blood of the paschal lamb, in order that they might be buried in the wilderness. Thus it is that unbelief ever reasons. It leads us to interpret God in the presence of the difficulty, instead of interpreting the difficulty in the presence of God. Faith gets behind the difficulty, and there finds God, in all His faithfulness, love, and power. It is the believer's privilege ever to be in the presence of God. He has been introduced thither by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing should be suffered to take him thence. The place itself he never can lose, inasmuch as his Head and Representative, Christ, occupies it on His behalf. But although he cannot lose the thing itself, he can, very easily, lose all enjoyment of it, the experience and power of it. Whenever his difficulties come between his heart and the Lord, he is, evidently, not enjoying the Lord's presence, but suffering in the presence of his difficulties. Just as when a cloud comes between us and the sun, it robs us, for the time, of the enjoyment of his beams. It does not prevent him from shining, it merely hinders our enjoyment of him. Exactly so is it when we allow trials and sorrows, difficulties and perplexities, to hide from our souls the bright beams of our Father's countenance, which ever shine, with changeless lustre, in the face of Jesus Christ. There is no difficulty too great for our God; yea, the greater the difficulty, the more room there is for Him to act in His proper character, as the God of all power and grace. No doubt, Israel's position, in the opening of our chapter, was a deeply trying one — to flesh and blood perfectly overwhelming. But, then, the Maker of heaven and earth was there, and they had but to use Him.

Yet, alas! my reader, how speedily we fail when trial arises! These sentiments sound very nicely on the ear, and look very well upon paper; and, blessed be God, they are divinely true but, then, the thing is to practise them, when opportunity offers. It is in the practice of them that their power and blessedness are really proved. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." (John 7: 17)

"And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." (Ver. 13, 14) Here is the first attitude which faith takes in the presence of a trial. "Stand still." This is impossible to flesh and blood. All who know in any measure, the restlessness of the human heart, under anticipated trial and difficulty, will be able to form some conception of what is involved in standing still. Nature must be doing something. It will rush hither and thither. It would fain have some hand in the matter. And although it may attempt to justify and sanctify its worthless doings, by bestowing upon them the imposing and popular title of "a legitimate use of means," yet are they the plain and positive fruits of unbelief which always shuts out God, and sees nought save the dark cloud of its own creation. Unbelief creates or magnifies difficulties, and then sets us about removing them by our own bustling and fruitless activities, which, in reality, do but raise a dust around us, which prevents our seeing God's salvation.

Faith, on the contrary, raises the soul above the difficulty, straight to God Himself, and enables one to "stand still." We gain nothing by our restless and anxious efforts. "We cannot make one hair white or black," nor "add one cubit to our stature." What could Israel do at the Red Sea? Could they dry it up? Could they level the mountains? Could they annihilate the hosts of Egypt Impossible. There they were, enclosed within an impenetrable wall of difficulties, in view of which nature could but tremble and feel its own perfect impotency. But this was just the  time for God to act. When unbelief is driven from the scene, then God can enter; and, in order to get a proper view of His actings, we must "stand still." Every movement of nature is, so far as it goes, a positive hindrance to our perception and enjoyment of divine interference on our behalf.

This is true of us in every single stage of our history. It is true of us as sinners when, under the uneasy sense of sin upon the conscience, we are tempted to resort to our own doings, in order to obtain relief. Then, truly, we must "stand still" in order to "see the salvation of God." For what could we do in the matter of making an atonement for sin? Could we have stood with the Son of God upon the cross? Could we have accompanied Him down into the "horrible pit and the miry clay?" Could we have forced our passage upward to that eternal rock on which, in resurrection, He has taken His stand? Every right mind will at once pronounce the thought to be a daring blasphemy. God is alone in redemption; and as for us, we have but to "stand still and see the salvation of God." The very fact of its being God's salvation proves that man has nought to do in it.

The same is true of us, from the moment we have entered upon our Christian career. In every fresh difficulty, be it great or small, our wisdom is to stand still — to cease from our own works, and find our sweet repose in God's salvation. Nor can we make any distinction as to difficulties. We cannot say that there are some trifling difficulties which we ourselves can compass; while there are others in which nought save the hand of God can avail. No; all are alike beyond us. We are as little able to change the colour of a hair as to remove a mountain — to form a blade of grass as to create a world. All are alike to us, and all are alike to God. We have only, therefore, in confiding faith, to cast ourselves on Him who "humbleth himself (alike) to behold the things that are in heaven and on earth." We sometimes find ourselves carried triumphantly through the heaviest trials, while at other times, we quail, falter, and break down under the most ordinary dispensations. Why is this? Because, in the former, we are constrained to roll our burden over on the Lord; whereas, in the latter, we foolishly attempt to carry it ourselves. The Christian is, in himself, if he only realised it, like an exhausted receiver, in which a guinea and a feather have equal moments.

"The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." Precious assurance How eminently calculated to tranquillise the spirit in view of the most appalling difficulties and dangers! The Lord not only places Himself between us and our sins, but also between us and our circumstances. By doing the former, He gives us peace of conscience; by doing the latter, He gives us peace of heart. That the two things are perfectly distinct, every experienced Christian knows. Very many have peace of conscience, who have not Peace of heart. They have, through grace and by faith, found Christ, in the divine efficacy of His blood, between them and all their sins; but they are not able, in the same simple way, to realise Him as standing, in His divine wisdom, love, and power, between them and their circumstances. This makes a material difference in the practical condition of the soul, as well as in the character of one's testimony. Nothing tends more to glorify the name of Jesus than that quiet repose of spirit which results from having Him between us and everything that could be a matter of anxiety to our hearts. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee."

But some feel disposed to ask the question, "Are we not to do anything?" This may be answered by asking another, namely, what can we do? All who really know themselves must answer, nothing. If, therefore, we can do nothing, had we not better "stand still" If the Lord is acting for us, had we not better stand back? Shall we run before Him? Shall we busily intrude ourselves upon His sphere of action! Shall we come in His way? There can be no possible use in two acting, when one is so perfectly competent to do all. No one would think of bringing a lighted candle to add brightness to the sun at mid-day: and yet the man who would do so might well be accounted wise, in comparison with him who attempts to assist God by his bustling officiousness.

However, when God, in His great mercy, opens the way, faith can walk therein. It only ceases from man's way in order to walk in God's. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." It is only when we have learnt to "stand still" that we are able effectually to go forward. To attempt the latter, until we have learnt the former, is sure to issue in the exposure of our folly and weakness. It is, therefore, true wisdom, in all times of difficulty and perplexity, to "stand still" — to wait only upon God, and He will, assuredly, open a way for us; and then we can peacefully we happily "go forward." There is no uncertainty when God makes a way for us; but every self-devised path must prove a path of doubt and hesitation. The unregenerate man may move along with great apparent firmness and decision in his own ways; but one of the most distinct elements, in the new creation, is self distrust, and the element which answers thereto is confidence in God. It is when our eyes have seen God's salvation that we can walk therein; but this can never be distinctly seen until we have been brought to the end of our own poor doings.

There is peculiar force and beauty in the expression, "see the salvation of God." The very fact of our being called to "see" God's salvation, proves that the salvation is a complete one. It teaches that salvation is a thing wrought out and revealed by God, to be seen and enjoyed by us. It is not a thing made up partly of God's doing, and partly of man's. Were it so, it could not be called God's salvation. In order to be His, it must be wholly divested of everything pertaining to man. The only possible effect of human efforts is to raise a dust which obscures the view of God's salvation.

"Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward." Moses himself seems to have been brought to a stand, as appears from the Lord's question, "Wherefore criest thou to me?" Moses could tell the people to "stand still and see the salvation of God," while his own spirit was giving forth its exercises in an earnest cry to God. However, there is no use in crying when we ought to be acting; just as there is no use in acting when we ought to be waiting. Yet such is, ever, our way. We attempt to move forward when we ought to stand still, and we stand still when we ought to move forward. In Israel's case, the question might spring up in the heart, "whither are we to go?' To all appearance there is an insurmountable barrier in the way of any movement forward. How were they to go through the sea? This was the point. Nature never could solve this question. But we may rest assured that God never gives a command without, at the same time, communicating the power to obey. The real condition of the heart may be tested by the command; but the soul that is, by grace, disposed to obey, receives power from above to do so. When Christ commanded the man with the withered hand to stretch it forth, the man might naturally have said, "How can I stretch forth an arm which hangs dead by my side?" But he did not raise any question whatever, for with the command, and from the same source, came the power to obey.

Thus, too, in Israel's case, we see that with the command to go forward came the provision of grace. "But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea." Here was the path of faith. The hand of God opens the way for us to take the first step, and this is all that faith ever God never gives guidance for two steps at a time. I must take one step, and then I get light for the next. This keeps the heart in abiding dependence upon God. "By faith they Passed through the Red Sea as by dry Land." It is evident that the sea was not divided throughout, at once. Had it been so, it would have been "sight" and not "faith." It does not require faith to begin a journey when I can see all the way through; but to begin when I can merely see the first step, this is faith. The sea opened as Israel moved forward, so that for every fresh step, they needed to be cast upon God. Such was the path along which the redeemed of the Lord moved, under His own conducting hand. They passed through the dark waters of death, and found these very waters to be "a wall unto them, on their right hand and on their left."

The Egyptians could not move in such a path as this. They moved on because they saw the way open before them: with them it was sight, and not faith — "Which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned." When people assay to do what faith alone can accomplish, they only encounter defeat and confusion. The path along which God calls His people to walk is one which nature can never tread — "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 15: 50) Neither can it walk in the ways of God. Faith is the great characteristic principle of God's kingdom, and faith alone can enable us to walk in God's ways. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb. 11) It glorifies God exceedingly when we move on with Him, as it were, blindfold. It proves that we have more confidence in His eyesight than in our own. If I know that God is looking out for me, I may well close my eyes, and move on in holy calmness and stability. In human affairs we know that when there is a sentinel or watchman at his post, others can sleep quietly. How much more may we rest in perfect security, when we know that He who neither slumbers nor sleeps has His eye upon us, and His everlasting arms around us!

"And the angel of God which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these; so that the one came not near the other all the night." (Ver. 19, 20) Jehovah placed Himself right between Israel and the enemy — this was protection indeed. Before ever Pharaoh could touch a hair of Israel's head, he should make his way through the very pavilion of the Almighty — yea, through the Almighty Himself. Thus it is that God ever places Himself between His people and every enemy, so that "no weapon formed against them can prosper." He has placed Himself between us and our sins; and it is our happy privilege to find Him between us and every one and every thing that could be against us. This is the true way in which to find both peace of heart and peace of conscience. The believer may institute a diligent and anxious search for his sins, but he cannot find them. Why? Because God is between him and them. He has cast all our sins behind His back; while, at, the same time, He sheds forth upon us the light of His reconciled countenance.

In the same manner, the believer may look for his difficulties, and not find them, because God is between him and them. If, therefore, the eye, instead of resting on our sins and sorrows, could rest only upon Christ, it would sweeten many a bitter cup, and enlighten many a gloomy hour. But one finds constantly that nine-tenths of our trials and sorrows are made up of anticipated or imaginary evils, which only exist in our own disordered, because unbelieving, minds. May my reader know the solid peace both of heart and conscience which results from having Christ, in all His fullness, between him and all his sins, and all his sorrows.

It is, at once, most solemn and interesting to note the double aspect of the "pillar," in this chapter. "It was a cloud and darkness" to the Egyptians, but "it gave light by night" to Israel. How like the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Truly that cross has a double aspect, likewise. It forms the foundation of the believer's peace; and, at the same time, seals the condemnation of a guilty world. The self-same blood which purges the believer's conscience and gives him perfect peace, stains this earth and consummates its guilt. The very mission of the Son of God which strips the world of its cloak, and leaves it wholly without excuse, clothes the Church with a fair mantle of righteousness, and fills her month with ceaseless praise. The very same Lamb who will terrify, by His unmitigated wrath, all tribes and classes of earth, will lead, by His gentle hand, His blood-bought flock, through the green pastures, and beside the still waters for ever. (Compare Rev. 6: 15-17, with Rev. 7: 13-17)

The close of our chapter shows us Israel triumphant on the shore of the Red Sea, and Pharaoh's hosts submerged beneath its waves. The fears of the former and the boastings of the latter had both alike been proved utterly groundless. Jehovah's glorious work had annihilated both the one and the other. The same waters which formed a wall for God's redeemed, formed a grave for Pharaoh. Thus it is ever: those who walk by faith, find a path to walk in, while all who assay to do so find a grave. This is a solemn truth which is not, in any wise, weakened by the fact that Pharaoh was acting in avowed and positive hostility to God, when he "assayed" to pass through the Red Sea. It will ever be found true that all who attempt to imitate faith's actings will be confounded. Happy are they who are enabled, however feebly, to walk by faith. They are moving along a path of unspeakable blessedness — a path which, though it may be marked by failure and infirmity, is, nevertheless, "begun, continued, and ended in God." Oh! that we may all enter more fully into the divine reality, the calm elevation, and the holy independence of this path.

We ought not to turn from this fruitful section of our book without a reference to 1 Cor. 10 in which we have an allusion to "the cloud and the sea." "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." (Ver. 1, 2) There is much deep and precious instruction for the Christian in this passage. The apostle goes on to say, "now these things were our types," thus furnishing us with a divine warrant for interpreting Israel's baptism "in the sea and in the cloud," in a typical way; and, assuredly, nothing could be more deeply significant or practical. It was as a people thus baptised that they entered upon their wilderness journey, for which provision was made in "the spiritual meat" and "spiritual drink," provided by the hand of love. In other words, they were, typically, a people dead to Egypt and all pertaining thereto. The cloud and the sea were to them what the cross and grave of Christ are to us. The cloud secured them from their enemies; the sea separated them from Egypt: the cross, in like manner, shields us from all that could be against us, and we stand at heaven's side of the empty tomb of Jesus. Here we commence our wilderness journey. Here we begin to taste the heavenly manna and to drink of the streams which emanate from "that spiritual Rock," while, as a pilgrim people, we make our way onward to that land of rest of the which God has spoken to us.

I would further add here, that my reader should seek to understand the difference between the Red Sea and Jordan. They both have their antitype in the death of Christ. But, in the former, we see separation from Egypt; in the latter, introduction into the land of Canaan. The believer is not merely separated from this present evil world, by the cross of Christ; but he is quickened out of the grave of Christ, "raised up together, and made to sit together with Christ, in the heavenlies." (Eph. 2: 5, 6) Hence, though surrounded by the things of Egypt, he is, as to his actual experience, in the wilderness; while, at the same time, he is borne upward, by the energy of faith, to that place where Jesus sits, at the right hand of God. Thus, the believer is not merely "forgiven all trespasses;" but actually associated with a risen Christ in heaven. He is not merely saved by Christ, but linked with Him, for ever. Nothing short of this could either satisfy God's affections or actualise His purposes, in reference to the Church.

Reader, do we understand these things? Do we believe them? Are we realising them? Do we manifest the power of them? Blessed be the grace that has made them unalterably true with respect to every member of the body of Christ, whether it be an eye or an eye-lash, a hand or a foot. Their truth, therefore, does not depend upon our manifestation, our realisation, or our understanding, but upon "THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST," which has cancelled all our guilt and laid the foundation of all God's counsels respecting us. Here is true rest for every broken heart and every burdened conscience.

 

Exodus 15 - 40, Section 2 of 2.

C. H. Mackintosh.

 

Exodus 15

This chapter opens with Israel's magnificent song of triumph on the shore of the Red Sea, when they had seen "that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians." They had seen God's salvation, and they, therefore, sing His praise and recount His mighty acts. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord." Up to this moment, we have not heard so much as a single note of praise. We have heard their cry of deep sorrow, as they toiled amid the brick-kilns of Egypt; we have hearkened to their cry of unbelief, when surrounded by what they deemed insuperable difficulties; but, until now, we have heard no song of praise. It was not until, as a saved people, they found themselves surrounded by the fruits of God's salvation, that the triumphal hymn burst forth from the whole redeemed assembly. It was when they emerged from their significant baptism "in the cloud and in the sea," and were able to gaze upon the rich spoils of victory, which lay scattered around them, that six hundred thousand voices were heard chanting the song of victory. The waters of the Red Sea rolled between them and Egypt, and they stood on the shore as a fully delivered people, and, therefore, they were able to praise Jehovah.

In this, as in everything else, they were our types. We, too, must know ourselves as saved, in the power of death and resurrection, before ever we can present clear and intelligent worship. There will always be reserve and hesitancy in the soul, proceeding, no doubt, from positive inability to enter into the accomplished redemption which is in Christ Jesus. There may be the acknowledgement of the fact that there is salvation in Christ, and in none other; but this is a very different thing from apprehending, by faith, the true character and ground of that salvation, and realising it as ours. The Spirit of God reveals, with unmistakable clearness, in the Word, that the Church is united to Christ in death and resurrection; and, moreover, that a risen Christ, at God's right hand, is the measure and pledge of the Church's acceptance. When this is believed, it conducts the soul entirely beyond the region of doubt and uncertainty. How can the Christian doubt when he knows that he is continually represented before the throne of God by an Advocate, even "Jesus Christ the righteous?" It is the privilege of the very feeblest member of the Church of God to know that he was represented by Christ on the cross; that all his sins were confessed, borne, judged, and atoned for there. This is a divine reality, and, when laid hold of by faith, must give peace. But nothing short of it ever can give peace. There may be earnest, anxious, and most sincere desires after God. There may be the most pious and devout attendance upon all the ordinances, offices, and forms of religion. But there is no other possible way in which to get the sense of sin entirely removed from the conscience, but seeing it judged in the Person of Christ, as a sin-offering on the cursed tree. If it was judged there, once for all, it is now by the believer to be regarded as a divinely and, therefore, eternally-settled question. And that it was so judged is proved by the resurrection of the Surety. "I know that whatsoever God doeth it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it that men should fear before him." (Ecc. 3: 14)

However, while it is generally admitted that all this is, true in reference to the Church collectively, many find considerable difficulty in making a personal application thereof. They are ready to say, with the psalmist, "Truly, God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me," &c. (Ps. 73: 1, 2) They are looking at themselves instead of at Christ, in death, and Christ, in resurrection. They are occupied rather with their appropriation of Christ than with Christ Himself. They are thinking of their capacity rather than their title. Thus they are kept in a state of the most distressing uncertainty; and, as a consequence, they are never able to take the place of happy, intelligent worshippers. They are praying for salvation instead of rejoicing in the conscious possession of it. They are looking at their imperfect fruits instead of Christ's perfect atonement.

Now, in looking through the various notes of this song, in Exodus 15, we do not find a single note about self, its doings, its sayings, its feelings, or its fruits. It is all about Jehovah from beginning to end. It begins with, "I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." This is a specimen of the entire song. It is a simple record of the attributes and actings of Jehovah. In Ex. 14 the hearts of the people? had, as it were, been pent up, by the excessive pressure of their circumstances: but in Ex. 15 the pressure is removed, and their hearts find full vent in a sweet song of praise. Self is forgotten. Circumstances are lost sight of. One object, and but one, fills their vision, and that object is the Lord Himself in His character and ways. They were able to say, "Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands." (Ps. 92: 4) This is true worship. It is when poor worthless self, with all its belongings, is lost sight of, and Christ alone fills the heart, that we present proper worship. There is no need for the efforts of a fleshly pietism to awaken in the soul feelings of devotion. Nor is there any demand whatever for the adventitious appliances of religion, so called, to kindle in the soul the flame of acceptable worship. Oh! no; let but the heart be occupied with the Person of Christ, and "songs of praise" will be the natural result. It is impossible for the eye to rest on Him and the spirit not be bowed in holy worship. If we contemplate the worship of the hosts which surround the throne of God and the Lamb, we shall find that it is ever evoked by the presentation of some special feature of divine excellence or divine acting. Thus should it be with the Church on earth; and when it is not so, it is because we allow things to intrude upon us which have no place in the regions of unclouded light and unalloyed blessedness. In all true worship, God Himself is at once the object of worship, the subject of worship, and the power of worship.

Hence Exodus 15 is a fine specimen of a song of praise. It is the language of a redeemed people celebrating the worthy praise of Him who had redeemed them. "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my fathers God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name, . . . thy right hand, O Lord is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy ....who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? . . . . Thou, in thy mercy, hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. . . . The Lord shall reign for ever and ever." How comprehensive is the range of this song. It begins with redemption and ends with the glory. It begins with the cross, and ends with the kingdom. It is like a beauteous rainbow, of which one end dips in "the sufferings," and the other in "the glory which should follow." It is all about Jehovah. It is an outpouring of soul produced by a view of God and His gracious and glorious actings.

Moreover, it does not stop short of the actual accomplishment of the divine purpose; as we read, "Thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation." The people were able to say this, though they had but just planted their foot on the margin of the desert. It was not the expression of a vague hope. It was not feeding upon poor blind chance. Oh! no; when the soul is wholly occupied with God, it is enabled to launch out into all the fullness of His grace, to bask in the sunshine of His countenance, and delight itself in the rich abundance of His mercy and loving-kindness. There is not a cloud upon the prospect, when the believing soul, taking its stand upon the eternal rock on which redeeming love has set it in association with a risen Christ, looks up into the spacious vault of God's infinite plans and purposes, and dwells upon the effulgence of that glory which God has prepared for all those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

This will account for the peculiarly brilliant, elevated, and unqualified character of all those bursts of praise which we find throughout sacred Scripture, The creature is set aside; God is the object. He fills the entire sphere of the soul's vision. There is nothing of man, his feelings, or his experiences, and, therefore, the stream of praise flows copiously and uninterruptedly forth. How different is this from some of the hymns which we so often hear sung in Christian assemblies, so full of our failings, our feebleness, our shortcomings. The fact is, we can never sing with real, spiritual intelligence and power when we are looking at ourselves We shall ever be discovering something within which will act as a drawback to our worship. Indeed, with many, it seems to be accounted a Christian grace to be in a continual state of doubt and hesitation; and, as a consequence, their hymns are quite in character with their condition. Such persons, however sincere and pious, have never yet, in the actual experience of their souls, entered upon the proper ground of worship. They have not yet got done with themselves. They have not passed through the sea; and, as a spiritually baptised people, taken their stand on the shore, in the power of resurrection. They are still, in some way or another, occupied with self. They do not regard self as a crucified thing, with which God is for ever done.

May the Holy Ghost lead all God's people into fuller, clearer, and worthier apprehensions of their place and privilege as those who, being washed from their sins in the blood of Christ, are presented before God in all that infinite and unclouded acceptance in which He stands, as the risen and glorified Head of His Church. Doubts and fears do not become them, for their divine Surety has not left a shadow of a foundation on which to build a doubt or a fear. Their place is within the veil. They "have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." (Heb. 10: 19) Are there any doubts or fears in the holiest? Is it not evident that a doubting spirit virtually calls in question the perfectness of Christ's work — a work which has been attested, in the view of all created intelligence, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead? That blessed one could not have left the tomb unless all ground of doubting and fearing had been perfectly removed on behalf of His people. Wherefore, it is the Christians sweet privilege ever to triumph in a full salvation. The Lord Himself has become his salvation; and he has only to enjoy the fruits of that which God has wrought for him, and to walk to His praise while waiting for that time, when "Jehovah shall reign for ever and ever."

But there is one note in this song, to which I shall just invite my reader's attention. "He is my God and I will prepare him an habitation." It is worthy of note that when the heart was full to overflowing with the joy of redemption, it gives expression to its devoted purpose in reference to "a habitation for God." Let the Christian reader ponder this. God dwelling with man is a grand thought pervading Scripture from Exodus 15 to Revelation. Hearken to the following utterance of a devoted heart: "Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob." (Ps. 132: 3-5) Again, "For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." (Ps. 49: 9; John 2: 17.) I do not attempt to pursue this subject here; but I would fain awaken such an interest concerning it in the breast of my reader, as shall lead him to pursue it, prayerfully, for himself, from the earliest notice of it in the Word until he arrives at that soul-stirring announcement, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Rev. 21: 3, 4)

"So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; and they went out into the wilderness of Shur: and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water." (ver. 22) It is when we get into wilderness experience, that we are put to the test as to the real measure of our acquaintance with God and with our own hearts. There is a freshness and an exuberance of joy connected with the opening of our Christian career, which very soon receives a check from the keen blast of the desert; and then, unless there is a deep sense of what God is to us, above and beyond everything else, we are apt to break down, and, "in our hearts, turn back again into Egypt." The discipline of the wilderness is needful, not to furnish us with a title to Canaan, but to make us acquainted with God and with our own hearts; to enable us to enter into the power of our relationship, and to enlarge our capacity for the enjoyment of Canaan when we actually get there. (See Deut. 8: 2-5.)

The greenness, freshness, and luxuriance of spring have peculiar charms, which will pass away before the scorching heat of summer; but then, with proper care, that very heat which removes the fair traces of spring, produces the mellowed and matured fruits of autumn. Thus it is also in the Christian life; for there is, as we know, a striking and deeply instructive analogy between the principles which obtain in the kingdom of nature and those which characterise the kingdom of grace, seeing it is the same God whose handiwork meets our view in both.

There are three distinct positions in which we may contemplate Israel, namely, in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in the land of Canaan. In all these, they are "our types;" but we are in all three together. This may seem paradoxical, but it is true. As a matter of actual fact, we are in Egypt, surrounded by natural things, which are entirely adapted to the natural heart. But, inasmuch as we have been called by God's grace into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ, we, according to the affections and desires of the new nature, necessarily find our place outside of all that which belongs to Egypt,, (i.e., the world in its natural state),* and this causes us to taste of wilderness experience, or, in other words, it places us, as a matter of experience, in the wilderness. The divine nature earnestly breathes after a different order of things — after a purer atmosphere than that with which we find ourselves surrounded, and thus it causes us to feel Egypt to be a moral desert.

{*There is a wide moral difference between Egypt and Babylon, which it is important to understand. Egypt was that out of which Israel came; Babylon was that into which they were afterwards carried. (Comp. Amos 5: 25-27 with Acts 7: 42, 43) Egypt expresses what man has made of the world; Babylon expresses what Satan has made, is making, or will make, of the professing Church. Hence, we are not only surrounded with the circumstances of Egypt, but also by the moral principles of Babylon.

This renders our "days" what the Holy Ghost has termed "perilous." (calepoi — "difficult".) It demands a special energy of the Spirit of God, and complete subjection to the authority of the Word, to enable one to meet the combined influence of the realities of Egypt and the spirit and principles of Babylon. The former meet the natural desires of the heart; while the latter connect themselves with, and address themselves to, the religiousness of nature, which gives them a peculiar hold upon the heart. Man is a religious being, and peculiarly susceptible of the influences which arise from music, sculpture, painting, and pompous rites and ceremonies. When these things stand connected with the full supply of all his natural wants — yes, with all the ease and luxury of life, nothing but the mighty power of God's Word and Spirit can keep one true to Christ.

We should also remark that there is a vast difference between the destinies of Egypt and those of Babylon. Isaiah 19 sets before us the blessing that are in store for Egypt. It concludes thus: "And the Lord shall smite Egypt; he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even unto the Lord, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them. . . . . . in that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance."(ver. 22-25)

Very different is the close of Babylon's history, whether viewed as a literal city or a spiritual system. "I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts." (Isaiah 14: 23) "It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation." (Isaiah 13: 20) So much for Babylon literally; and looking at it from a mystic or spiritual point of view, we read its destiny in Revelation 18. The entire chapter is a description of Babylon, and it concludes thus: " A strong angel took up a stone, like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, "Thus, with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." (Verse 21)

With what immense solemnity should those words fall upon the ears of all who are in any wise connected with Babylon — that is to say, with the false, professing church. "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues!" (Rev. 18: 5) The "power" of the Holy Ghost will necessarily produce, or express itself in a certain " form, and the enemy's aim has ever been to rob the professing church of the power, while he leads her to cling to, and perpetuate the form — to stereotype the form when all the spirit and life has passed away. Thus he builds the spiritual Babylon. The stones of which this city is built are lifeless professors; and the slime or mortar which binds these stones together is a, form of godliness without the power."

Oh my beloved reader, let us see to it that we fully, clearly and influentially understand these things.}

But then, inasmuch as we are, in God's view, eternally associated with Him who is passed right through into the heavenlies, and taken His seat there in triumph and majesty, it is our happy privilege to know ourselves, by faith, as "sitting together with him" there. (Eph. 2) So that although we are, as to our bodies, in Egypt, we are, as to our experience, in the wilderness, while at the same time, faith conducts us, in spirit, into Canaan, and enables us to feed upon "the old corn of the land," i.e., upon Christ, not as One come down to earth merely, but as One gone back to heaven and seated there in glory.

The concluding verses of this 15th chapter show us Israel in the wilderness. Up to this point it seemed to them to be all fair sailing. Heavy judgements poured upon Egypt, but Israel perfectly exempt — the army of Egypt dead upon the sea shore, but Israel in triumph. All this was well enough; but alas! the aspect of things speedily changed. The notes of praise were soon exchanged for the accents of discontent. "When they came to Marah they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?" Again, "the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full! for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."

Here were the trials of the wilderness. What shall we eat?" and "What shall we drink?" The waters of Marah tested the heart of Israel and developed their murmuring spirit; but the Lord showed them that there was no bitterness which He could not sweeten with the provision of His own grace. "And the Lord showed them a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet; there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them." Beauteous figure this of Him who was, in infinite grace, cast into the bitter waters of death, in order that those waters might yield nought but sweetness to us for ever. We can truly say, "the bitterness of death is past," and nothing remains for us but the eternal sweets of resurrection.

Verse 26 sets before us the momentous character of this first stage of Gods redeemed in the wilderness. We are in great danger, at this point, of falling into a fretful, impatient, murmuring spirit. The only remedy for this is to keep the eye steadily fixed on Jesus — "looking unto Jesus." He, blessed be His name, ever unfolds himself according to the need of His people; and they, instead of complaining of their circumstances, should only make their circumstances an occasion of drawing afresh upon Him. Thus it is that the wilderness ministers to our experience of what God is. It is a school in which we learn His patient grace and ample resources. "Forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness." (Acts 13: 18) The spiritual mind will ever own that it is worth having bitter waters for God to sweeten. "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Rom. 5: 3-5)

However, the wilderness has its Elims as well as its Marahs; its wells and palm trees, as well as its bitter waters. "And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped thereby the waters." (Ver. 27) The Lord graciously and tenderly provides green spots in the desert for His journeying people; and though they are, at best, but oases, yet are they refreshing to the spirit and encouraging to the heart. The sojourn at Elim was eminently calculated to soothe the hearts of the people, and hush their murmurings. The grateful shade of its palm trees, and the refreshing of its wells, came in, sweetly and seasonably, after the trial of Marah, and significantly set forth, in our view, the precious virtues of that spiritual ministry which God provides for his people down here. "The twelve and "the seventy " are numbers intimately associated with ministry.

But Elim was not Canaan. Its wells and palm trees were but foretastes of that happy land which lay beyond the bounds of the sterile desert on which the redeemed had just entered. It furnished refreshment, no doubt, but it was wilderness refreshment. It was but for passing moment, designed, in grace, to encourage their depressed spirits, and nerve them for their onward march to Canaan. Thus it is as we know, with ministry in the Church. It is a gracious provision for our need, designed to refresh, strengthen, and encourage our hearts, "until we all come to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ." (Eph. 4)

 

Exodus 16

"And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure out of the land of Egypt." (Chap. 16: 1) Here we find Israel in a very marked and interesting position. It is still the wilderness, no doubt, but it is a most important and significant stage thereof, namely, "between Elim and Sinai." The former was the place where they had so recently experienced the refreshing springs of divine ministry; the latter was the place where they entirely got off the ground of free and sovereign grace, and placed themselves under a covenant of works. These facts render "the wilderness of Sin" a singularly interesting portion of Israel's journey. Its features and influences are as strongly marked as those of any point in their whole career. They are here seen as the subjects of the same grace which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, and, therefore, all their murmurings are instantly met by divine supplies. When God acts in the display of His grace, there is no hindrance. The streams of blessing which emanate from Him, flow onward without interruption. It is only when man puts himself under law that he forfeits everything; for then God must allow him to prove how much he can claim on the ground of his own works.

When God visited and redeemed His people, and brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, it assuredly was not for the purpose of suffering them to die of hunger and thirst in the wilderness. They should have known this. They ought to have trusted Him, and walked in the confidence of that love which had so gloriously delivered them from the horrors of Egyptian bondage. They should have remembered that it was infinitely better to be in the desert with God, than in the brick-kilns with Pharaoh. But no; the human heart finds it immensely difficult to give God credit for pure and perfect love. It has far more confidence in Satan than God. Look, for a moment, at all the sorrow and suffering, the misery and degradation which man has endured by reason of his having hearkened to the voice of Satan, and yet he never gives utterance to a word of complaint of his service, or of desire to escape from under his hand. He is not discontented with Satan, or weary of serving him. Again and again, he reaps bitter fruits in those fields which Satan has thrown open to him; and yet, again and again, he may be seen sowing the self-same seed, and undergoing the self-same labours.

How different it is in reference to God! When we have set out to walk in His ways, we are ready, at the earliest appearance of pressure or trial, to murmur and rebel. Indeed, there is nothing in which we so signally fail as in the cultivation of a confiding and thankful spirit. Ten thousand mercies are forgotten in the presence of one single trying privation. We have been frankly forgiven all our sins, "accepted in the Beloved," made heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, the expectants of eternal glory; and, in addition to all, our path through the desert is strewed with countless mercies; and yet let but a cloud, the size of a man's hand, appear on the horizon, and we at once forget the rich mercies of the past in view of this single cloud, which, after all, may only "break in blessings on our head." The thought of this should humble us deeply in the presence of God. How unlike we are in this, as in every other respect, to our blessed Exemplar! Look at Him — the true Israel in the wilderness — surrounded by wild beasts, and fasting for forty days. How did He carry Himself? Did He murmur? Did He complain of His lot? Did He wish Himself in other circumstances? Ah! no. God was the portion of His cup and the lot of His inheritance. (Ps. 16) And, therefore, when the tempter approached and offered Him the necessaries, the glories, the distinctions, and the honours of this life, He refused them all, and tenaciously held fast the position of absolute dependence upon God and implicit obedience to His word. He would only take bread from God and glory from Him likewise.

Very different was it with Israel after the flesh ! No sooner did they feel the pressure of hunger than "they murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness." They seemed to have actually lost the sense of having been delivered by the hand of Jehovah, for they said, "Ye have brought us forth into this wilderness." And, again, in Ex. 17, "the people murmured against Moses and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt to kill us, and our children, and our cattle with thirst?" Thus did they, on every occasion, evince a fretful, murmuring spirit, and prove how little they realised the presence and the hand of their Almighty and infinitely gracious Deliverer.

Now, nothing is more dishonouring to God than the manifestation of a complaining spirit on the part of those that belong to Him. The apostle gives it as a special mark of Gentile corruption that, "when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful." Then follows the practical result of this unthankful spirit. "They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." (Rom. 1: 2) The heart that ceases to retain a thankful sense of God's goodness will speedily become "dark." Thus Israel lost the sense of being in God a hands; and this led, as might be expected, to still thicker darkness, for we find them, further on in their history, saying, "Wherefore hath the Lord brought us into this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children shall be a prey?" (Num. 14: 3) Such is the line along which a soul out of communion will travel. It first loses the sense of being in God's hands for good, and, finally, begins to deem itself in His hands for evil.

Melancholy progress this! However, the people being so far the subjects of grace, are provided for; and our chapter furnishes the marvellous account of this provision. "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you." They, when enveloped in the chilling cloud of their unbelief, had said, "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full." But now the word is, "bread from heaven." Blessed contrast! How amazing the difference between the Flesh-pots, the leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt, and this heavenly manna — "angels' food!" The former belonged to earth, the latter to heaven.

But, then, this heavenly food was, of necessity, a test of Israel's condition, as we read, "That I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no." It needed a heart weaned from Egypt's influences, to be satisfied with, or enjoy "bread from heaven." In point of fact, we know that the people were not satisfied with it, but despised it, pronounced it "light food," and lusted for flesh. Thus they proved how little their hearts were delivered from Egypt, or disposed to walk in God's law. "In their hearts they turned back again into Egypt." (Acts 7: 39) But, instead of getting back thither, they were, ultimately, carried away beyond Babylon. (Acts 7: 43) This is a solemn and salutary lesson for Christians. If those who are redeemed from this present world, do not walk with God in thankfulness of heart, satisfied with His provision for the redeemed in the wilderness, they are in danger of falling into the snare of Babylonish influence. This is a serious consideration. It demands a heavenly taste to feed on bread from heaven. Nature cannot relish such food. It will ever yearn after Egypt, and, therefore, it must be kept down. It is our privilege, as those who have been baptised into Christ's death, and "risen again through the faith of the operation of God," to feed upon Christ as "the bread of life which came down from heaven." This is our wilderness food — Christ as ministered by the Holy Ghost, through the written word; while, for our spiritual refreshment, the Holy Ghost has come down, as the precious fruit of the smitten Rock — Christ, as smitten for us. Such is our rare portion, in this desert world.

Now, it is obvious that, in order to enjoy such a portion as this, our hearts must be weaned from everything in this present evil world — from all that would address itself to us as natural men — as men alive in the flesh. A worldly heart — a carnal mind, would neither find Christ in the Word, nor enjoy Elim if found. The manna was so pure and delicate that it could not bear contact with earth. It fell upon the dew, (see Num. 11: 9) and had to be gathered ere the sun was up. Each one, therefore, had to rise early and seek his daily portion. So it is with the people of God now. The heavenly manna must be gathered fresh every morning. Yesterdays manna will not do for today, nor today's for tomorrow. We must feed upon Christ every day, with fresh energy of the Spirit, else we shall cease to grow. Moreover, we must make Christ our primary object. We must seek Him "early," before "other things" have had time to take possession of our poor susceptible hearts. Many of us, alas! fail in this. We give Christ a secondary place, and the consequence is, we are left feeble and barren. The enemy, ever watchful, takes advantage of our excessive spiritual indolence to rob us of the blessedness and strength which flow from feeding upon Christ. The new life in the believer can only be nourished and sustained by Christ. "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." (John 6: 57)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the One who came down from heaven, to be His people's food is ineffably precious to the renewed soul; but, in order to enjoy Him thus, we need to realise ourselves, as in the wilderness, separated to God, in the power of accomplished redemption. If I am walking with God through the desert, I shall be satisfied with the food which He provides, and that is, Christ as come down from heaven. "The old corn of the land of Canaan" has its antitype in Christ ascended up on high, and seated in the glory. As such, He is the proper food of those who by faith, know themselves as raised up together and seated together with Him in the heavenlies. But the manna, that is, Christ as come down from heaven, is for the people of God, in their wilderness life and experience. As a people journeying down here, we need a Christ who also journeyed down here; as a people seated in spirit up there, we have a Christ who is seated up there. This may help to explain the difference between the manna and the old corn of the land. It is not a question of redemption; that we have in the blood of the cross, and there alone. It is simply the provision which God has made for His people, according to their varied attitudes, whether as actually toiling in the desert, or in spirit taking possession of the heavenly inheritance.

What a striking picture is presented by Israel in the wilderness! Egypt was behind them, Canaan before them, and the sand of the desert around them; while they themselves were called to look up to heaven for their daily supply. The wilderness afforded not one blade of grass nor one drop of water for the Israel of God. In Jehovah alone was their portion. Most touching illustration of God's pilgrim people in this wilderness world! They have nothing here. Their life, being heavenly, can only be sustained by heavenly things. Though in the world, they are not of it, for Christ has chosen them out of it. As a heaven-born people, they are on their way to their birth-place, and sustained by food sent from thence. Theirs is an upward and an onward course. The glory leads only thus. It is utterly vain to cast the eye backward in the direction of Egypt; not a ray of the glory can there be discerned. "They looked toward the wilderness, and behold the glory of the Lord appeared in the clouds." Jehovah's chariot was in the wilderness, and all who desired companionship with Him should be there likewise; and, if there, the heavenly manna should be their food, and that alone.

True, this manna was strange sustenance, such as an Egyptian could never understand, appreciate, or live upon; but those who had been "baptised in the cloud and in the sea," could, if walking in consistency with that significant baptism, enjoy and be nourished by it. Thus is it now in the case of the true believer. The worldling cannot understand how he lives. Both his life and that which sustains it lie entirely beyond the range of nature's keenest vision. Christ is his life, and on Christ he lives. He feeds, by faith, upon the powerful attractions of one who, though being "God over all, blessed for ever," "took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." (Phil. 2: 7) He traces Him from the bosom of the Father to the cross, and from the cross to the throne, and finds Him, in every stage of His journey, and in every attitude of His life, to be most precious food for his new man. All around, though, in fact, Egypt, is morally a waste howling wilderness, affording nothing for the renewed mind; and, just in proportion as the Christian finds any material to feed upon, must his spiritual man be hindered in his progress. The only provision which God has made is the heavenly manna, and on this the true believer should ever feed.

It is truly deplorable to find Christians seeking after the things of this world. It proves, very distinctly, that they are "loathing" the heavenly manna, and esteeming it "light food." They are ministering to that which they ought to mortify. The activities of the new life will ever show themselves in connection with the subjugation of "the old man with his deeds;" and the more that is accomplished, the more will we desire to feed upon the "bread which strengthens man's heart." As in nature, the more we exercise, the better the appetite, so in grace, the more our renewed faculties are called into play, the more we feel the need of feeding, each day, upon Christ. It is one thing to know that we have life in Christ, together with full forgiveness and acceptance before God, and it is quite another to be in habitual communion with Him — feeding upon Him by faith — making Him the exclusive food of our souls. Very many profess to have found pardon and peace in Jesus, who, in reality, are feeding upon a variety of things which have no connection with Him. They feed their minds with the newspapers and the varied frivolous and vapid literature of the day. Will they find Christ there? Is it by such instrumentality that the Holy Ghost ministers Christ to the soul? Are these the pure dew-drops on which the heavenly manna descends for the sustenance of God's redeemed in the desert? Alas! no; they are the gross materials in which the carnal mind delights. How then can a true Christian live upon such? We know, by the teaching of God's word, that he carries about with him two natures; and it may be asked, Which of the two is it that feeds upon the world's news and the world's literature? Is it the old or the new? There can be but the one reply. Well, then, which of the two am I desirous of cherishing? Assuredly my conduct will afford the truest answer to this enquiry. If I sincerely desire to grow in the divine Life — if my one grand object is to be assimilated and devoted to Christ — if I am earnestly breathing after an extension of God's kingdom within, I shall, without doubt, seek continually that character of nourishment which is designed of God to promote my spiritual growth. This is plain. A man's acts are always the truest index of his desires and purposes. Hence, if I find a professing Christian neglecting his Bible, yet finding abundance of time — yea, some of his choicest hours — for the newspaper, I can be at no loss to decide as to the true condition of his soul. I am sure he cannot be spiritual — cannot be feeding upon, living for, or witnessing to, Christ.

If an Israelite neglected to gather, in the freshness of the morning hour, his daily portion of the divinely appointed food, he would speedily have become lacking in strength for his journey. Thus is it with us. We must make Christ the paramount object of our souls' pursuit, else our spiritual life will inevitably decline. We cannot even feed upon feelings and experiences connected with Christ, for they, inasmuch as they are fluctuating, cannot form our spiritual nourishment. It was Christ yesterday, and it must be Christ today, and Christ for ever. Moreover, it will not do to feed partly on Christ and partly on other things. As, in the matter of life, it is Christ alone; so, in the matter of living, it must be Christ alone. As we cannot mingle anything with that which imparts life; so neither can we mingle anything with that which sustains it.

It is quite true that, in spirit, and by faith, we can, even now, feed upon a risen and gloried Christ, ascended up to heaven in virtue of accomplished redemption, as prefigured by "the old corn of the land." (See Joshua 5) And not only so, but we know that when God's redeemed shall have entered upon those fields of glory, rest, and immortality, which lie beyond the Jordan, they shall, in actual fact, be done with wilderness food; but they will not be done with Christ. nor with the remembrance of that which constitutes the specific nourishment of their desert life.

Israel were never to forget, amid the milk and honey of the land of Canaan, that which had sustained them during their forty years' sojourn in the wilderness. "This is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer of is to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt..... As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the testimony, to be kept." (Ver. 32) Most precious memorial of the faithfulness of God! He did not suffer them to die of hunger, as their foolish hearts had unbelievingly anticipated. He rained bread from heaven for them, fed them with angels' food, watched over them with all the tenderness of a nurse, bore with them, carried them on eagles' wings; and, had they only continued on the proper ground of grace, He would have put them in eternal possession of all the promises made to their fathers. The pot of manna, therefore, containing, as it did, a man's daily portion, and laid up before the Lord, furnishes a volume of truth. There was no worm therein nor ought of taint. It was the record of Jehovah's faithfulness, in providing for those whom He had redeemed out of the hand of the enemy.

Not so, however, when man hoarded it up for himself. Then the symptoms of corruptibility soon made their appearance. We cannot, if entering into the truth and reality of our position, hoard up. It is our privilege, day by day, to enter into the preciousness of Christ, as the One who came down from heaven to give life unto the world. But if any, in forgetfulness of this, should be found hoarding up for tomorrow, that is, laying up truth beyond his present need, instead of turning it to profit in the way of renewing strength it will surely become corrupt. This is a salutary lesson for us. It is a deeply solemn thing to learn truth; for there is not a principle which we profess to have learnt which we shall not have to prove practically. God will not have us theorists. One often trembles to hear persons make high professions and use expressions of intense devotedness, whether, in prayer or otherwise, lest. when the hour of trial comes, there may not be the needed spiritual power to carry out what the lips have uttered.

There is a great danger of the intellect's outstripping the conscience and the affections. Hence it is that so many seem, at first, to make such rapid progress up to a certain point; but there they stop short and appear to retrograde. Like an Israelite gathering up more manna than he required for one day's food. He might appear to be accumulating the heavenly food far more diligently than others; yet every particle beyond the day's supply was not only useless, but far worse than useless, inasmuch as it "bred worms." Thus is it with the Christian. He must use what he gets. He must feed upon Christ as a matter of actual need, and the need is brought out in actual service. The character and ways of God, the preciousness and beauty of Christ, and the living depths of the Word are only unfolded to faith and need. It is as we use what we receive that more will be given. The path of the believer is to be a practical one; and here it is that so many of us come short. It will often be found that those who get on most rapidly in theory are the slowest in the practical and experimental elements, because it is word a work of intellect than of heart and conscience. We should ever remember that Christianity is not a set of opinions, a system of dogmas, or a number of views. It is pre-eminently a living reality — a personal, practical, powerful thing, telling itself out in all the scenes and circumstances of daily life, shedding its hallowed influence over the entire character and course, and imparting its heavenly tone to every relationship which one may be called of God to fill. In a word, it is that which flows from being associated and occupied with Christ. This is Christianity. There may be clear views, correct notions. sound principles, without any fellowship with Jesus; but an orthodox creed without Christ will prove a cold, barren, dead thing.

Christian reader, see carefully to it that you are not only saved by Christ, but also living on Him. Make Him the daily portion of your soul. Seek Him "early," seek Him "only." When anything solicits your attention, ask the question, "Will this bring Christ to my heart! Will it unfold Him to my affections or draw me near to His Person?" If not, reject it at once: yes, reject it, though it present itself under the most specious appearance and with the most commanding authority. If your honest purpose be to get on in the divine life, to progress in spirituality, to cultivate personal acquaintance with Christ, then challenge your heart solemnly and faithfully as to this. Make Christ your habitual food. Go, gather the manna that falls on the dew-drops, and feed upon it with an appetite sharpened by a diligent walk with God through the desert. May the rich grace of God the Holy Ghost abundantly Strengthen you in all this!* {*My reader will find it profitable to turn to John 6, and prayerfully meditate upon it, in connection with the subject of the manna. The Passover being near, Jesus feeds the multitude, and then takes His departure to a mountain, there to be alone. From thence He comes to the relief of His distressed people, tossed upon the troubled waters. After this He unfolds the doctrine of His Person and work, God declares how He was to give His flesh for the life of the world, and that none could have life save by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Finally, He speaks of Himself as ascending up where He was before and of the quickening power of the Holy Ghost. It is, indeed, a rich and copious chapter, in which the spiritual reader will find a vast fund of truth for the comfort and edification of his soul.}

There is one point more in our chapter which we shall notice, namely the instigation of the Sabbath, in its connection with the manna and Israel's position, as here set forth. From Genesis 2 down to the chapter now before us, we find no mention made of this institution. This is remarkable. Abel's sacrifice, Enochs walk with God, Noah's preaching, Abraham's call, together with the detailed history of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, are all presented; but there is no allusion to the Sabbath until we find Israel recognised as a people in relationship and consequent responsibility to Jehovah. The Sabbath was interrupted in Eden; and here we find it again instituted for Israel in the wilderness. But alas! man has no heart for Gods rest. And it came to pass that " There went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days: abide ye every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." (Ver. 27-29) God would have His people enjoying sweet repose with Himself. He would give them rest, food, and refreshment, even in the wilderness. But man's heart is not disposed to rest with God. The people could remember and speak of the time when they "sat by the flesh pots" in Egypt; but they could not appreciate the blessedness of sitting in their tents, enjoying with God "the rest of the holy Sabbath," feeding upon the heavenly manna.

And, be it remarked, that the Sabbath is here presented as a matter of gift. "The Lord hath given you the Sabbath." Further on, in this book, we shall find it put in the form of a law, with a curse and a judgement attached to it, in the case of disobedience; but whether fallen man gets a privilege or a law, a blessing or a curse, it is all alike. His nature is bad. He can neither rest with, nor work for, God, If God works and makes a rest for him, he will not keep it; and if God tells him to work, he will not do it. Such is man. He has no heart for God. He can make use of the name of the Sabbath as a something to exalt himself, or as the badge of his own religiousness; but when we turn to Exodus 16 we find that he cannot prize God's Sabbath as a gift; and when we turn to Numbers 15: 32-38, we find he cannot keep it as a Law.

Now, we know that the Sabbath, as well as the manna, was a type. In itself, it was a real blessing-a sweet mercy from the hand of a loving and gracious God, who would relieve the toil and travail of a sin stricken earth by the refreshment of one day of rest out of the seven. Whatever way we look at the institution of the Sabbath, we must see it to be pregnant with richest mercy, whether we view it in reference to man or to the animal creation. And, albeit, that Christians observe the first day of the week — the Lord's day, and attach to it its proper principles, yet is the gracious providence equally observable, nor would any mind at all governed by right feelings, seek, for a moment, to interfere with such a signal mercy. "The Sabbath was made for man;" and although man never has kept it, according to the divine thought about it, that does not detract from the grace which shines in the appointment of it, nor divest it of its deep significancy as a type of that eternal rest which remains for the people of God, or as a shadow of that substance which faith now enjoys in the Person and work of a risen Christ.

Let not the reader, therefore, suppose that in anything which has been, or may be, stated, in these pages, the object is to touch, in the slightest degree, the merciful provision of one day's rest for man and the animal creation, much less to interfere with the distinct place which the Lord's day occupies in the New Testament. Nothing is further from the writer's thoughts. As a man he values the former, and as a Christian he rejoices in the latter, far too deeply to admit of his penning or uttering a single syllable which would interfere with either the one or the other. He would only ask the reader to weigh, with a dispassionate mind, in the balance of Holy Scripture, every line and every statement, and not form any harsh judgement beforehand.

This subject will come before us again, in our further meditations, if the Lord will. May we learn to value more the rest which our God has provided for us in Christ, and while enjoying Him as our rest, may we feed upon Him as the "hidden manna," laid up, in the power of resurrection, in the inner sanctuary — the record of what God has accomplished, on our behalf, by coming down into this world, in His infinite grace, in order that we might be before Him, according to the perfectness of Christ, and feed on His unsearchable riches for ever.

 

Exodus 17

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?"(Ex. 17: 1, 2) Did we not know something of the humiliating evil of our own hearts, we should be quite at a loss to account for Israel's marvellous insensibility to all the Lord's goodness, faithfulness, and mighty acts. They had just seen bread descending from heaven to feed six hundred thousand people in the wilderness: and now they are " ready to stone" Moses for bringing them out into the wilderness to kill them with thirst. Nothing can exceed the desperate unbelief and wickedness of the human heart, save the superabounding grace of God. In that grace alone can any one find relief under the growing sense of his evil nature which circumstances tend to make manifest. Had Israel been transported directly from Egypt to Canaan, they would not have made such sad exhibitions of what the human heart is; and, as a consequence, they would not have proved such admirable ensamples or types for us; but their forty years' wandering in the desert furnishes us with a volume of warning, admonition, and instruction, fruitful beyond conception. From it we learn, amongst many other things, the unvarying tendency of the heart to distrust God. Anything, in short, for it but God. It would rather lean upon a cobweb of human resources than upon the arm of an Omnipotent, all-wise, and infinitely gracious God; and the smallest cloud is more than sufficient to hide from its view the light of His blessed countenance. Well, therefore, may it be termed "An evil heart of unbelief" which will ever show itself ready to "depart from the living God."

It is interesting to note the two great questions raised by unbelief, in this and the preceding chapter. They are precisely similar to those which spring up, within and around us, every day, namely, "what shall we eat? and what shall we drink?" We do not find the people raising the third question in the category, wherewithal shall we be clothed?" But here are the questions of the wilderness, "What!" "Where!" "How?" Faith has a brief but comprehensive answer to all the three, namely, GOD! Precious, perfect, answer! Oh! that the writer and the reader were more thoroughly acquainted with its force and fullness! We assuredly need to remember, when placed in a position of trial, that "there hath no temptation taken us but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, (or an "issue" ekbasin,) that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10: 13) Whenever we get into trial, we may feel confident that, with the trial, there is an issue, and all we need is a broken will and a single eye to see it.

"And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying; What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb, and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel." (Ver. 4-6.) Thus all is met by the most perfect grace. Every murmur brings out a fresh display. Here we have the refreshing stream gushing from the smitten rock — beauteous type of the Spirit given as the fruit of Christ's accomplished sacrifice. In Ex. 16 we have a type of Christ coming down from heaven to give life to the world. In Ex. 17 we have a type of the Holy Ghost "shed forth," in virtue of Christ's finished work. "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that, Rock was Christ." (1 Cor. 10: 4) But who could drink till the Rock was smitten? Israel might have gazed on that rock and died of thirst while gazing; but, until smitten by the rod of God, it could yield no refreshment. This is plain enough. The Lord Jesus Christ was the centre and foundation of all God's counsels of love and mercy. Through Him all blessing was to flow to man. The streams of grace were designed to gush forth from "the Lamb of God;" but then it was needful that the Lamb should be slain — that the work of the cross should be an accomplished fact, ere any of these things could be actualised. It was when the Rock of ages was cleft by the hand of Jehovah, that the flood-gates of eternal love were thrown wide open, and perishing sinners invited by the testimony of the Holy Ghost to "drink abundantly," drink deeply, drink freely. "The gift of the Holy Ghost" is the result of the Son's accomplished work upon the cross. "The promise of the Father" could not be fulfilled until Christ had taken His seat at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens, having wrought out perfect righteousness, answered all the claims of holiness, magnified the law and made it honourable, borne the unmitigated wrath of God against sin, exhausted the power of death, and deprived the grave of its victory. He, having done all this, "ascended up on high, led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that He ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things." (Eph. 4: 8-10.)

This is the true foundation of the Church's peace, blessedness, and glory, for ever. Until the rock was smitten, the stream was pent up, and man could do nothing. What human hand could bring forth water from a flinty rock? And so, we may ask, what human righteousness could afford a warrant for opening the flood-gates of divine love? This is the true way in which to test man's competency. He could not, by his doings, his sayings, or his feelings, furnish a ground for the mission of the Holy Ghost. Let him be or do what he may, he could not do this. But thank God, it is done; Christ has finished the work; the true Rock has been smitten, and the refreshing stream has issued forth, so that thirsty souls may drink. "The water that I shall give him," says Christ, "shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." (John 4: 14) Again; "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7: 37-39; compare, also, Acts 19: 2)

Thus, as in the manna, we have a type of Christ, so in the stream gushing from the rock we have a type of the Holy Ghost. "If thou knewest the gift of God, (i.e., Christ) . . . . thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water," — i.e., the Spirit.

Such, then, is the teaching conveyed to the spiritual mind by the smitten rock; but the name of the place in which this significant type was presented is a standing memorial of man's unbelief. "He called the name of the place Massah (i.e., temptation,) and Meribah, (i.e., chiding,) because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not?" (Ver. 7) After such repeated assurances and evidences of Jehovah's presence, to raise such an enquiry proves the deep-seated unbelief of the human heart. It was? in point of fact, tempting Him. Thus did the Jews, in the day of Christ's presence amongst them, seek of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him. Faith never acts thus; it believes in, and enjoys, the divine presence, not by a sign, but by the knowledge of Himself. It knows He is there to be enjoyed, and it enjoys Him. Lord, grant us a more artless spirit of confidence.

The next point suggested by our chapter is one of special interest to us. "Then came Amalek and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in mine hand." (Ver. 8, 9) The gift of the Holy Ghost leads to conflict. The light rebukes and conflicts with the darkness. Where all is dark there is no struggle; but the very feeblest struggle bespeaks the presence of light. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye should not do the things that ye would." (Gal. 5: 17) Thus it is in the chapter before us; we have the rock smitten and the water flowing forth, and immediately we read, "then came Amalek and fought with Israel."

This is the first time that Israel are seen in conflict with an external foe. Up to this point, the Lord had fought for them, as we read in Ex. 14. "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." But now the word is, "choose us out men." True, God must now fight in Israel, as, before, He had fought for them. This marks the difference, as to the type; and as to the antitype, we know that there is an immense difference between Christ's battles for us, and the Holy Ghost's battles in us. The former, blessed be God, are all over, the victory gained, and a glorious and an everlasting peace secured. The latter, on the contrary, are still going on.

Pharaoh and Amalek represent two different powers or influences; Pharaoh represents the hindrance to Israel's deliverance from Egypt; Amalek represents the hindrance to their walk with God through the wilderness. Pharaoh used the things of Egypt to keep Israel from serving the Lord; he, therefore, prefigures Satan, who uses "this present evil world" against the people of God. Amalek, on the other hand, stands before us as the type of the flesh. He was the grandson of Esau, who preferred a mess of pottage to the birthright. (See Gen. 36: 12) He was the first who opposed Israel, after their baptism "in the cloud and in the sea." These facts serve to fix his character with great distinctness; and, in addition to these, we know that Saul was set aside from the kingdom of Israel, in consequence of his failing to destroy Amalek. (1 Sam. 15) And, further, we find that Haman is the last of the Amalekites of whom we find any notice in scripture. He was hanged on a gallows, in consequence of his wicked attempt against the seed of Israel. (See Esther) No Amalekite could obtain entrance into the congregation of the Lord. And, finally. in the chapter now before us, the Lord declares perpetual war with Amalek.

All these circumstances may be regarded as furnishing conclusive evidence of the fact that Amalek is a type of the flesh. The connection between his conflict with Israel and the water flowing out of the rock is most marked and instructive, and in full keeping with the believer's conflict with his evil nature, which conflict is, as we know, consequent upon his having the new nature, and the Holy Ghost dwelling therein. Israel's conflict began when they stood in the full power of redemption, and had tasted "that spiritual meat and drunk of that spiritual Rock." Until they met Amalek, they had nothing to do. They did not cope with Pharaoh. They did not break the power of Egypt nor snap asunder the chains of its thralldom. They did not divide the sea or submerge Pharaoh's hosts beneath its waves. They did not bring down bread from heaven, or draw forth water out of the flinty rock. They neither had done, nor could they do, any of these things ; but now they are called to fight with Amalek. All the previous conflict had been between Jehovah and the enemy. They had but to "stand still" and gaze upon the mighty triumphs of Jehovah's outstretched arm and enjoy the fruits of victory. The Lord had fought for them; but now He fights in or by them.

Thus is it also with the Church of God. The victories on which her eternal peace and blessedness are founded were gained, single-handed, by Christ for her. He was alone on the cross, alone in the tomb. The Church had to stand aside, for how could she be there? How could she vanquish Satan, endure the wrath of God, or rob death of its sting? Impossible. These things lay far beyond the reach of sinners, but not beyond the reach of Him who came to save them, and who alone was able to bear upon his shoulder the ponderous weight of all their sins, and roll the burden away for ever, by His infinite sacrifice, so that God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from God the Father, in virtue of the perfect atonement of God the Son, can take up His abode in the Church collectively, and in each member thereof individually.

Now it is when the Holy Ghost thus takes up His abode in us, consequent upon Christ's death and resurrection, that our conflict begins. Christ has fought for us; the Holy Ghost fights in us. The very fact of our enjoying this first rich spoil of victory, puts us into direct conflict with the foe. But the comfort is that we are victors ere we enter upon the field of conflict at all. The believer approaches to the battle singing, "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15: 57) We do not, therefore, fight uncertainly or as those that beat the air, while we seek to keep under the body and bring it into subjection. (1 Cor. 9: 26, 27) "We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. (Rom. 8: 37) The grace in which we stand renders the flesh utterly void of power to lord it over us. (See Rom. 6 passim.) If the law is "the strength of sin," grace is the weakness thereof. The former gives sin power over us; the latter gives us power over sin.

"And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill, with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said unto him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." (Verses 9-13)

We have, here, two distinct things, namely, conflict and intercession. Christ is on high for us, while the Holy Ghost carries on the mighty struggle in us. The two things go together. It is as we enter, by faith, into the prevalency of Christ's intercession on our behalf, that we make head against our evil nature. Some there are who seek to overlook the fact of the Christian's conflict with the flesh. They look upon regeneration as a total change or renewal of the old nature. Upon this principle, it would, necessarily, follow that the believer has nothing to struggle with. If my nature is renewed, what have I to contend with? Nothing. There is nothing within, inasmuch as my old nature is made new; and nothing without can affect me, inasmuch as there is no response from within. The world has no charms for one whose flesh is entirely changed; and Satan has nothing by or on which to act. To all who maintain such a theory, it may be said that they seem to forget the place which Amalek occupies in the history of the people of God. Had Israel conceived the idea that, when Pharaoh's hosts were gone, their conflict was at an end, they would have been sadly put about when Amalek came upon them. The fact is, theirs only then began. Thus it is with the believer, for "all these things happened unto Israel for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition," (1 Cor. 10: 11) But there could be no "type," no "ensample," no admonition" in "these things," for one whose old nature is made new. Indeed, such an one can have but little need of any of those gracious provisions which God has made in His kingdom for those who are the subjects thereof.

We are distinctly taught in the Word that the believer carries about with him that which answers to Amalek, that is, "the flesh" — "the old man" — "the carnal mind." (Rom. 6: 6; Rom. 8: 7; Gal. 5: 17)Now, if the Christian, upon perceiving the stirrings of his evil nature, begins to doubt his being a Christian, he will not only render himself exceedingly unhappy, but also deprive himself of his vantage ground against the enemy. The flesh exists in the believer and will be there to the end of the chapter. The Holy Ghost fully recognises it as existing, as we may easily see, from various parts of the New Testament. In Romans 6 we read, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies." Such a precept would be entirely uncalled for if the flesh were not existing in the believer. It would be out of character to tell us not to let sin reign, if it were not actually dwelling in us. There is a great difference between dwelling and reigning. It dwells in a believer, but it reigns in an unbeliever.

However, though it dwells in us, we have, thank God, a principle of power over it. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." The grace which, by the blood of the cross, has put away sin, insures us the victory, and gives us present power over its indwelling principle.

We have died to sin, and hence it has no claim over us. "He that has died is justified from sin." "Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified together, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6: 6) "And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." All was victory; and Jehovah's banner floated over the triumphant host, bearing the sweet and heart-sustaining inscription, "Jehovah-nissi" (the Lord my banner). The assurance of victory should be as complete as the sense of forgiveness, seeing both alike are founded upon the great fact that Jesus died and rose again. It is in the power of this that the believer enjoys a purged conscience and subdues. indwelling sin. The death of Christ having answered all the claims of God in reference to our sins, His resurrection becomes the spring of power, in all the details of conflict, afterwards. He died for us, and now He lives in us. The former gives us peace, the latter gives us power.

It is edifying to remark the contrast between Moses on the hill and Christ on the throne. The hands of our great Intercessor can never hang down. His intercession never fluctuates. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." (Heb. 7) His intercession is never-ceasing and all-prevailing. Having taken His place on high, in the power of divine righteousness, He acts for us, according to what He is, and according to the infinite perfectness of what He has done. His hands can never hang down, nor can He need any one to hold them up. His perfect advocacy is founded upon His perfect sacrifice. He presents us before God, clothed in His own perfections, so that though we may ever have to keep our faces in the dust in the sense of what we are, yet the Spirit can only testify to us of what He is before God for us, and of what we are in Elim." "We are not in the flesh but in the Spirit." (Rom. 8) We are in the body, as to the fact of our condition; but we are not in the flesh, as to the principle of our standing. Moreover, the flesh is in us, though we are dead to it; but we are not in the flesh, because we are alive with Christ.

We may further remark, on this chapter, that Moses had the rod of God with him on the hill — the rod with which he had smitten the rock. This rod was the expression or symbol of the power of God, which is seen alike in atonement and intercession. When the work of atonement was accomplished, Christ took His seat in heaven, and sent down the Holy Ghost to take up His abode in the Church; so that there is an inseparable connection between the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit. There is the application of the power of God in each.

 

Exodus 18

We here arrive at the close of a very marked division of the book of Exodus. We have seen God, in the exercise of His perfect grace, visiting and redeeming His people; bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt; delivering them, first, from the hand of Pharaoh and then from the hand of Amalek. Furthermore, we have seen, in the manna, a type of Christ come down from heaven; in the rock, a type of Christ smitten for His people; and in the gushing stream, a type of the Spirit given. Then follows, in striking and beautiful order, a picture of the future glory, divided into its three grand departments, namely, the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God.

"During the period of Moses' rejection by his brethren he was taken apart and presented with a bride — the companion of his rejection. We were led to see, at the opening of this book, the character of Moses' relationship with this bride. He was "a husband by blood" to her. This is precisely what Christ is to the Church Her connection with Him is founded upon death and resurrection; and she is called to fellowship with His sufferings. It is, as we know, during the period of Israel's unbelief, and of Christ's rejection, that the Church is called out; and when the Church is complete, according to the divine counsels, when the "fullness of the Gentiles is come in," Israel shall again be brought into notice.

Thus it was with Zipporah and Israel of old. Moses had sent her back, during the period of his mission to Israel; and when the latter were brought forth as a fully delivered people, we read that "Jethro, Moses' father in-law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back, and her two sons, of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land; and the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my fathers, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh. And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God. And he said unto Moses, I thy father-in-law, Jethro, am come unto thee, and thy wife and her two sons with her. And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent. And Moses told his father. in-law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, for Israel's sake, and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom he had delivered from the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh; who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods; for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them. And Jethro Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all. the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God." (Ex. 18: 2-12)

This is a deeply interesting scene. The whole congregation assembled, in triumph before the Lord — the Gentile presenting sacrifice — and in addition, to complete the picture, the bride of the deliverer, together with the children whom God had given him, are all introduced. It is, in short, a singularly striking foreshadowing of the coming kingdom. "The Lord will give grace and glory." We have already seen, in what we have travelled over of this book, very much of the actings of "grace;" and here we have, From the pencil of the Holy Ghost, a beauteous picture of "glory," — a picture which must be regarded as peculiarly important, as exhibiting the varied fields in which that glory shall be manifested.

"The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God" are scriptural distinctions which can never be overlooked without marring that perfect range of truth which God has revealed in His holy Word. They have existed ever since the mystery of the Church was fully developed by the ministry of the Apostle Paul, and they shall exist throughout the millennial age. Hence, every spiritual student of Scripture will give them their due place in his mind.

The apostle expressly teaches us, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that the mystery of the Church had not been made known, in other ages, to the sons of men, as it was revealed to him. But, though not directly revealed, it had been shadowed forth in one way or another; as, for example, in Joseph's marriage with an Egyptian, and in Moses' marriage with an Ethiopian. The type or shadow of a truth is a very different thing from a direct and positive revelation of it. The great mystery of the Church was not revealed until Christ, in heavenly glory, revealed it to Saul of Tarsus. Hence, all who look for the full unfolding of this mystery in the law, the prophets, or the psalms, will find themselves engaged in unintelligent labour. When, however, they find it distinctly revealed in the Epistle to the Ephesians, they will be able, with interest and profit, to trace its foreshadowing in Old Testament Scripture.

Thus we have, in the opening of our chapter, a millennial scene. All the fields of glory lie open in vision before us. "The Jew" stands forth as the great earthly witness of Jehovah's faithfulness, His mercy, and His power. This is what the Jew has been in bygone ages, it is what he is now, and what he will be, world without end. "The Gentile" reads, in the book of God's dealings with the Jew, his deepest lessons. He traces the marvellous history of that peculiar and elect people — "a people terrible from their beginning hitherto." He sees thrones and empires overturned — nations shaken to their centre-every one and everything compelled to give way, in order to establish the supremacy of that people on whom Jehovah has set His love. "Now I know," he says, "that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them." (Ver. 11) Such is the confession of "the Gentile," when the wondrous page of Jewish history lies open before him.

Lastly, "The Church of God collectively, as prefigured by Zipporah, and the members thereof individually, as seen in Zipporah's sons, are presented as occupying the most intimate relationship with the deliverer. All this is perfect in its way. We may be asked for our proofs. The answer is, "I speak as unto wise men; judge ye what I say." We can never build a doctrine upon a type; but when a doctrine is revealed a type thereof may be discerned with accuracy and studied with profit. In every case, a spiritual mind is essentially necessary, either to understand the doctrine or discern the type. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2: 14)

From verse 13 to the end of our chapter, we have the appointment of rulers, who were to assist Moses in the management of the affairs of the congregation. This was the suggestion of Jethro, who feared that Moses would "wear away" in consequence of his labours. In connection with this, it may be profitable to look at the appointment of the seventy elders in Numbers 11. Here we find the spirit of Moses crushed beneath the ponderous responsibility which devolved upon him, and he gives utterance to the anguish of his heart in the following accents. "And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? And wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people ? have I begotten them that thou shouldst say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers. . . . . I am not able to bear all this people alone because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness." (Num. 11: 11-15)

In all this we see Moses evidently retiring from a post of honour. If God were pleased to make him the sole instrument in managing the assembly, it was only so much the more dignity and privilege conferred upon him. True, the responsibility was immense; but faith would own that God was amply sufficient for that. Here, however, the heart of Moses failed him (blessed servant as he was), and he says, " I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me." But he was not asked to bear them alone; for God was with him. They were not too heavy for God. It was He that was bearing them; Moses was but the instrument. He might just as well have spoken of his rod as bearing the people; for what was he but a mere instrument in God's hand, as the rod was in his? It is here the servants of Christ constantly fail; and the failure is all the more dangerous because it wears the appearance of humility. It seems like distrust of ones self and deep lowliness of spirit, to shrink from heavy responsibility; but all we need to inquire is, has God imposed that responsibility? If so, He will assuredly be with me in sustaining it; and having Him with me, I can sustain anything. With Him, the weight of a mountain is nothing; without Him, the weight of a feather is overwhelming. It is a totally different thing if a man, in the vanity of his mind, thrust himself forward and take a burden upon his shoulder which God never intended him to bear, and, therefore, never fitted him to bear it; we may then, surely, expect to see him crushed beneath the weight; but if God lays it upon him, He will qualify and strengthen him to carry it.

It is never the fruit of humility to depart from a divinely-appointed post. On the contrary, the deepest humility will express itself by remaining there in simple dependence upon God. It is a sure evidence of being occupied about self when we shrink from service on the ground of inability. God does not call us unto service on the ground of our ability, but of His own; hence, unless I am filled with thoughts about myself, or with positive distrust of Him, I need not relinquish any position of service or testimony because of the heavy responsibilities attaching thereto. all power belongs to God, and it is quite the same whether that power acts through one agent or through seventy; the power is still the same: but if one agent refuse the dignity, it is only so much the worse for him. God will not force people to abide in a place of honour, if they cannot trust Him to sustain them there. The way lies always open to them to step down from their dignity, and sink into the place where base unbelief is sure to put us.

Thus it was with Moses. He complained of the burden, and the burden was speedily removed; but with it the high honour of being allowed to carry it. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there; and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone." (Num. 11: 16, 17) There was no fresh power introduced. It was the same Spirit, whether in one or in seventy. There was no more value or virtue in the flesh of seventy men than in the flesh of one man. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." (John 6: 63) There was nothing, in the way of power, gained; but a great deal, in the way of dignity, lost by this movement on the part of Moses.

In the after part of Numbers 11 we find Moses giving utterance to accents of unbelief, which called forth from the Lord a sharp rebuke. "Is the Lord's hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not." If my reader will compare Num. 11-15 with Num. 21, 22, he will see a marked and solemn connection. The man who shrinks from responsibility, on the ground of his own feebleness, is in great danger of calling in question the fullness and sufficiency of God's resources. This entire scene teaches a most valuable lesson to every servant of Christ who may be tempted to feel himself alone or overburdened in his work. Let such an one bear in mind that, where the Holy Ghost is working, one instrument is as good and as efficient as seventy; and where He is not working seventy are of no more value than one. It all depends upon the energy of the Holy Ghost. With Him, one man can do all, endure all, sustain all. Without Him, seventy men can do nothing. Let the lonely servant remember, for the comfort and encouragement of his sinking heart, that, provided he has the presence and power of the Holy Ghost with him, he need not complain of his burden, nor sigh for a division of labour. If God honour a man by giving him a great deal of work to do, let him rejoice therein and not murmur; for if he murmur, he can very speedily lose his honour. God is at no loss for instruments. He could, from the stones, raise up children unto Abraham; and He can raise up, from the same, the needed agents to carry on His glorious work.

Oh! for a heart to serve Him! A patient, humble, self-emptied, devoted heart! A heart ready to serve in company, ready to serve alone, a heart so filled with love to Christ that it will find its joy — its chief joy — in serving Him, let the sphere or character of service be what it may. This assuredly is the special need of the day in which out lot is cast. May the Holy Ghost stir up our hearts to a deeper sense of the exceeding preciousness of the name of Jesus, and enable us to yield a fuller, clearer, more unequivocal response to the changeless love of His heart!

 

Exodus 19

We have now arrived at a most momentous point in Israel's history. We are called to behold them standing at the foot of "the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire." The fair millennial scene which opened before us in the preceding chapter has passed away. It was but a brief moment of sunshine in which a very vivid picture of the kingdom was afforded; but the sunshine was speedily followed by the heavy clouds which gathered around that "palpable mount," where Israel, in a spirit of dark and senseless legality, abandoned Jehovah's covenant of pure grace for man's covenant of works. Disastrous movement! A movement fraught with the most dismal results. Hitherto, as we have seen, no enemy could stand before Israel — no obstacle was suffered to interrupt their onward and victorious march. Pharaoh's hosts were overthrown — Amalek and his people were discomfited with the edge of the sword — all was victory, because God was acting on behalf of His people, in pursuance of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In the opening verses of the chapter now before us, the Lord recapitulates His actings toward Israel in the following touching and beautiful language: " Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell. the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation." (Ver. 3-6) Observe, it is "my voice" and "my covenant." What was the utterance of that "voice?" and what did that "covenant" involve? Had Jehovah's voice made itself heard for the purpose of laying down the rules and regulations of a severe and unbending law-giver? By no means. It had spoken to demand freedom for the captivity provide a refuge from the sword of the destroyer — to make a way for the ransomed to pass over — to bring down bread from heaven, to draw forth water out of the flinty rock. Such had been the gracious and intelligible utterances of Jehovah's "voice," up to the moment at which " Israel camped before the mount."

And as to His "covenant," it was one of unmingled grace. It proposed no condition — it made no demands — it put no yoke on the neck — no burden on the shoulder. When "the God of glory appeared unto Abraham," in Ur of the Chaldees, He certainly did not address him in such words as, "thou Shalt do this," and "thou shalt not do that." Ah! no; such language was not according to the heart of God. It suits Him far better to place "a fair mitre" upon a sinner's head, than to "put a yoke upon his neck." His word to Abraham was, "I WILL GIVE." The land of Canaan was not to be purchased by man's doings, but to be given by God's grace. Thus it stood; and, in the opening of the book of Exodus, we see God coming down in grace to make good His promise to Abraham's seed. The condition in which He found that seed made no difference, inasmuch as the blood of the lamb furnished Him with a perfectly righteous ground on which to make good His promise. He evidently had not promised the land of Canaan to Abraham's seed on the ground of ought that He foresaw in them, for this would have totally destroyed the real nature of a promise. It would have made it a compact and not a promise; "but God gave it to Abraham by promise," and not by compact. (Read Gal. 3)

Hence, in the opening of this 19th chapter, the people are reminded of the grace in which Jehovah had hitherto dealt with them; and they are also assured of what they should yet be, provided they continued to hearken to mercy's heavenly "voice," and to abide in the "covenant" of free and absolute grace. "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." How could they be this? Was it by stumbling up the ladder of self-righteousness and legalism? Would they be "a peculiar treasure" when blasted by the curses of a broken law — a law which they had broken before ever they received it? Surely not. How then were they to be this "peculiar treasure?" By standing in that position in which Jehovah surveyed them when He compelled the covetous prophet to exclaim, "How goodly are thy tents, 0 Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters. He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn." (Num. 24: 5-8)

However, Israel was not disposed to occupy this blessed position. Instead of rejoicing in God's "holy promise," they undertook to make the most presumptuous vow that mortal lips could utter. "All the people answered together, and said, "All that the Lord hath, spoken we will do." (Ex. 19: 8) This was bold language. They did not even say, "we hope to do" or "we will endeavour to do." This would have expressed a measure of self-distrust. But no; they took the most absolute ground. "We will do." Nor was this the language of a few vain, self-confident spirits who presumed to single themselves out from the whole congregation. No; "all the people answered together." They were unanimous in the abandonment of the holy promise" — the "holy covenant."

And now, observe the result. The moment Israel uttered their "singular vow," the moment they undertook to "do," there was a total alteration in the aspect of things. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud. . . . . And thou shalt set bounds unto the people, round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount, shall be surely put to death." This was a very marked change; the One who had just said, "I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself," now envelopes Himself "in a thick cloud," and says, "set bounds unto the people round about." The sweet accents of grace and mercy are exchanged for the "thunderings and lightnings" of the fiery mount. Man had presumed to talk of his miserable doings in the presence of God's magnificent grace. Israel had said, "we will do," and they must be put at a distance in order that it may be fully seen what they are able to do. God takes the place of moral distance; and the people are but too well disposed to have it so, for they are filled with fear and trembling; and no marvel, for the sight was "terrible," — "so terrible that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." Who could endure the sight of that "devouring fire," which was the apt expression of divine holiness? "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law for them." (Deut. 33: 2) The term "fiery," as applied to the law, is expressive of its holiness: "Our God is a consuming fire," — perfectly intolerant of evil, in thought, word, and deed.

Thus, then, Israel made a fatal mistake in saying, "we will do." It was taking upon themselves a vow which they were not able, even were they willing, to pay; and we know who has said, "better that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay." It is of the very essence of a vow that it assumes the competency to fulfil; and where is man's competency? As well might a bankrupt draw a cheque on the bank, as a helpless sinner make a vow. A man who makes a vow, denies the truth, as to his nature and condition. He is ruined, what can he do? He is utterly without strength, and can neither will nor do anything good. Did Israel keep their vow Did they do "all that the Lord commanded?" Witness the golden calf, the broken tables, the desecrated Sabbath, the despised and neglected ordinances, the stoned messengers, the rejected and crucified Christ, the resisted Spirit. Such are the overwhelming evidences of mans dishonoured vows. Thus must it ever be when fallen humanity undertakes to vow.

Christian reader, do you not rejoice in the fact that your eternal salvation rests not an your poor shadowy vows and resolutions, but on "the one offering of Jesus Christ once?" Oh, yes, "this is our joy, which never can fail." Christ has taken all our vows upon Himself, and gloriously discharged them for ever. His resurrection-life flows through His members and produces in them results which legal vows and legal claims never could effect. He is our life, and He is our righteousness. May his name be precious to our hearts. May His cause ever command our energies. May it be our meat and our drink to spend and be spent in His dear service.

I cannot close this chapter without noticing, in connection, a passage in the Book of Deuteronomy, which may present a difficulty to some minds. It has direct reference to the subject on which we have been dwelling. "And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. (Deut. 5: 28) From this passage it might seem as though the Lord approved of their making a vow; but if my reader will take the trouble of reading the entire context, from ver. 24-27, he will see at once that it has nothing whatever to say to the vow, but that it contains the expression of their terror at the consequences of their vow. They were not able to endure that which was commanded. "If," said they, "we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived! Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do it." It was the confession of their own inability to encounter Jehovah in that awful aspect which their proud legality had led Him to assume. It is impossible that the Lord could ever commend an abandonment of free and changeless grace for a sandy foundation of "works of law."

 

Exodus 20

It is of the utmost importance to understand the true character and object of the moral law, as set forth in this chapter. There is a tendency in the mind to confound the principles of law and grace, so that neither the one nor the other can be rightly understood. Law is shorn of its stern and unbending majesty; and grace is robbed of all its divine attractions. God's holy claims remain unanswered, and the sinner's deep and manifold necessities remain unreached by the anomalous system framed by those who attempt to mingle law and grace. In point of fact, they can never be made to coalesce, for they are as distinct as any two things can be. Law sets forth what man ought to be; grace exhibits what God is. How can these ever be wrought up into one system ? How can the sinner ever be saved by a system made up of half law, half grace? Impossible. It must be either the one or the other.

The law has sometimes been termed "the transcript of the mind of God." This definition is entirely defective. Were we to term it a transcript of the mind of God as to what man ought to be, we should be nearer the truth. If I am to regard the ten commandments as the transcript of the mind of God, then, I ask, is there nothing in the mind of God save "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not?" Is there no grace? No mercy? No loving kindness? Is God not to manifest what He is? Is He not to tell out the deep secrets of that love which dwells in His bosom? Is there nought in the divine character but stern requirement and prohibition? Were this so, we should have to say, "God is law " instead of "God is love." But, blessed be His name, there is more in His heart than could ever be wrapped up in the " ten words" uttered on the fiery mount. If I want to see what God is, I must look at Christ; "for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily." (Col. 2: 9) "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1: 17) Assuredly there was a measure of truth in the law. It contained the truth as to what man ought to be. Like everything else emanating from God, it was perfect so far as it went — perfect for the object for which it was administered; but that object was not, by any means, to unfold, in the view of guilty sinners, the nature and character of God. There was no grace — no mercy. "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy." (Heb. 10.28.) "The man that doeth these things shall live by them." (Lev. 18: 5; Rom. 10: 5) "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." (Deut. 27: 26; Gal 3: 10) This was not grace. Indeed, mount Sinai was not the place to look for any such thing. There Jehovah revealed Himself in awful majesty, amid blackness, darkness, tempest, thunderings, and lightnings. These were not the attendant circumstances of an economy of grace and mercy; but they were well suited to one of truth and righteousness; and the law was that and nothing else.

In the law God sets forth what a man ought to be, and pronounces a curse upon him if he is not that. But then a man finds, when he looks at himself in the light of the law, that he actually is the very thing which the law condemns. How then is he to get life by it? It proposes life and righteousness as the ends to be attained, by keeping it ; but it proves, at the very outset, that we are in a state of death and unrighteousness. We want the very things at the beginning which the law proposes to be gained at the end. How, therefore, are we to gain them? In order to do what the law requires, I must have life; and in order to be what the law requires, I must have righteousness; and if I have not both the one and the other, I am "cursed." But the fact is, I have neither. What am I to do? This is the question. Let those who "desire to be teachers of the law" furnish an answer. Let them furnish a satisfactory reply to an upright conscience, bowed down under the double sense of the spirituality and inflexibility of the law and its own hopeless carnality.

The truth is, as the apostle teaches us, "the law entered that the offence might abound." (Rom. 5: 20) This shows us, very distinctly, the real object of the law. It came in by the way in order to set forth the exceeding sinfulness of sin. (1 Cor. 7: 13) It was, in a certain sense, like a perfect mirror let down from heaven to reveal to man his moral derangement. If I present myself, with deranged hair, before a mirror, it shows me the derangement, but does not set it right. If I measure a crooked wall, with a perfect plumb-line, it reveals the crookedness, but does not remove it. If I take out a lamp on a dark night, it reveals to me all the hindrances and disagreeables in the way, but it does not remove them. Moreover, the mirror, the plumb-line, and the lamp, do not create the evils which they severally point out; they neither create nor remove, but simply reveal. Thus is it with the law; it does not create the evil in man's heart, neither does it remove it; but, with unerring accuracy, it reveals it.

"What shall we say then? Is the law sin ? God forbid. Yea, I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." (Rom. 7: 7) He does not say that he would not have had "lust." No; but merely that "he had not known it." The "lust" was there; but he was in the dark about it until the law, as "the candle of the Almighty," shone in upon the dark chambers of his heart and revealed the evil that was there. Like a man in a dark room, who may be surrounded with dust and confusion, but he cannot see ought thereof by reason of the darkness. Let the beams of the sun dart in upon him, and he quickly perceives all. Do the sunbeams create the dust? Surely not. The dust is there, and they only detect and reveal it. This is a simple illustration of the effect of the law. It judges man's character and condition. It proves him to be a sinner and shuts him up under the curse. It comes to judge what he is, and curses him if he is not what it tells him he ought to be.

It is, therefore, a manifest impossibility that any one can get life and righteousness by that which can only curse him; and unless the condition of the sinner, and the character of the law are totally changed, it can do nought else but curse him. It makes no allowance for infirmities, and knows nothing of sincere, though imperfect, obedience. Were it to do so, it would not be what it is, "holy, just, and good." It is just because the law is what it is, that the sinner cannot get life by it. If he could get life by it, it would not be perfect, or else he would not be a sinner. It is impossible that a sinner can get life by a perfect law, for inasmuch as it is perfect, it must needs condemn him. Its absolute perfectness makes manifest and seals man's absolute ruin and condemnation. " Therefore by deeds of law shall no flesh living be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3: 20) He does not say, "by the law is sin," but only "the knowledge of sin. "For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law." (Rom. 5: 13) Sin was there, and it only needed law to develop it in the form of "transgression." It is as if I say to my child, "you must not touch that knife." My very prohibition reveals the tendency in his heart to do his own will. It does not create the tendency, but only reveals it.

The apostle John says that "sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3: 4) The word "transgression" does not. develop the true idea of the Spirit in this passage. In order to have "transgression" I must have a definite rule or line laid down. Transgression means a passing across a prohibited line; such a line I have in the law. I take any one of its prohibitions, such as, "thou shalt not kill," "thou shalt not commit adultery," "thou shalt not steal." Here, I have a rule or line set before me; but I find I have within me the very principles against which these prohibitions are expressly directed. Yea, the very fact of my being told not to commit murder, shows that I have murder in my nature. There would be no necessity to tell me not to do a thing which I had no tendency to do; but the exhibition of God's will, as to what I ought to be, makes manifest the tendency of my will to be what I ought not. This is plain enough, and is in full keeping with the whole of the apostolic reasoning on the point.

Many, however, will admit that we cannot get life by the law; but they maintain, at the same time, that the law is our rule of life. Now, the apostle declares that "as many as are of works of law are under the curse." (Gal 3: 10) It matters not who they are, if they occupy the ground of law, they are, of necessity, under the curse. A man may say, "I am regenerate, and, therefore, not exposed to the curse." This will not do. If regeneration does not take one off the ground of law, it cannot take him beyond the range of the curse of the law. If the Christian be under the former, he is, of necessity, exposed to the latter. But what has the law to do with regeneration? Where do we find anything about it in Exodus 20: 8 The law has but one question to put to a man — a brief, solemn, pointed question, namely, "Are you what you ought to be?" If he answer in the negative, it can but hurl its terrible anathema at him and slay him. And who will so readily and emphatically admit that, in himself, he is anything but what he ought to be, as the really regenerate man? Wherefore, if he is under the law, he must, inevitably, be under the curse. The law cannot possibly lower its standard: nor yet amalgamate with grace. Men do constantly seek to lower its standard; they feel that they cannot get up to it, and they, therefore, seek to bring it down to them; but the effort is in vain: it stands forth in all its purity, majesty, and stern inflexibility, and will not accept a single hair's breadth short of perfect obedience; and where is the man, regenerate or unregenerate, that can undertake to produce that? It will be said, "We have perfection in Christ." True; but that is not by the law, but by grace; and we cannot possibly confound the two economies. Scripture largely and distinctly teaches that we are not justified by the law; nor is the law our rule of life. That which can only curse can never justify ; and that which can only kill can never be a rule of life. As well might a man attempt to make a fortune by a deed of bankruptcy filed against him.

If my reader will turn to Acts 15, he will see how the attempt to put Gentile believers under the law, as a rule of life, was met by the Holy Ghost. "There rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." This was nothing else than the hiss of the old serpent, making itself heard in the dark and depressing suggestion of those early legalists. But let us see how it was met by the mighty energy of the Holy Ghost, and the unanimous voice of the twelve apostles and the whole Church. "And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago, God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear," — what? Was it the requirements and the curses of the law of Moses? No: blessed be God, these are not what He would have falling on the ears of helpless sinners. Hear what then? "SHOULD HEAR THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL, AND BELIEVE." This was what suited the nature and character of God. He never would have troubled men with the dismal accents of requirement and prohibition. These Pharisees were not His messengers; far from it. They were not the bearers of glad tidings, nor the publishers of peace, and therefore, their "feet" were ought but "beautiful" in the eyes of One who only delights in mercy.

"Now, therefore," continues the apostle, "why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" This was strong, earnest language. God did not want "to put a yoke upon the neck" of those whose hearts had been set free by the gospel of peace. He would rather exhort them to stand fast in the liberty of Christ, and not be "entangled again with the yoke of bondage." He would not send those whom He had received to His bosom of love, to be terrified by the "blackness, and darkness, and tempest," of "the mount that might be touched." How could we ever admit the thought that those whom God had received in grace He would rule by law? Impossible. "We believe," says Peter, "that through the GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST we shall be saved even as they." Both the Jews, who had received the law, and the Gentiles, who never had, were now to be "saved through grace." And not only were they to be "saved" by grace, but they were to "stand" in grace, (Rom 5: 2) and to "grow in grace." (2 Peter 3: 18.) To teach anything else was to "tempt God." Those Pharisees were subverting the very foundations of the Christian faith; and so are all those who seek to put believers under the law. There is no evil or error more abominable in the sight of the Lord than legalism. Hearken to the strong language — the accents of righteous indignation — which fell from the Holy Ghost, in reference to those teachers of the law: "I would they were even cut off which trouble you." (Gal, 5: 12)

And, let me ask, are the thoughts of the Holy Ghost changed, in reference to this question? Has it ceased to be a tempting of God to place the yoke of legality upon a sinner's neck? Is it now in accordance with His gracious will that the law should be read out in the ears of sinners? Let my reader reply to these enquiries in the light of the fifteenth of Acts and the Epistle to the Galatians. These scriptures, were there no other, are amply sufficient to prove that God never intended that the "Gentiles should hear the word" of the law. Had He so intended, He would, assuredly, have "made choice" of some one to proclaim it in their ears. But no; when He sent forth His "fiery law," He spoke only in one tongue; but when He proclaimed the glad tidings of salvation, through the blood of the Lamb, He spoke in the language "of every nation under heaven." He spoke in such a way as that "every man in his own tongue wherein he was Born," might hear the sweet story of grace. (Acts 2: 1-11)

Further, when He was giving forth, from mount Sinai, the stern requirements of the covenant of works, He addressed Himself exclusively to one people. His voice was only heard within the narrow enclosures of the Jewish nation; but when, on the plains of Bethlehem, "the angel of the Lord" declared "good tidings of great joy," he added those characteristic words, "which shall be to all people." And, again, when the risen Christ was sending forth His heralds of salvation, His commission ran thus, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16: 15; Luke 2: 10) The mighty tide of grace which had its source in the bosom of God, and its channel in the blood of the Lamb, was designed to rise, in the resistless energy of the Holy Ghost, far above the narrow enclosures of Israel, and roll through the length and breadth of a sin-stained world. "Every creature" must hear, "in his own tongue," the message of peace, the word of the gospel, the record of salvation, through the blood of the cross.

Finally, that nothing might be lacking to prove to our poor legal hearts that mount Sinai was not, by any means, the spot where the deep secrets of the bosom of God were told out, the Holy Ghost has said, both by the mouth of a prophet and an apostle, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Isa. 3: 7; Rom. 10: 15) But of those who sought to be teachers of the law the same Holy Ghost has said, "I would they were even cut off that trouble you."

Thus, then, it is obvious that the law is neither the ground of life to the sinner nor the rule of life to the Christian. Christ is both the one and the other. He is our life and He is our rule of life. The law can only curse and slay. Christ is our life and righteousness. He became a curse for us by hanging on a tree. He went down into the place where the sinner lay — into the place of death and judgement — and having, by His death, entirely discharged all that was or could be against us, He became, in resurrection, the source of life and the ground of righteousness to all who believe in His name. Having thus life and righteousness in Him, we are called to walk, not merely as the law directs, but to "walk even as he walked." It will hardly be deemed needful to assert that it is directly contrary to Christian ethics to kill, commit adultery, or steal. But were a Christian to shape his way according to these commands, or according to the entire decalogue, would he yield the rare and delicate fruits which the Epistle to the Ephesians sets forth? Would the ten commandment ever cause a thief to give up, stealing, and go to work that he might have to give? Would they ever transform a thief into a laborious and liberal man? Assuredly not. The law says, "thou shalt not steal;" but does it say, "go and give to him that needeth" — go feed, clothe, and bless your enemy" — "go gladden by your benevolent feelings and your beneficent acts the heart of him who only and always seeks your hurt?" By no means; and yet, were I under the law, as a rule, it could only curse me and slay me. How is this, when the standard in the New Testament is so much higher? Because am weak, and the law gives me no strength and shows me no mercy. The law demands strength from one that has none, and curses him if he cannot display it. The gospel gives strength to one that has none, and blesses him in the exhibition of it. The law proposes life as the end of obedience. The gospel gives life as the only proper ground of obedience.

But that I may not weary the reader with arguments, let me ask if the law be, indeed, the rule of a believer's life, where are we to find it so presented in the New Testament? The inspired apostle evidently had no thought of its being the rule when he penned the following words: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God." (Gal. 6: 15, 16) What "rule?" The law? No, but the "new creation." Where shall we find this in Exodus 20? It speaks not a word about "new creation." On the contrary, it addresses itself to man as he is, in his natural or old-creation state, and puts him to the test as to what he is really able to do. Now if the law were the rule by which believers are to walk, why does the apostle pronounce his benediction on those who walk by another rule altogether? Why does he not say, "as many as walk according to the rule of the ten commandments?" Is it not evident, from this one passage, that the Church of God has a higher rule by which to walk? Unquestionably. The ten commandments, though forming, as all true Christians admit, a part of the canon of inspiration, could never be the rule of life to one who has, through infinite grace, been introduced into the new creation — one who has received new life, in Christ.

But some may ask, "Is not the law perfect? And, if perfect, what more would you have?" The law is divinely perfect. Yea, it is the very perfection of the law which causes it to curse and slay those who are not perfect -if they attempt to stand before it. "The law is spiritual, but I am carnal.' It is utterly impossible to form an adequate idea of the infinite perfectness and spirituality of the law. But then this perfect law coming in contact with fallen humanity — this spiritual law coming In contact with "the carnal mind," could only "work wrath" and " enmity." (Rom. 4: 15; Rom. 8: 7) Why? Is it because the law is not perfect? No, but because it is, and man is a sinner. If man were perfect, he would carry out the law in all its spiritual perfectness; and even in the case of true believers, though they still carry about with them an evil nature, the apostle teaches us "that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8: 4) "He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law" — "love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Rom, 13: 8-10) If I love a man, I shall not steal his property — nay, I shall seek to do him all the good I can. All this is plain and easily understood by the spiritual mind; but is leaves entirely untouched the question of the law, whether as the ground of life to a sinner or the rule of life to the believer.

If we look at the law, in its two grand divisions, it tells a man to love God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind; and to love his neighbour as himself. This is the sum of the law. This, and not a tittle less, is what the law demands. But where has this demand ever been responded to by any member of Adam's fallen posterity? Where is the man who could say he loves God after such a fashion? "The carnal mind (i.e., the mind which we have by nature) is enmity against God." Man hates God and His ways. God came, in the Person of Christ, and showed Himself to man — showed Himself, not in the overwhelming brightness of His majesty, but in all the charm and sweetness of perfect grace and condescension. What was the result? Man hated God. "Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." (John 15: 24.) But, it must be said, " Man ought to love God." No doubt, and he deserves death and eternal perdition if he does not. But can the law produce this love in man's heart? Was that its design? By no means, "for the law worketh wrath." The law finds man in a state of enmity against God; and without ever altering that state — for that was not its province — it commands him to love God with all his heart, and curses him if he does not. It was not the province of the law to alter or improve man's nature; nor yet could is impart any power to carry out its righteous demands. It said "This do, and thou shalt live." It commanded man to love God. It did not reveal what God was to man, even in his guilt and ruin; but it told man what he ought to be toward God. This was dismal work. It was not the unfolding of the powerful attractions of the divine character, producing in man true repentance toward God, melting his icy heart, and elevating his soul in genuine affection and worship. No: it was an inflexible command to love God; and, instead of producing love, it "worked wrath;" not because God ought not to be loved, but because man was a sinner.

Again, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Can "the natural man" do this? Does he love his neighbour as himself? Is this the principle which obtains in the chambers of commerce, the exchanges, the banks, the marts, the fairs, and the markets of this world? Alas! no. Man does not love his neighbour as he loves himself. No doubt he ought: and if he were right, he would. But, then, he is all wrong — totally wrong — and unless he is "born again" of the word and the Spirit of God, he cannot "see nor enter the kingdom of God." The law cannot produce this new birth. It kills "the old man," but does not, and cannot, create "the new." As an actual fact we know that the Lord Jesus Christ embodied, in His glorious Person, both God and our neighbour, inasmuch as He was, according to the foundation-truth of the Christian religion, "God manifest in the flesh." How did man treat Him? Did he love Him with all his heart, or as himself? The very reverse. He crucified Him between two thieves, having previously preferred a murderer and a robber to that blessed One who had gone about doing good — who had come forth from the eternal dwelling-place of light and love — Himself the very living personification of that light and love — whose bosom had ever heaved with purest sympathy with human need — whose hand had ever been ready to dry the sinner's tears and alleviate his sorrows. Thus we stand and gaze upon the cross of Christ, and behold in it an unanswerable demonstration of the fact that it is not within the range of man's nature or capacity to keep the law.*

{*For further exposition of the law, and also of the doctrine of the Sabbath, the reader is referred to a tract, entitled "A Scriptural Inquiry into the True Nature of the Sabbath, the Law, and the Christian Ministry.}

It is peculiarly interesting to the spiritual mind, after all that has passed before us, to observe the relative position of God and the sinner at the close of this memorable chapter. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel . . . an altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name, I WILL COME UNTO THEE, and I WILL BLESS THEE. And if thou wilt make an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon. " (Ver. 22, 26)

Here we find man not in the position of a doer, but of a worshipper; and this, too, at the close of Exodus 20. How plainly this teaches us that the atmosphere of Mount Sinai is not that which God would have the sinner breathing; that it is not the proper meeting place between God and man. "In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee." How unlike the terrors of the fiery mount is that spot where Jehovah records His name, whither He "comes" to "bless" His worshipping people!

But, further, God will meet the sinner at an altar without a hewn stone or a step — a place of worship which requires no human workmanship to erect, or human effort to approach. The former could only pollute, and the latter could only display human "nakedness." Admirable type of the meeting-place where God meets the sinner now, even the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ, where all the claims of law, of justice, and of conscience, are perfectly answered! Man has, in every age, and in every clime, been prone, in one way or another, to "lift up his tool in the erection of his altar, or to approach thereto by steps of his own making. But the issue of all such attempts has been "pollution" and "nakedness." "We all do fade as a leaf, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags?" Who will presume to approach God clad in a garment of "filthy rags?" or who will stand to worship with a revealed "nakedness?" What can be more preposterous than to think of approaching God in a way which necessarily involves either pollution or nakedness? And yet thus it is in every case in which human effort is put forth to open the sinner's way to God. Not only is there no need of such effort, but defilement and nakedness are stamped upon it. God has come down so very near to the sinner, even in the very depths of his ruin, that there is no need for his lifting up the tool of legality, or ascending the steps of self-righteousness yea, to do so, is but to expose his uncleanness and his nakedness.

Such are the principles with which the Holy Ghost closes this most remarkable section of inspiration. May they be indelibly written upon our hearts, that so we may more clearly and fully understand the essential difference between LAW and GRACE.

 

Exodus 21-23

The study of this section of our book is eminently calculated to impress the heart with a sense d God's unsearchable wisdom and infinite goodness. It enables one to form some idea of the character of a kingdom governed by laws of divine appointment. Here, too, we may see the amazing condescension of Him who, though He is the great God of heaven and earth, can, nevertheless, stoop to adjudicate between man and man in reference to the death of an ox, the loan of a garment, or the loss of a servant's tooth. "Who is like unto the Lord our God, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and on earth?" He governs the universe, and yet He can occupy Himself with the provision of a covering for one of His creatures. He guides the angel's flight and takes notice of a crawling worm. He humbles Himself to regulate the movements of those countless orbs that roll through infinite space and to record the fall of a sparrow.

As to the character of the judgement set forth in the chapters before us, we may learn a double lesson. These judgements and ordinances bear a twofold witness: they convey to the ear a twofold message, and present to the eye two sides of a picture. They tell of God and they tell of man.

In the first place, on God's part, we find Him enacting laws which exhibit strict, even-handed, perfect justice. "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Such was the character of the laws, the statutes, and the judgements by which God governed His earthly kingdom of Israel. Everything was provided for, every interest was maintained, and every claim was met. There was no partiality — no distinction made between the rich and the poor. The balance in which each man's claim was weighed was adjusted with divine accuracy, so that no one could justly complain of a decision. The pure robe of justice was not to be tarnished with the foul stains of bribery, corruption and partiality. The eye and the hand of a divine Legislator provided for everything; and a divine Executive inflexibly dealt with every defaulter. The stroke of justice fell only on the head of the guilty, while every obedient soul was protected in the enjoyment of all his rights and privileges.

Then, as regards man, it is impossible to read over these laws and not be struck with the disclosure which they indirectly, but really, make of his desperate depravity. The fact of Jehovah's having to enact laws against certain crimes, proves the capability, on man's part, of committing those crimes. Were the capability and the tendency not there, there would be no need of the enactments. Now, there are many who, if the gross Abominations forbidden in these chapters were named to them, might feel disposed to adopt the language of Hazael and say, "Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing?" Such persons have not yet travelled down into the deep abyss of their own hearts. For albeit there are crimes here forbidden which would seem to place man, as regards his habits and tendencies, below the level of a "dog," yet do those very statutes prove, beyond all question, that the most refined and cultivated member of the human family carries above, in his bosom, the seeds of the very darkest and most horrifying abominations. For whom were those statutes enacted? For man. Were they needful? Unquestionably. But they would have been quite superfluous if man were incapable of committing the sins referred to. But man is capable; and hence we see that man is sunk to the very lowest possible level — that his nature is wholly corrupt — that, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, there is not so much as a speck of moral soundness.

How can such a being ever stand, without an emotion of fear, in the full blaze of the throne of God? How can he stand within the holiest? How can he stand on the sea of glass? How can he enter in by the pearly gates and tread the golden streets? The reply to these inquiries unfolds the amazing depths of redeeming love and the eternal efficacy of the blood of the Lamb. Deep as is man's ruin, the love of God is deeper still. Black as is his guilt, the blood of Jesus can wash it all away. Wide as is the chasm separating man from God, the cross has bridged it. God has come down to the very lowest point of the sinner's condition, in order that He might lift him up into a position of infinite favour, in eternal association with His own Son. Well may we exclaim, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God." (1 John 3: l) Nothing could fathom man's ruin but God's love, and nothing could equal man's guilt but the blood of Christ. But now the very depth of the ruin only magnifies the love that has fathomed it, and the intensity of the guilt only celebrates the efficacy of the blood that can cleanse it. The very vilest sinner who believes in Jesus can rejoice in the assurance that God sees him and pronounces him "clean every whit."

Such, then, is the double character of instruction to be gleaned from the laws and ordinances in this section, looked at as a whole; and the more minutely we look at them, in detail, the more impressed we shall be with a sense of their fullness and beauty. Take, for instance, the very first ordinance that presents itself, namely, that of the Hebrew Servant.

"Now these are the judgements which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall he her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free; then his master shall bring him unto the judges: he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever." (Ex. 21: 1-6) The servant was perfectly free to go out, so far as he was personally concerned. He had discharged every claim, and could, therefore, walk abroad in unquestioned freedom; but because of his love to his master, his wife, and his children, he voluntarily bound himself to perpetual servitude; and not only so, but he was also willing to bear, in his own person, the marks of that servitude.

The application of this to the Lord Jesus Christ will be obvious to the intelligent reader. In Him we behold the One who dwelt in the bosom of the Father before all worlds — the object of His eternal delight — who might have occupied, throughout eternity, this His personal and entirely peculiar place, inasmuch as there lay upon Him no obligation (save that which ineffable love created and ineffable love incurred) to abandon that place. Such, however, was His love to the Father whose counsels were involved, and for the Church collectively, and each individual member thereof, whose salvation was involved, that He, voluntarily, came down to earth, emptied Himself, and made Himself of no reputation, took upon Him the form of a servant and the marks of perpetual service. To these marks we probably have a striking allusion in the Psalms. "Mine ears hast thou digged." (Ps. 40: 6, marg.) This psalm is the expression of Christ's devotedness to God. "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea thy law is within my heart." He came to do the will of God, whatever that will might be. He never once did His own will, not even in the reception and salvation of sinners, though surely His loving heart, with all its affections, was most fully in that glorious work. Still He receives and saves only as the servant of the Father's counsels. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." (John 6: 37-39)

Here we have a most interesting view of the servant character of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, in perfect grace, holds Himself responsible to receive all who come within the range of the divine counsels; and not only to receive them, but to preserve them through all the difficulties and trials of their devious path down here, yea, in the article of death itself, should it come, and to raise them all up in the last day. Oh! how secure is the very feeblest member of the Church of God! He is the subject of God's eternal counsels, which counsels the Lord Jesus Christ is pledged to carry out. Jesus loves the Father, and, in proportion to the intensity of that love, is the security of each member of the redeemed family. The salvation of any sinner who believes on the name of the Son of God is, in one aspect of it, but the expression of Christ's love to the Father. If one such could perish, through any cause whatsoever, it would argue that the Lord Jesus Christ was unable to carry out the will of God, which were nothing short of positive blasphemy against His sacred name, to whom be all honour and majesty throughout the everlasting ages.

Thus we have, in the Hebrew servant, a type of Christ in His pure devotedness to the Father. But there is more than this: "I love my wife and my children." "Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing ; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5: 25-27) There are various other passages of Scripture presenting Christ as the antitype of the Hebrew servant, both in His love for the Church, as a body, and for all believers personally. In Matthew 13, John 10 and 13, and Hebrews 2, my reader will find special teaching on the point.

The apprehension of this love of the heart of Jesus cannot fail to produce a spirit of fervent devotedness to the One who could exhibit such pure, such perfect, such disinterested love. How could the wife and children of the Hebrew servant fail to love one who had voluntarily surrendered his liberty in order that he and they might be together? And what is the love presented in the type, when compared with that which shines in the antitype? It is as nothing. "The love of Christ passeth knowledge." It led Him to think of us before all worlds — to visit us in the fullness of time — to walk deliberately to the door post — to suffer for us on the cross, in order that He might raise us to companionship with himself, in His everlasting kingdom and glory.

Were I to enter into a full exposition of the remaining statutes and judgements of this portion of the Book of Exodus, it would carry me much further than I feel, at present, led to go.* I will merely observe, in conclusion, that it is impossible to read the section and not have the heart drawn out in adoration of the profound wisdom, well-balanced justice, and yet tender considerateness which breathe throughout the whole. We rise up from the study of it with this conviction deeply wrought into the soul, that the One who speaks here is "the only true," "the only wise," and the infinitely gracious God.

{*I would here observe, once for all, that the feasts referred to in Ex. 23: 14-19 and the offerings in Ex. 29 being brought out in all their fullness and detail, in the book of Leviticus, I shall reserve them until we come to dwell upon the contents of that singularly rich and interesting book.}

May all our meditations on His eternal word have the effect of prostrating our souls in worship before Him whose perfect ways and glorious attributes shine there, in all their blessedness and brightness, for the refreshment, the delight, and the edification of His blood-bought people.

 

Exodus 24

This chapter opens with an expression remarkably characteristic of the entire Mosaic economy. "And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off . . .. they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him." We may search from end to end of the legal ritual, and not find those two precious words, "draw nigh." Ah! no; such words could never be heard from the top of Sinai, nor from amid the shadows of the law. They could only be uttered at heaven's side of the empty tomb of Jesus, where the blood of the cross has opened a perfectly cloudless prospect to the vision of faith. The words, "afar off," are as characteristic of the law, as "draw nigh" are of the gospel. Under the law, the work was never done, which could entitle a sinner to draw nigh. Man had not fulfilled his promised obedience; and the "blood of calves and goats" could not atone for the failure, or give his guilty conscience peace. Hence, therefore, he had to stand "afar off." Man's vows were broken and his sin unpurged; how, then, could he draw nigh The blood of ten thousand bullocks could not wipe away one stain from the conscience, or give the peaceful sense of nearness to God.

However, the "first covenant" is here dedicated with blood. An altar is erected at the foot of the hill, with "twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel." "And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar .... And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words although, as the apostle teaches us, it was "impossible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin," yet did it "sanctify to the purifying of the flesh," and, as "a shadow of good things to come," it availed to maintain the people in relationship with Jehovah.

"Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God and did eat and drink." This was the manifestation of "the God of Israel," in light and purity, majesty and holiness. It was not the unfolding of the affections of a Father's bosom, or the sweet accents of a Father's voice, breathing peace and inspiring confidence into the heart. No; the "paved work of a sapphire stone " told out that unapproachable purity and light which could only tell a sinner to keep off Still, "they saw God and did eat and drink." Touching proof of divine forbearance and mercy, as also of the power of the blood!

Looking at this entire scene as a mere illustration, there is much to interest the heart. There is the defiled camp below and the sapphire pavement above; but the altar, at the foot of the hill, tells us of that way by which the sinner can make his escape from the defilement of his own condition, and mount up to the presence of God, there to feast and worship in perfect peace. The blood which flowed around the altar furnished man's only title to stand in the presence of that glory which "was like a devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes or the children of Israel."

"And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights." This was truly a high and holy position for Moses. He was called away from earth and earthly things. abstracted from natural influences, he is shut in with God, to hear from his mouth the deep mysteries of the Person and work of Christ; for such, in point of fact, we have unfolded in the tabernacle and all its significant furniture!' the patterns of things in the heavens." The blessed One knew full well what was about to be the end of man's covenant of works; but He unfolds to Moses, in types and shadows, His own precious thoughts of love and counsels of grace, manifested in, and secured by, Christ.

Blessed, for evermore, be the grace which has not left us under a covenant of works. Blessed be He who has "hushed the law's loud thunders and quenched mount Sinai's flame" by "the blood of the everlasting covenant," and given us a peace which no power of earth or hell can shake. " Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Exodus 25

This chapter forms the commencement of one of the richest veins in Inspiration's exhaustless mine — a vein in which every stroke of the mattock brings to light untold wealth. We know the mattock with which alone we can work in such a mine, namely, the distinct ministry of the Holy Ghost. Nature can do nothing here. Reason is blind — imagination utterly vain — the most gigantic intellect, instead of being able to interpret the sacred symbols, appears like a bat in the sunshine, blindly dashing itself against the objects which it is utterly unable to discern. We must compel reason and imagination to stand without, while, with a chastened heart, a single eye, and a spiritual mind, we enter the hallowed precincts and gaze upon the deeply significant furniture. God the Holy Ghost is the only One who can conduct us through the courts of the Lord's house, and expound to our souls the true meaning of all that there meets our view. To attempt the exposition, by the aid of intellect's unsanctified powers, would be infinitely more absurd than to set about the repairs of a watch with a blacksmith's tongs and hammer. "The patterns of things in the heavens" cannot be interpreted by the natural mind, in its most cultivated form. They must all be read in the light of heaven. Earth has no light which could at all develop their beauties. The One who furnished the patterns can alone explain what the patterns mean. The One who furnished the beauteous symbols can alone interpret them.

To the human eye there would seem to be a desultoriness in the mode in which the Holy Ghost has presented the furniture of the tabernacle; but, in reality, as might be expected, there is the most perfect order, the most remarkable precision, the most studious accuracy. From Ex. 25 to Ex. 30, inclusive, we have a distinct section of the Book of Exodus. This section is divided into two parts, the first terminating at Ex. 27: 19, and the second as the close of Ex. 30. The former begins with the ark of the covenant, inside the veil, and ends with the brazen altar and the court in which that altar stood. That is, it gives us, in the first place, Jehovah's throne of judgement, whereon He sat as Lord of all the earth; and it conducts us to that place where He met the sinner, in the credit and virtue of accomplished atonement. Then, in the latter, We have the mode of man's approach to God — the privileges, dignities, and responsibilities of those who, as priests, were permitted to draw nigh to the Divine Presence and enjoy worship and communion there. Thus the arrangement is perfect and beautiful. How could it be otherwise, seeing that it is divine? The ark and the brazen altar present, as it were, two extremes. The former was the throne of God established in "justice and judgement." (Ps. 89: 19) The latter was the place of approach for the sinner where "mercy and truth" went before Jehovah's face. Man, in himself, dared not to approach the ark to meet God, for "the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest." (Heb. 9: 8) But God could approach the altar of brass, to meet man as a sinner. "Justice and judgement" could not admit the sinner in; but "mercy and truth" could bring God out; not, indeed, in that overwhelming brightness and majesty in which He was wont to shine forth from between those mystic supporters of His throne — "the cherubim of glory" — but in that gracious ministry which is symbolically presented to us in the furniture and ordinances of the tabernacle.

All this may well remind us of the path trodden by that blessed One, who is the antitype of all these types — the substance of all these shadows. He travelled from the eternal throne of God in heaven, down to the depths of Calvary's cross. He came from all the glory of the former down into all the shame of the latter, in order that He might conduct His redeemed, forgiven, and accepted people back with Himself, and present them faultless before that very throne which He had left on their account. The Lord Jesus fills up, in His own person and work, every point between the throne of God and the dust of death, and every point between the dust of death and the throne of God. In Him God has come down, in perfect grace, to the sinner; in Him the sinner is brought up, in perfect righteousness, to God. All the way, from the ark to the brazen altar, was marked with the footprints of love; and all the way from the brazen altar to the ark of God was sprinkled with the blood of atonement; end as the ransomed worshipper passes along that wondrous path, he beholds the name of Jesus stamped on all that meets his view. May that name be dearer to our hearts! Let us now proceed to examine the chapters consecutively.

It is most interesting to note here, that the first thing which the Lord communicated to Moses is His gracious purpose to have a sanctuary or holy dwelling place in the midst of His people — a sanctuary composed of materials, which directly point to Christ, His Person, His work, and the precious fruit of that work, as seen in the light, the power, and the varied graces of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, these materials were the fragrant fruit of the grace of God — the voluntary offerings of devoted hearts. Jehovah, whose majesty, " the heaven of heavens could not contain," was graciously pleased to dwell in a boarded and curtained tent, erected for Him by those who cherished the fond desire to hail His presence amongst them. This tabernacle may be viewed in two ways: first, as furnishing "a pattern of things in the heavens;" and, secondly, as presenting a deeply significant type of the body of Christ. The various materials of which the tabernacle was composed will come before us, as we pass along; we shall, therefore, consider the three comprehensive subjects put before us in this chapter, namely, the ark; the table; and the candlestick.

The ark of the covenant occupies the leading place in the divine communications to Moses. Its position, too, in the tabernacle was most marked. Shut in within the veil, in the holiest of all, it formed the base of Jehovah's throne. Its very name conveys to the mind its import. An ark, so far as the word instructs us, is designed to preserve intact whatever is put therein. An ark carried Noah and his family, together with all the orders of creation, in safety over the billows of judgement which covered the earth. An ark, at the opening of this book, was faith's vessel for preserving "a proper child" from the waters of death. When, therefore, we read of "the ark of the covenant," we are led to believe that it was designed of God to preserve His covenant unbroken, in the midst of an erring people. In it, as we know, the second set of tables were deposited. As to the first set, they were broken in pieces, beneath the mount, showing that man's covenant was wholly abolished — that his work could never, by any possibility, form the basis of Jehovah's throne of government. "Justice and judgement are the habitation of that throne," whether in its earthly or heavenly aspect. The ark could not contain within its hallowed enclosure, broken tables. Man might fail to fulfil his self-chosen vow; but God's law must be preserved in its divine integrity and perfectness. If God was to set up His throne in the midst of His people, He could only do so in a way worthy of Himself. His standard of judgement and government must be perfect.

"And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. and thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them." The ark of the covenant was to accompany the people in all their wanderings. It never rested while they were a travelling or a conflicting host. It moved from place to place in the wilderness. It went before them into the midst of Jordan; it was their grand rallying Point in all the wars of Canaan; it was the sure and certain earnest of power wherever it went. No power of the enemy could stand before that which was the well-known expression of the divine presence and power. The ark was to be Israel's companion in travel, in the desert; and "the staves" and "the rings" were the apt expression of its travelling character.

However, it was not always to be a traveller. "The afflictions of David," as well as the wars of Israel, were to have an end. The prayer was yet to be breathed and answered, "Arise, O Lord, into thy rest: thou and the Ark of thy strength." (Ps. 132: 8) This most sublime petition had its partial accomplishment in the palmy days of Solomon, when "the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark, and the staves thereof above. And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day." (1 Kings 8:6-8) The sand of the desert was to be exchanged for the golden floor of the temple. (1 Kings 6: 30) The wanderings of the ark were to have an end; there was "neither enemy nor evil occurrent," and therefore, "the staves were drawn out."

Nor was this the only difference between the ark in the tabernacle and in the temple. The apostle, speaking of the ark in its wilderness habitation, describes it as "the ark of the covenant, overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant." (Heb. 9: 4) Such were the contents of the ark in its wilderness journeyings — the pot of manna, the record of Jehovah's faithfulness, in providing for His redeemed in the desert, and Aaron's rod, "a token against the rebels," to "take away their murmurings.'' (Compare Ex. 16: 32-39; and Num. 17: 10) But when the moment arrived in which "the staves" were to be "drawn out," when the wanderings and wars of Israel were over, the "exceeding magnifical" house was completed, when the sun of Israel's glory had reached, in type, its meridian, as marked by the wealth and splendour of Solomon's reign, then the records of wilderness need and wilderness failure were unnoticed, and nothing remained save that which constituted the eternal foundation of the throne of the God of Israel, and of all the earth. "There was nothing in the ark, save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb." (1 Kings 8: 9)

But all this brightness was soon to be overcast by the heavy clouds of human failure and divine displeasure. The rude foot of the uncircumcised was yet to walk across the ruins of that beautiful house, and as faded light and departed glory were yet to elicit the contemptuous "hiss" of the stranger. This would not be the place to follow out these things in detail; I shall only refer my reader to the last notice which the Word of God affords us of "the ark of the covenant," — a notice which carries us forward to a time when human folly and sin shall no more disturb the resting-place of that ark, and when neither a curtained tent, nor yet a temple made with hands, shall contain it. "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, 0 Lord God almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou has taken to thee thy great power and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldst destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of His covenant: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." (Rev. 11: 15-19)

The mercy-seat comes next in order. "And thou shalt make a mercy-seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy-seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end; even of the mercy-seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy-seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark shalt thou put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel."

Here Jehovah gives utterance to His gracious intention of coming down from the fiery mount to take His place upon the mercy seat. This He could do, inasmuch as the tables of testimony were preserved unbroken beneath, and the symbols of his power, whether in creation or providence, rose on the right hand and on the left — the inseparable adjuncts of that throne on which Jehovah had seated himself — a throne of grace founded upon divine righteousness and supported by justice and judgement. Here the glory of the God of Israel shone forth. From hence He issued His commands, softened and sweetened by the gracious source from whence they emanated, and the medium through which they came — like the beams of the mid-day sun, passing through a cloud, we can enjoy their genial and enlivening influence without being dazzled by their brightness. "His commandments are not grievous," when received from off the mercy-seat, because they come in connection with grace, which gives the ears to hear and the power to obey.

Looking at the ark and mercy-seat together, we may see in them a striking figure of Christ, in His Person and work. He having, in His life, magnified the law and made it honourable, became, through death, a propitiation or mercy-seat. for every one that believeth. God's mercy could only repose on a pedestal of perfect righteousness. "Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5: 21) The only proper meeting place between God and man is the point where grace and righteousness meet and perfectly harmonise. Nothing but perfect righteousness could suit God; and nothing but perfect grace could suit the sinner. But where could these attributes meet in one point? Only in the cross. There it is that "mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." (Ps. 85: 10) Thus it is that the soul of the believing sinner finds peace. He sees that God's righteousness and his justification rest upon precisely the same basis, namely, Christ's accomplished work. When man, under the powerful action of the truth of God, takes his place as a sinner, God can, in the exercise of Grace, take His place as a Saviour, and then every question is settled, for the cross having answered all the claims of divine justice, mercy's copious streams can flow unhindered. When a righteous God and a ruined sinner meet, on a blood-sprinkled platform, all is settled for ever — settled in such a way as perfectly glorifies God, and eternally saves the sinner. God must be true, though every man he proved a liar; and when man is so thoroughly brought down to the lowest point of his own moral condition before God as to be willing to take the place which God's truth assigns him, he then learns that God has revealed Himself as the righteous Justifier of such an one. This must give settled peace to the conscience; and not only so, but impart a capacity to commune with God, and hearken to His holy precepts in the intelligence of that relationship into which divine grace has introduced us.

Hence, therefore, "the holiest of all" unfolds a truly wondrous scene. The ark, the mercy seat, the cherubim, the glory! What a sight for the high-priest of Israel to behold as, once a year, he went in within the veil! May the Spirit of God open the eyes of our understandings, that we may understand more fully the deep meaning of those precious types.

Moses is next instructed about "the table of showbread," or bread of presentation. On this table stood the food of the priests of God. For seven days those twelve loaves of "fine flour with frankincense" were presented before the Lord, after which, being replaced by others, they became the food of the priests who fed upon them in the holy place. (See Lev. 24: 5-9) It is needless to say that those twelve loaves typify "the man Christ Jesus." The "fine flour," of which they were composed, mark His perfect manhood, while the "frankincense'' points out the entire devotion of that manhood to God. If God has His priests ministering in the holy place, He will assuredly have a table for them, and a well-furnished table too. Christ is the table and Christ is the bread thereon. The pure table and the twelve loaves shadow forth Christ, as presented before God unceasingly, in all the excellency of His spotless humanity, and administered as food to the priestly family. The "seven days" set forth the perfection of the divine enjoyment of Christ ; and the "twelve loaves" the administration of that enjoyment in and by man. There is also, I should venture to suggest, the idea, of Christ's connection with the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The candlestick of pure gold comes next in order, for God's priests need light as well as food: and they have both the one and the other in Christ. In this candlestick there is no mention of anything but pure gold. "All of it shall be one beaten work of pure gold." "The seven lamps" which "gave light over against the candlestick," express the perfection of the light and energy of the Spirit, founded upon and connected with the perfect efficacy of the work of Christ. The work of the Holy Ghost can never be separated from the work of Christ. This is set forth, in a double way, in this beautiful figure of the golden candle stick. "The seven lamps" being connected with "the shaft" of "beaten gold," points us to Christ's finished work as the sole basis of the manifestation of the Spirit in the Church. The Holy Ghost was not given until Jesus was glorified. (Comp. John 7: 39 with Acts 19: 2-6) In Revelation 3, Christ is presented to the Church of Sardis as "having the seven spirits." It was as "exalted to the right hand of God" that the Lord Jesus "shed forth" the Holy Ghost upon His church, in order that she might shine according to the power and perfection of her position, in the holy place, her proper sphere of being, of action, and of worship.

Then, again, we find it was one of Aaron's specific functions to light and trim those seven lamps. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel that they bring unto thee pure oil olive, beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. Without the veil of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it, from the evening unto the morning, before the Lord continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations. He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the Lord continually." (Lev. 24: 1-4) Thus we may see how the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church is linked with Christ's work on earth and His work in heaven. "The seven lamps" were there, no doubt; hut priestly energy and diligence were needed in order to keep them trimmed and lighted. The priest would continually need "the tongs and snuff-dishes" for the purpose of removing ought that would not be a fit vehicle for the "pure beaten oil." Those tongs and snuff-dishes were of "beaten gold" likewise, for the whole matter was the direct result of divine operation. If the Church shine, it is only by the energy of the Spirit, and that energy is founded upon Christ, who, in pursuance of God's eternal counsel, became in His sacrifice and Priesthood, the spring and power of everything to His Church. All is of God. Whether we look within that mysterious veil, and behold the ark with its cover, and the two significant figures attached thereto; or if we gaze on that which lay without the veil, the pure table and the pure candlestick, with their distinctive vessels and instruments — all speak to us of God, whether as revealed to us in connection with the Son or the Holy Ghost.

Christian reader, your high calling places you in the very midst of all these precious realities. Your place is not merely amid "the patterns of things in the heavens," but amid "the heavenly things themselves." You have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." You are a Priest unto God. "The showbread" is yours. Your place is at "the pure table," to feed on the priestly food, in the light of the Holy Ghost. Nothing can ever deprive you of those divine privileges. They are yours for ever. Let it be your care to watch against everything that might rob you of the enjoyment of them. Beware of all unhallowed tempers, lusts, feelings, and imaginations. Keep nature down — keep the world out keep Satan off. May the Holy Ghost fill your whole soul with Christ. Then you will be practically holy and abidingly happy. You will bear fruit, and the Father will be glorified, and your joy shall be full.

 

Exodus 26

The section of our book which now opens before us contains the instructive description of the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle, wherein the spiritual eye discerns the shadows of the various features and phases of Christ's manifested character. "Moreover, thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet : with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them." Here we have the different aspects of "the man Christ Jesus." The "fine twined linen" prefigures the spotless purity of His walk and character; while the "blue, the purple, and the scarlet" present Him to us as "the Lord from heaven," who is to reign according to the divine counsels, but whose royalty is to be the result of His sufferings. Thus we have a spotless man, a heavenly man, a royal man, a suffering man. These materials were not confined to the " curtains" of the tabernacle, but were also used in making "the veil," (ver. 31,) "the hanging for the door of the tent," (ver. 36,) "the hanging for the gate of the court," (Ex. 27: 16,) "the cloths of service and the holy garments of Aaron." (Ex. 39: 1.) In a word, it was Christ everywhere, Christ in all, Christ alone.*

{*The expression, "white and clean," gives peculiar force and beauty to the type which the Holy Ghost has presented in the "fine twined linen." Indeed, there could not be a more appropriate emblem of spotless manhood.}

"The fine twined linen," as expressive of Christ's spotless manhood, opens a most precious and copious spring of thought to the spiritual mind; it furnishes a theme on which we cannot meditate too profoundly. The truth respecting Christ's humanity must be received with scriptural accuracy, held with spiritual energy, guarded with holy jealousy, and confessed with heavenly power. If we are wrong as to this, we cannot be right as to anything. It is a grand, vital, fundamental truth, and if it be not received, held, guarded, and confessed, as God has revealed it in His holy word, the entire superstructure must be unsound. Nothing can be more deplorable than the looseness of thought and expression which seems to prevail in reference to this all-important doctrine. Were there more reverence for the word of God, there would be more accurate acquaintance with it; and, in this way, we should happily avoid all those erroneous and unguarded statements which surely must grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whose province it is to testify of Jesus.

When the angel had announced to Mary the glad tidings of the Saviour's birth, she said unto him, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Her feeble mind was utterly incompetent to enter into, much less to fathom, the stupendous mystery of "God manifest in the flesh." But mark carefully the angelic reply — a reply, not to a sceptic mind, but to a pious, though ignorant, heart. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; wherefore, also, that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1: 39, 35) Mary, doubtless, imagined that this birth was to be according to the principles of ordinary generation. But the angel corrects her mistake, and, in correcting it, enunciates one of the grandest truths of revelation. He declares to her that divine power was about to form A REAL MAN — "the second man the Lord from heaven" — one whose nature was divinely pure, utterly incapable of receiving or communicating any taint. This Holy One was made "in, the likeness of sinful flesh," without sin in the flesh. He partook of real bona fide flesh and blood without a particle or shadow of the evil thereto attaching.

This is a cardinal truth which cannot be too accurately laid hold of or too tenaciously held. The incarnation of the Son — His mysterious entrance into pure and spotless flesh, formed, by the power of the Highest, in the virgin's womb, is the foundation of the "great mystery of godliness" of which the topstone is a glorified God-man in heaven, the Head, Representative, and Model of the redeemed Church of God. The essential purity of His manhood perfectly met the claims of God; the reality thereof met the necessities of man. He was a man, for none else would do to meet man's ruin. But He was such a man as could satisfy all the claims of the throne of God. He was a spotless, real man, in whom God could perfectly delight, and on whom man could unreservedly lean.

I need not remind the enlightened reader that all this, if taken apart from death and resurrection, is perfectly unavailable to us. He needed not only an incarnate, but a crucified and risen Christ. True, He should be incarnate to be crucified; but it is death and resurrection which render incarnation available to us. It is nothing short of a deadly error to suppose that, in incarnation, Christ was taking man into union with Himself. This could not be. He Himself expressly teaches the contrary. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12: 24) There could be no union between sinful and holy flesh, pure and impure, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal. Accomplished death is the only base of a unity between Christ and His elect members. It is in beautiful connection with the words, "Rise, let us go hence," that He says, "I am the vine, ye are the branches." "We have been planted together in the likeness of his death." "Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed." "In whom also are ye circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." I would refer my reader to Romans 6 and Colossians 2 as a full and comprehensive statement of the truth on this important subject. It was only as dead and risen that Christ and His people could become one. The true corn of wheat had to fall into the ground and die ere a full ear could spring up and be gathered into the heavenly garner.

But while this is a plainly revealed truth of Scripture, it is equally plain that incarnation formed, as it were, the first layer of the glorious superstructure; and the curtains of "fine twined Linen" prefigure the moral purity of "the man Christ Jesus." We have already seen the manner of His conception; and, as we pass along the current of His life here below, we meet with instance after instance of the same spotless purity. He was forty days in the wilderness, tempted of the devil, but there was no response in His pure nature to the tempter's foul suggestions. He could touch the leper and receive no taint. He could touch the bier and not contract the smell of death. He could pass unscathed through the most polluted atmosphere. He was, as to His manhood, like a sunbeam emanating from the fountain of light, which can pass, without a soil, through the most defiling medium. He was perfectly unique in nature, constitution, and character. None but He could say, "Thou wilt not suffer thine holy One to see corruption." This was in reference to His humanity, which, as being perfectly holy and perfectly pure, was capable of being a sin-bearer. "His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." Not to the tree, as some would teach us; but "on the tree." It was on the cross that Christ was our sin-bearer, and only there. "He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5: 21)

"Blue " is the ethereal colour, and marks the heavenly character of Christ, who, though He had come down into all the circumstances of actual and true humanity — sin excepted — yet was He "the Lord from heaven." Though He was "very man," yet He ever walked in the uninterrupted consciousness of His proper dignity, as a heavenly stranger. He never once forgot whence He had come, where He was, or whither He was going. The spring of all His joys was on high. Earth could neither make Him richer nor poorer. He found this world to be "a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;" and, hence, His spirit could only find its refreshment above. It was entirely heavenly. "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man who is in heaven." (John 3: 13)

"Purple" denotes royalty, and points us to Him who "Was born King of the Jews;" who offered Himself as such to the Jewish nation, and was rejected; who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, avowing Himself a king, when, to mortal vision, there was not so much as a single trace of royalty. "Thou sayest that I am a king." And "hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." And, finally, the inscription upon His cross, "in letters of Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin" — the language of religion, of science, and of government declared Him, to the whole known world, to be "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Earth disowned His claims — so much the worse for it but not so heaven; there His claim was fully recognised. He was received as a conqueror into the eternal mansions of light, crowned with glory and honour, and seated, amid the acclamations of angelic hosts, on the throne of the majesty in the heavens, there to wait until His enemies be made His footstool. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise, now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. BLESSED ARE ALL THEY THAT PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM." (Ps. 2)

"Scarlet," when genuine, is produced by death; and this makes its application to a suffering Christ safe and appropriate. "Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh." Without death, all would have been unavailing. We can admire "the blue" and "the purple" but without "the scarlet" the tabernacle would have lacked an all-important feature. It was by death that Christ destroyed him that had the power of death. The Holy Ghost, in setting before us a striking figure of Christ — the true tabernacle-could not possibly omit that phase of His character which constituted the groundwork of His connection with His body the Church, of His claim to the throne of David, and the headship of all creation. In a word, He not only unfolds the Lord Jesus to our view, in these significant curtains, as a spotless man, a royal man, but also a suffering man; one who, by death, should make good His claims to all that to which, as man, He was entitled, in the divine counsels.

But we have much more in the curtains of the tabernacle than the varied and perfect phases of the character of Christ. We have also the unity and consistency of that character. Each phase is displayed in its own proper perfectness; and one never interferes with, or mars the exquisite beauty of, another. All was in perfect harmony beneath the eye of God, and was so displayed in "the pattern which was showed to Moses on the mount," and in the copy which was exhibited below. "Every one of the curtains shall have one measure. The five curtains shall be coupled together one to another; and other five curtains shall be coupled one to another." Such was the fair proportion and consistency in all the ways of Christ, as a perfect man, walking on the earth, in whatever aspect or relationship we view Him. When acting in one character, we never find ought that is, in the very least degree, inconsistent with the divine integrity of another. He was, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances, the perfect man. There was nothing out of that fair and lovely proportion which belonged to Him, in all His ways. "Every one of the curtains shall have one measure."

The two sets of five curtains each may symbolise the two grand aspects of Christ's character, as acting toward God and toward man. We have the same two aspects in the law, namely, what was due to God, and what was due to man; so that, as to Christ, if we look in, we find "thy law is within my heart;" and if we look at His outward character and walk, we see those two elements adjusted with perfect accuracy, and not only adjusted, but inseparably linked together by the heavenly grace and divine energy which dwelt in His most glorious Person.

"And thou shalt make loops of blue upon the edge of the one curtain, from the selvedge in the coupling; and likewise. shalt thou make in the uttermost edge of another curtain, in the coupling of the second.... And thou shalt make fifty taches of gold, and couple the curtains together with the taches; and it shall be one tabernacle." We have here displayed to us, in the "loops of blue," and "taches of gold," that heavenly grace and divine energy in Christ which enabled Him to combine and perfectly adjust the claims of God and man; so that in responding to both the one and the other, He never, for a moment, marred the unity of His character. When crafty and hypocritical men tempted Him with the enquiry, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?" His wise reply was, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Nor was it merely Caesar, but man in every relation that had all his claims perfectly met in Christ. As He united in His perfect Person the nature of God and man, so He met in His, perfect ways the claims of God and man. Most interesting would it be to trace, through the gospel narrative, the exemplification of the principle suggested by the "loops of blue," and "taches of gold;" but I must leave my reader to pursue this study under the immediate guidance of the Holy Ghost, who delights to expatiate upon every feature and every phase of that perfect One whom it is His unvarying purpose and undivided object to exalt.

The curtains on which we have been dwelling were covered with other "curtains of goats' hair;" (Ver. 7-14) Their beauty was hidden from those without by that which bespoke roughness and severity. This latter did not meet the view of those within. To all who were privileged to enter the hallowed enclosure nothing was visible save "the blue, the purple, the scarlet, and fine twined linen," the varied yet combined exhibition of the virtues and excellencies of that divine Tabernacle in which God dwelt within the veil — that is, of Christ, through whose flesh, the antitype of all these, the beams of the divine nature shone so delicately, that the sinner could behold without being overwhelmed by their dazzling brightness.

As the Lord Jesus passed along this earth, how few really knew Him! How few had eyes anointed with heavenly eyesalve to penetrate and appreciate the deep mystery of His character! How few saw "the blue, the purple, the scarlet, and the twined linen!" It was only when faith brought man into His presence that He ever allowed the brightness of what He was to shine forth — ever allowed the glory to break through the cloud. To nature's eye there would seem to have been a reserve and a severity about Him which were aptly prefigured by the "covering of goats' hair." All this was the result of His profound separation and estrangement, not from sinners personally, but from the thoughts and maxims of men. He had nothing in common with man as such, nor was it within the compass of mere nature to comprehend or enjoy Him. "No man," said He, "can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;" and when one of those "drawn" ones confessed His name, He declared that "flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (Comp. John 6: 44; Matt. 6: 17) He was "a root out of a dry ground," having neither "form nor comeliness" to attract the eye or gratify the heart of man. The popular current could never flow in the direction of One who, as he passed rapidly across the stage of this vain world, wrapped Himself up in a "covering of goats' hair." Jesus was not popular. The multitude might follow Him for a moment, because His ministry stood connected, in their judgement, with "the loaves and fishes" which met their need; but they were just as ready to cry, "Away with him!" as "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Oh! let Christians remember this! Let the servants of Christ remember it! Let all preachers of the gospel remember it! Let one and all of us ever seek to bear in mind the "covering of goats' hair!"

But if the goats' skins expressed the severity of Christ's separation from earth, "the rams' skins dyed red" exhibit His intense consecration and devotedness to God, which was carried out even unto death. He was the only perfect Servant that ever stood in God's vineyard. He had one object which He pursued, with an undeviating course, from the manger to the cross, and that was to glorify the Father and finish His work. "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business" was the language of His youth, and the accomplishment of that "business" was the design of His life. "His meat was to do the will of him that sent him and to finish his work." "The rams' skins dyed red" formed as distinct a part of His ordinary habit as the "goats' hair." His perfect devotion to God separated Him from the habits of men.

"The badgers' skins" may exhibit to us the holy vigilance with which the Lord Jesus guarded against the approach of everything hostile to the purpose which engrossed His whole soul. He took up His position for God, and held it with a tenacity which no influence of men or devils, earth or hell, could overcome. The covering of badgers' skins was "above," (ver. 14,) teaching us that the most prominent feature in the character of "the man Christ Jesus" was an invincible determination to stand as a witness for God on the earth. He was the true Naboth, who gave up His life rather than surrender the truth of God, or give up that for which He had taken His place in this world.

The goat, the ram, and the badger, must be regarded as exhibiting certain natural features, and also as symbolising certain moral qualities; and we must take both into account in our application of these figures to the character of Christ. The human eye could only discern the former. It could see none of the moral grace, beauty, and dignity, which lay beneath the outward form of the despised and humble Jesus of Nazareth. When the treasures of heavenly wisdom flowed from His lips, the inquiry was, "Is not this the carpenter?" or "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" When He asserted His eternal Sonship and Godhead, the word was, "Thou art not yet fifty years old," or "They took up stones to cast at him." In short, the acknowledgement of the Pharisees, in John 9, was true in reference to men in general. "as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is."

It would be utterly impossible, in the compass of a volume like this, to trace the unfoldings of those precious features of Christ's character through the gospel narratives. Sufficient has been said to open up springs of spiritual thought to my reader, and to furnish some faint idea of the rich treasures which are wrapped up in the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle. Christ's hidden being, secret springs and inherent excellencies — His outward and unattractive form — what He was in Himself, what He was to Godward, and what He was to manward — what he was in the judgement of faith, and what in the judgement of nature — all is sweetly and impressively told out to the circumcised ear, in the " curtains of blue, purple, scarlet, and the twined `linen:' and the "coverings of skins."

"The boards for the tabernacle" were made of the same wood as was used in constructing "the ark of the covenant." Moreover, they were upheld by the sockets of silver formed out of the atonement; their hooks and chapiters being of the same. (Compare attentively Ex. 30: 11-16, with Ex. 38: 25-28) The whole framework of the tent of the tabernacle was based on that which spoke of atonement or ransom, while the "hooks and chapiters" at the top set forth the same. The sockets were buried in the sand, and the hooks and chapiters were above. It matters not how deep you penetrate, or how high you rise, that glorious and eternal truth is emblazoned before you, "I HAVE FOUND A RANSOM." Blessed be God, "we are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,......But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."

The tabernacle was divided into three distinct parts, namely, "the holy of holies," "the holy place," and the court of the tabernacle. The entrance into each of these was of the same materials, "blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen." (Compare Ex. 24: 31, 36; Ex. 27: 16.) The interpretation of which is simply this: Christ forms the only doorway into the varied fields of glory which are yet to be displayed, whether on earth, in heaven, or in the heaven of heavens. "Every family, in heaven and earth," will be ranged under His headship, as all will be brought into everlasting felicity and glory, on the ground of His accomplished atonement. This is plain enough, and needs, no stretch of the imagination to grasp it. We know it to be true: and when we know the truth which is shadowed forth, the shadow Is easily understood. If only our hearts be filled with Christ, we shall not go far astray in our interpretations of the tabernacle and its furniture. It is not a head full of learned criticism that will avail us much here, but a heart full of affection for Jesus, and a conscience at rest in the blood of His cross.

May the Spirit of God enable us to study these things with more interest and intelligence! May He "open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of his law."

 

Exodus 27

We have now arrived at the brazen altar which stood at the door of the tabernacle; and I would call my reader's most particular attention to the order of the Holy Ghost in this portion of our book. We have already remarked that from Ex. 25 to Ex. 27: 19, forms a distinct division, in which we are furnished with a description of the ark and mercy-seat, the table and candlestick, the curtains and the veil; and, lastly, the brazen altar and the court in which that altar stood. If my reader will turn to Ex. 35: 15; Ex. 37: 25; Ex. 40: 26, he will remark that the golden altar of incense is noticed, in each of the three instances, between the candlestick and the brazen altar. Whereas, when Jehovah is giving directions to Moses, the brazen altar is introduced immediately after the candlestick and the curtains of the tabernacle. Now, inasmuch as there must be a divine reason for this difference, it is the privilege of every diligent and intelligent student of the word to inquire what that reason is.

Why, then, does the Lord, when giving directions about the furniture of the "holy place," omit the altar of incense and pass out to the brazen altar which stood at the door of the tabernacle? The reason, I believe, is simply this. He first describes the mode in which He would manifest Himself to man : and then He describes the mode of man's approach to Him. He took His seat upon the throne, as " the Lord of all the earth." The beams of His glory were hidden behind the veil — type of Christ's flesh (Heb. 10: 20); but there was the manifestation of Himself, in connection with man, as in "the pure table," and by the light and power of the Holy Ghost, as in the candlestick. Then we have the manifested character of Christ as a man down here on this earth, as seen in the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle. And, finally, we have the brazen altar as the grand exhibition of the meeting-place between a holy God and a sinner. This conducts us, as it were, to the extreme point, from which we return, in company with Aaron and his sons, back to the holy place, the ordinary priestly position, where stood the golden altar of incense. Thus the order is strikingly beautiful. The golden altar is not spoken of until there is a priest to burn incense thereon, for Jehovah showed Moses the patterns of things in the heavens according to the order in which these things are to be apprehended by faith. On the other hand, when Moses gives directions to the congregations (Ex. 35), when he records the labours of "Bezaleel and Aholiab," (Ex. 37 and Ex. 38),and when he sets up the tabernacle (Ex. 40), he follows the simple order in which the furniture was placed.

The prayerful investigation of this interesting subject, and a comparison of the passages above referred to, will amply repay my reader. We shall now examine the brazen altar.

This altar was the place where the sinner approached God, in the power and efficacy of the blood of atonement. It stood "at the door of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation," and on it all the blood was shed. It was composed of "shittim wood and brass." The wood was the same as that of the golden altar of incense; but the metal was different, and the reason of this difference is obvious. The altar of brass was the place where sin was dealt with according to the divine judgement concerning it. The altar of gold was the place from whence the precious fragrance of Christ's acceptableness ascended to the throne of God. The shittim Wood" as the figure of Christ's humanity, must be the same in each case; but in the brazen altar we see Christ meeting the fire of divine justice; in the golden altar, we behold Him feeding the divine affections. At the former, the fire of divine wrath was quenched, at the latter, the fire of priestly worship, is kindled. The soul delights to find Christ in both; but the altar of brass is what meets the need of a guilty conscience. It is the very first thing for a poor, helpless, needy, convicted sinner. There cannot be settled peace, in reference to the question of sin, until the eye of faith rests on Christ as the antitype of the brazen altar. I must see my sin reduced to ashes in the pan of the altar, ere I can enjoy rest of conscience in the presence of God. It is when I know, by faith in the record of God, that He Himself has dealt with my sin in the Person of Christ, at the brazen altar — that He has satisfied all His own righteous claims — that He has put away my sin out of His holy presence, so that it can never come back again — it is then, but not until then, that I can enjoy divine and everlasting peace.

I would here offer a remark as to the real meaning of the "gold" and "brass" in the furniture of the tabernacle. " Gold" is the symbol of divine righteousness, or the divine nature in "the man Christ Jesus." "Brass" is the symbol of righteousness, demanding judgement of sin, as in the brazen altar; or the judgement of uncleanness, as in the brazen laver. This will account for the fact that inside the tent of the tabernacle, all was gold — the ark, the mercy-seat, the table, the candlestick, the altar of incense. All these were the symbols of the divine nature — the inherent personal excellence of the Lord Jesus Christ, On the other hand, outside the tent of the tabernacle, — all was brass — the brazen altar and its vessels, the laver and its foot.

The claims of righteousness, as to sin and uncleanness, must be divinely met ere there can be any enjoyment of the precious mysteries of Christ's Person, as unfolded in the inner sanctuary of God. It is when I see all sin and all uncleanness perfectly judged and washed away, that I can, as a priest, draw nigh and worship in the holy place, and enjoy the full display of all the beauty and excellency of the God-man, Christ Jesus.

The reader can, with much profit, follow out the application of this thought in detail, not merely in the study of the tabernacle and the temple, but also in various passages of the word; for example, in the first chapter of Revelation, Christ is seen "girt about the paps with a golden girdle," and having "his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." "The golden girdle" is the symbol of His intrinsic righteousness. The "feet like unto the brass," express the unmitigated judgement of evil — He cannot tolerate evil, but must crush it beneath His feet.

Such is the Christ with whom we have to do. He judges sin, but He saves the sinner. Faith sees sin reduced to ashes at the brazen altar; it sees all uncleanness washed away at the brazen laver: and, finally, is enjoys Christ, as He is unfolded, in the secret of the divine presence, by the light and power of the Holy Ghost. It finds Him at the golden altar, in all the value of His intercession. It feeds on Him at the pure table. It recognises Him in the ark and mercy-seat as the One who answers all the claims of justice, and, at the same time, meets all human need. It beholds Him in the veil, with all its mystic figures. It reads His precious name on everything. Oh! for a heart to prize and praise this matchless, glorious Christ!

Nothing can be of more vital importance than a clear understanding of the doctrine of the brazen altar; that is to say, of the doctrine taught there. It is from the want of clearness as to this, that so many souls go mourning all their days. They have never had a clean, thorough settlement of the whole matter of their guilt at the brazen altar. They have never really beheld, by faith, God Himself settling on the cross, the entire question of their sins. They are seeking peace for their uneasy consciences in regeneration and its evidences, — the fruits of the Spirit, frames, feelings, experiences, — things quite right and most valuable in themselves, but they are not the ground of peace. What fills the soul with perfect peace is the knowledge of what God hath wrought at the brazen altar. The ashes in yonder pan tell me the peace-giving story that ALL IS DONE The believer's sins were all put away by God's own hand of redeeming love. "He hath made Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5) All sin must be judged: but the believer's sins have been already judged in the cross ; hence, he is perfectly justified. To suppose that there could be anything against the very feeblest believer, is to deny the entire work of the cross. His sins and iniquities have been all put away by God Himself, and therefore they must needs be perfectly put away. They all went with the outpoured life of the Lamb of God.

Dear Christian reader, see that your heart is thoroughly established in the peace which Jesus has made "by the blood of His cross."

The priesthood being instituted, as in the two preceding chapters, we are here introduced to the position of true priestly worship and communion. The order is marked and instructive; and, moreover, precisely corresponds with the order of the believer's experience At the brazen altar, he sees the ashes of his sins; he then sees himself linked with One who, though personally pure and spotless, so that He could be anointed without blood, has, nevertheless, associated us with Himself in life, righteousness, and favour; and, finally, he beholds, in the golden altar, the preciousness of Christ, as the material on which the divine affections feed.

Thus it is ever; there must be a brazen altar and a priest before there can be a golden altar and incense. Very many of the children of God have never passed the brazen altar. They have never yet, in spirit, entered into the power and reality of true priestly worship. They do not rejoice in a full, clear, divine sense of pardon and righteousness; they have never reached the golden altar. They hope to reach it when they die; but it is their privilege to be at it now. The work of the cross has removed out of the way everything which could act as a barrier to their free and intelligent worship. The present position of all true believers is at the golden altar of incense.

This altar typifies a position of wondrous blessedness. There we enjoy the reality and efficacy of Christ's intercession. For ever done with self and all pertaining thereto, so far as any expectation of good is concerned, we are to be occupied with what He is before God. We shall find nothing in self but defilement. Every exhibition of it is defiling; it has been condemned and set aside in the judgement of God, and not a shred or particle thereof is to be found in the pure incense and pure fire, on the altar of pure gold: it could not be. We have been introduced, "by the blood of Jesus," into the sanctuary — a sanctuary of priestly service and worship, in which there is not so much as a trace of sin. We see the pure table, the pure candlestick, and the pure altar; but there is nothing to remind us of self and its wretchedness. Were it possible for ought of that to meet our view, it could but prove the death knell of our worship, mar our priestly food, and dim our light. Nature can have no place in the sanctuary of God. It, together with all its belongings, has been consumed to ashes; and we are now to have before our souls the fragrant odour of Christ, ascending in grateful incense to God: this is what God delights in. Everything that presents Christ in His own proper excellence, is sweet and acceptable to God. Even the feeblest expression or exhibition of Him, in the life or worship of a saint, is an odour of a sweet smell, in which God is well pleased.

Too often, alas! we have to be occupied with our failures and infirmities. If ever the workings of indwelling sin be suffered to rise to the surface, we must deal with our God about them, for He cannot go on with sin. He can forgive it, and cleanse us from it; He can restore our souls by the gracious ministry of our great High Priest; but He cannot go on in company with a single sinful thought. a light or foolish thought as well as an unclean or covetous one, is amply sufficient to mar a Christian's communion, and interrupt his worship. Should any such thought spring up, it must be judged and confessed, ere the elevated joys of the sanctuary can be known afresh. A heart in which lust is working, is not enjoying the proper occupations of the sanctuary. When we are in our proper priestly condition, nature is as though it had no existence; then we can feed upon Christ. We can taste the divine luxury of being wholly at leisure from ourselves, and wholly engrossed with Christ.

All this can only be produced by the power of the Spirit. There is no need of seeking to work up nature's devotional feelings, by the various appliances of systematic religion. There must be pure fire as well as pure incense. (Compare Lev. 10: 1, with Lev. 16: 12) All efforts at worshipping God, by the unhallowed powers of nature, come under the head of "strange fire." God is the object of worship; Christ the ground and the material of worship; and the Holy Ghost the power of worship.

Properly speaking, then, as in the brazen altar, we have Christ in the value of His sacrifice, so in the golden altar, we have Christ in the value of His intercession. This will furnish my reader with a still clearer sense of the reason why the priestly office is introduced between the two altars. There is, as might be expected, an intimate connection between the two, for Christ's intercession is founded upon His sacrifice. "And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it, once in a year, with the blood of the sin-offering of atonement: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the Lord." All rests upon the immovable foundation of SHED BLOOD. "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the pattern of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." (Heb. 9: 22-24)

From verse 11-16 we have the atonement money for the congregation. All were to pay alike. "The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls." In the matter of atonement, all must stand on one common platform. There may be a vast difference in knowledge, in experience, in capacity, in attainment, in zeal, in devotedness, but the ground of atonement is alike to all. The great apostle of the Gentiles, and the feeblest lamb in all the flock of Christ, stand on the same level, as regards atonement. This is a very simple and a very blessed truth. All may not be alike devoted and fruitful; but "the precious blood of Christ," and not devotedness or fruitfulness, is the solid and everlasting ground of the believer's rest. The more we enter into the truth and power of this, the more fruitful shall we be.

In Leviticus 27, we find another kind of valuation. When any one made "a singular vow," Moses valued him according to his age. In other words, when any one ventured to assume the ground of capacity, Moses, as the representative of the claims of God, estimated him "after the shekel of the sanctuary" If he were "poorer" than Moses' estimation, then he was to "present himself before the priest," the representative of the grace of God, who was to value him "according to his ability that vowed."

Blessed be God, we know that all His claims have been answered, and all our vows discharged by One who was at once the Representative of His claims and the Exponent of His grace, who finished the work of atonement upon the cross, and is now at the right hand of God. Here is sweet rest for the heart and conscience. Atonement is the first thing we get hold of, and we shall never lose sight of it. Let our range of intelligence be ever so wide, our fund of experience ever so rich, our tone of devotion ever so elevated, we shall always have to fall back upon the one simple, divine, unalterable, soul-sustaining doctrine of THE BLOOD. Thus it has ever been in the history of God's people, Thus it is, and thus it ever will be. The most deeply-taught and gifted servants of Christ have always rejoiced to come back to "that one well-spring of delight," at which their thirsty spirits drank when first they knew the Lord; and the eternal song of the Church in glory will be, "Unto Him that; loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." The courts of heaven will for ever resound with the glorious doctrine of the blood.

From ver. 17-21 we are presented with "the brazen laver and its foot" — the vessel of washing and the basis thereof. These two are always presented together. (See Ex. 30: 28; Ex. 38: 8; Ex. 40: 11) In this laver the priests washed their hands and feet, and thus maintained that purity which was essential to the proper discharge of their priestly functions. It was not, by any means, a question of a fresh presentation of blood; but simply that action by which they were preserved in fitness for priestly service and worship. "When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the Lord: so they shall wash their hands and their feet that they die not."

There can be no true communion with God, save as personal holiness is diligently maintained. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." (1 John 1: 6) This personal holiness can only flow from the action of the word of God on our works and ways. "By the words of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." Our constant failure in priestly ministry may be accounted for by our neglecting the due use of the laver. If our ways are not submitted to the purgative action of the word — if we continue in the pursuit or practice of that which, according to the testimony of our own consciences, the word distinctly condemns, the energy of our priestly character will, assuredly, be lacking. Deliberate continuance in evil and true priestly worship are wholly incompatible. "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." If we have any uncleanness upon us, we cannot enjoy the presence of God. The effect of His presence would then be to convict us by its holy light. But when we are enabled, through grace, to cleanse our way, by taking heed thereto according to God's word, we are then morally capacitated for the enjoyment of His presence.

My reader will at once perceive what a vast field of practical truth is here laid open to him, and also how largely the doctrine of the brazen laver is brought out in the New Testament. Oh! that all those who are privileged to tread the courts of the sanctuary, in priestly robes, and to approach the altar of God, in priestly worship, may keep their hands and feet clean by the use of the true laver.

It may be interesting to note that the laver, with its foot, was made "of the looking-glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." (See Ex. 38: 8) This fact is full of meaning. We are ever prone to be "like a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." Nature's looking-glass can never furnish a clear and permanent view of our true condition. "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James 1: 23-25) The man who has constant recourse to the word of God, and who allows that word to tell upon his heart and conscience, will be maintained in the holy activities of the divine life.

Intimately connected with the searching and cleaning action of the word is the efficacy of the priestly ministry of Christ. "For the word of God is quick and powerful, (i.e., living and energetic,) and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Then the inspired apostle immediately adds, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find Grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4: 12-16)

The more keenly we feel the edge of the word, the more we shall prize the merciful and gracious ministry of our High Priest. The two things go together. They are the inseparable companions of the Christian's path. The High Priest sympathises with the infirmities which the word detects and exposes. He is "a faithful" as well as "a merciful High Priest." Hence, it is only as I am making use of the laver that I can approach the altar. Worship must ever be presented in the power of holiness. We must lose sight of nature, as reflected in a looking-glass, and be wholly occupied with Christ, as presented in the word. In this way only shall the "hands and feet," the works and ways be cleansed, according to the purification of the sanctuary.

Prom ver. 22 - 23 we have the "holy anointing oil," with which the priests, together with all the furniture of the tabernacle, were anointed. In this we discern a type of the varied graces of the Holy Ghost, which were found, in all their divine fullness, in Christ. "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." (Ps. 45: 8) "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power." (Acts 10: 38) All the graces of the Spirit, in their perfect fragrance, centred in Christ; and it is from Him alone they can flow. He, as to His humanity, was conceived of the Holy Ghost; and, ere He entered upon His public ministry, He was anointed with the Holy Ghost; and, finally, when He had taken His seat on high, in token of an accomplished redemption, He shed forth upon His body, the Church, the precious gift of the Holy Ghost. (See Matt. 1: 20; Matt. 3: 16, 17; Luke 4: 18, 19; Acts 2: 33; Acts 10: 45, 46; Eph. 4: 8-13)

It is as those who are associated with this ever blessed and highly-exalted Christ that believers are partakers of the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost; and, moreover, it is as they walk in habitual nearness to Him, that they either enjoy or emit the fragrance thereof. The unrenewed man knows nothing of this. " [Upon man's flesh it shall not be poured." The graces of the Spirit can never be connected with man's flesh, for the Holy Ghost cannot own nature. Not one of the fruits of the Spirit was ever yet produced "in nature's barren soil." "We must, be born again." It is only as connected with the new man, as being part of "the new creation," that we can know anything of the fruits of the Holy Ghost. It is of no possible value to seek to imitate those fruits and grace's. The fairest fruits that ever grew in nature's fields, in their highest state of cultivation — the most amiable traits which nature can exhibit, must be utterly disowned in the sanctuary of God. "Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured; neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people." There must be no counterfeit of the Spirit's work; all must be of the Spirit — wholly, really of the Spirit. Moreover, that which is of the Spirit must not be attributed to man. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2: 14)

There is a very beautiful allusion to this "holy anointing oil" in one of the "songs of degrees." "Behold," says the Psalmist, "how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments." (Ps. 133: 1, 2.) The head of the priestly house being anointed with the holy oil, the very "skirts of his garments" must exhibit the precious effects. May my reader experience the power of this anointing! May he know the value of having "an unction from the Holy One," and of being " sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise!" Nothing is of any value, in the divine estimation, save that which connects itself immediately with Christ, and whatever is so connected can receive the holy anointing.

In the concluding paragraph of this most comprehensive chapter, we have the "sweet spices tempered together, pure and holy." This surpassingly precious perfume presents to us the unmeasured and Immeasurable perfections of Christ. There was no special quantity of each ingredient prescribed, because the graces that dwell in Christ, the beauties and excellencies that are concentrated in His adorable Person, are without limit. Nought save the infinite mind of Deity could scan the infinite perfections of Him in whom all the fullness of Deity dwelleth; and as eternity rolls along its course of everlasting ages, those glorious perfections will ever be unfolding themselves in the view of worshipping saints and angels. Ever and anon, as some fresh beams of light shall burst forth from that central Sun of divine glory, the courts of heaven above, and the wide fields of creation beneath, shall resound with thrilling Alleluias to Him who was, who is, and who ever shall be the object of praise to all t