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Exodus v. 23.
Neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all. THESE words, although few in number, and uttered on a special occasion, are, nevertheless, adapted to suggest some important and generally interesting remarks. The sentiment which they apparently express, and with which they tend in the first instance to inspire us, is one of disappointment and complaint; as if the Lord had been found unfaithful, and had deceived His people, by not making good to them the deliverance which He had promised. And when we remember the speaker to have been His servant Moses, it may almost occur to us, that, for once at least, such a sentiment could not have been totally unfounded. However, a notion of this kind is on no account whatever to be deliberately allowed. Suppose the text to have been spoken, not in haste, nor without a proper cause, a warrant for murmuring in a like strain might be thence derived by large numbers of each successive generation. In order, therefore, to impart right views of a matter so extensively momentous, I design, on the present opportunity, to explain, first, the true nature of the circumstances, in which Moses and the Israelites were then placed ; and afterwards, to bring into comparison with them our own circumstances, in this world of trial.
First, then, in the two preceding chapters, Moses is described to us, hardly consenting to undertake the arduous office of delivering the children of Israel out of Egypt, and bringing them into the promised land. With his meekness there seems to have been mingled a considerable portion of timidity and mistrust. The sight of the burning bush, and the voice of the Lord calling to him from the midst of it, should have enabled him to get the better of these infirmities. Yet, notwithstanding that, and other miracles, which were wrought expressly to assure his mind, Moses continued to raise objections, until “ the anger of the Lord “ was kindled," and would not suffer him any longer to decline becoming the messenger of redemption unto his brethren.
It is expedient previously to recollect this, because the same temper which makes a man slow and reluctant to enter upon any difficult work, renders him quick to take discouragement in the prosecution of it. At almost every step, he looks to see, as it were, a lion in his way; and considers himself not duly supported, if things are permitted, though but for a moment, to go against him. But God is wont frequently to ordain, that the affairs which are to succeed best in the end, shall, in their beginning, appear to fail, or grow worse. The case proposed exemplifies both these remarks. His proclamation unto Pharaoh of the message, with which he had been charged—“ Thus “ saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people
go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the “ wilderness,” (Exod. v. 1.)-produced immediately the opposite effect to that, which Moses thought should have resulted from it. The people, on whose behalf he had been commissioned, were straightway afflicted more grievously than before. Not only did they obtain no release, but, on the contrary, an oppressive addition to their labour. That they might not have time so much as to dream of going free, Pharaoh commanded, the same day, the officers of the people, and their taskmasters, saying, “ Ye shall no more give the people straw to “ make them brick, as heretofore: let them go “ and gather straw for themselves. And the “ tale of the bricks, which they did make here“ tofore, ye shall lay upon them ; ye shall not “ diminish ought thereof.” And when they complained of the hardship, that they were beaten for not performing what, by this commandment, had become an impossible task, the tyrant answered them, “Go, and work; for “there shall no straw be given you, yet shall "ye deliver the tale of bricks.” Wherefore, seeing themselves in such an evil case, and meeting Moses and Aaron in the way, they reproached them with having in a great measure occasioned it :
“ The Lord,” they exclaimed, “ 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.” (Exod. v. 6, et seq.) Upon this, Moses, being naturally dispirited by so inauspicious a commencement of his undertaking, and finding himself an object of dislike with his brethren, scarcely less than with Pharaoh, relapsed into fearfulness and despondency. Forgetting that which the Lord had told him before, “ I am sure that the king of
Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a “ mighty hand. And I will stretch out my “hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders 6 which I will do in the midst thereof: and “after that he will let you go;" (Exod. iii. 19, 20.) forgetting alike the warning and the encouragement contained in this previous declaration, he broke forth, as one entitled to expostulate and complain on the very first unfa- . vourable occurrence.
“ Moses returned unto “ the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast “ Thou so evil-entreated this people ? why is 66 it that Thou hast sent me? for since I came “ to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he hath “ done evil to this people; neither hast Thou “ delivered Thy people at all.”
Such were the circumstances which, operating on the natural disposition of Moses, induced him to speak as recorded in the text. He had the mortification to perceive, that, although God had positively sent him to be their deliverer, his brethren, the Israelites, were hitherto rather injured, than relieved, by means of his interference for them. Accordingly, he gave vent to his feelings in language which sounds hardly becoming, when we consider to whom he addressed it; but which the Lord, who knoweth our infirmities, condescended graciously to allow, without any manifestation of displeasure. Here now let us pause, and examine whether these complaining words might not, with a nearly equal propriety, and under circumstances in many points resembling the above, be uttered respecting mankind in general, who are by nature servants of sin.