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How is Deliverance Accomplished?
“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. 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. 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.”
The Scriptures instruct us in the gospel by prophecy, by type, and by illustration. The Old Testament gives us the prophetic and typical revelation of the gospel. In the Gospel narratives our Lord Jesus declared the gospel and illustrated it by numerous parables. And in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Epistles God the Holy Spirit expounds the things of Christ to us by the inspired writings of the Apostles.
Using the typical deliverance of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, I want to show you God’s method of grace as it is set before us throughout the Book of God. On his way to Egypt, God met Moses in an inn and sought to kill him, because he had not circumcised one of his sons. “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.”
Here we are given a clear, instructive picture of how the deliverance of our souls is accomplished, a picture of God’s method of grace toward sinners. I want to show you seven things in this passage that are essential to the salvation of our souls.
A Gracious God
Salvation begins with a gracious God. Salvation starts with the will of God, who declares, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Indeed, everything begins with the will of God. Israel went into Egypt according to the will of God. They remained in Egypt for 400 years according to the will of God. And they were delivered from Egypt according to the will of God. Indeed, that is exactly how God the Holy Spirit explains this whole affair, applying it to the salvation of our souls in Romans 9:8-24. Salvation begins with God’s eternal purpose of grace to sinners in Christ in election and predestination (Ephesians 1:3-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Psalm 65:4).
A Blood Sacrifice
But the will of God in election and predestination is not all there is to salvation. The second thing required for the salvation of our souls is a blood sacrifice, the bloody sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is written, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
If we could have been saved without the sacrifice of God’s Son, we would have been. Christ did not die for nothing. He died in our place upon the cursed tree, because there was no other way God could save us. Justice must be satisfied; and the only way justice could be satisfied and mercy extended was by the sacrifice of Christ (Romans 3:25-26).
This necessity of a blood sacrifice is portrayed in verses 24-26 by the rite of circumcision. Moses could not deliver Israel from Egypt until the sentence of death had passed upon him experimentally. He must have the sentence of death inscribed by the hand of God upon his very nature. Nature must be put in the place of death and kept there.
Paul wrote, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Every servant of God knows something about this. Moses was about to declare this solemn message to Pharaoh. — “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.” His message to Pharaoh was a message of death, a message of judgment. At the same time, his message to Israel was a message of life and salvation. But the man who will speak on God’s behalf of death and judgment, and life and salvation must experience these things in his own soul.
That is what Moses experienced here. — “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.” It is evident that up to this point, Zipporah had 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 that explains this scene “in the inn.” If Zipporah refused to circumcise her son, the Lord God was going to kill her husband. If Moses allowed the feelings of his wife to prevent him from circumcising his son, the Lord God was determined to kill him. The sentence of death must be written upon everything about our lives.
Zipporah is an instructive picture of the Church. She was married and united to Moses; but their union could not be complete until she was reconciled to him by blood. He must be made “a bloody husband” to her. So it is with us. Though espoused, married, and united to Christ from eternity, we must be conformed to his death, and conformed to him in his death (Philippians 3:10). We must mortify our members which are on the earth, take up the cross daily, and follow him. Our relationship with Christ is founded upon blood, and the manifestation of that relationship, necessarily, involves 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, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2: 10-12).
The sin-atoning, blood sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross is that “circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ”, by which the filth of our flesh, “the body of the sins of the flesh,” have been put away. In him, by his blood, we have the perfect remission of sin. We are made the righteousness of God in him, given complete acceptance, everlasting security, and full fellowship with Christ in all his glory. In a word — “Ye are complete in him.”
Nothing can be added to one who is “complete in him.” Can “vain 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,” can any of these things, or all of them together, add anything to one God has pronounced “complete in him”? By no means!
This completeness by our “Bloody Husband,” the Lord Jesus Christ, is not something for which we must diligently strive. No, it is the present and everlasting portion of every believer. 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,” or “pray that ye may be.” No, he says, by God the Holy Spirit, in the most absolute and unqualified way possible, — “Ye are complete in him!” That is the starting point of faith and the end.
Some may ask, “Are you saying that have we no sin, no failure, no imperfection?” Of course not. — “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. Our standing before God is not in ourselves, but in Christ. It is “in him” that we “are complete.” God says the believer in Christ is one with Christ, and exactly as Christ. This is our changeless condition, our everlasting standing in grace.
“The body of the sins of the flesh” has been “put off by the circumcision of Christ.” The believer is not in the flesh, though the flesh is in us. We are united to Christ in the power of a new and an endless life; and that life is inseparably connected with the righteousness of God in which we stand before him “accepted in the Beloved.” The Lord Jesus has put away everything that was against us; and he has brought us nigh unto God, in the self-same favor as that which he himself enjoys.
Near, so very near to God,
Nearer I cannot be;
For, in the person of His Son,
I am as near as He!
In a word, Christ is our righteousness. That fact settles every question, answers every objection, silences every doubt. As it is written, “Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified, are all of one” (Hebrews 2:11).
Until we have the sentence of death passed in us in the experience of grace, until Christ becomes “a bloody husband to us,” we know nothing about these things. But once we experience in our souls “the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ…wherein also we are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God,” we are brought out of Egypt’s darkness and bondage, and are made free from sin experimentally (1 Peter 4:1-3).
A Revealing Prophet
This sweet experience of grace comes to us by a revealing Prophet. Moses was that prophet of God who typified our Lord Jesus Christ in his prophetic office, the Prophet of whom Moses said, “unto him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:15-18). He is that Prophet who has made known the will of God to us, without whom we could never know God or his will (John 1:14-18).
It is the clear teaching of the Word of God that our Lord Jesus Christ has a three-fold office: Prophet, Priest, and King. While others, as types of Christ, have held one (or maybe two) of these offices, no one has ever been prophet, priest, and king except Christ.
How good and gracious the Lord is to send among us so great a Prophet as the Son of God, Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23; 17:5). He is a Prophet like no other. He came from heaven and is above all, having the Spirit without measure, fulfilling what others only talked about, declaring the whole counsel of God, and bringing life and immortality to light through his gospel (John 3:31-35; 2 Timothy 1:8-10). Without Christ as our Prophet, we would yet sit in darkness and be left to stumble in blindness (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). But his words are true and faithful; and to hear him is to hear God (John 12:48-50; Hebrews 1:1-2).
How blessed are those who hear and believe him (John 5:24). God declares, “I will put my words in his mouth” (John 7:16; 8:28; 17:6-8). His words are the words of life, not just true facts concerning God and the kingdom of heaven. When he speaks, sinners live (John 5:21, 24; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23), even as he spoke and Lazarus came forth. His words are the words of truth (John 1:14-17: 14:6; 18:37). His words are the words of grace. He is full of grace and truth. His words bring peace, pardon, life, and salvation from sin. Christ is that Prophet who came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. If any man hear his words and believe on him, he shall never die (John 8:51; 14:23-24).
A Mediating Priest
Fourth, we cannot be saved without a mediating Priest; and that Priest, who is the God-man, our Mediator, is the Lord Jesus Christ, typically portrayed in Aaron, the High Priest of Israel. You will notice that Aaron, the mediating priest, met Moses, who symbolizes the law of God in Mt. Horeb, and kissed him (v. 27).
That is what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us. He met God’s law, magnified it, and made it honorable at Calvary. There Mercy met Justice, and kissed each other. And upon the basis of his finished work at Calvary, he mediates between God and men. He speaks to God for us and speaks to us for God (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2).
A Preached Gospel
Still, something more is required. Deliverance must be proclaimed. Israel did not come out of Egypt until Moses and Aaron, the Law of God and the Priest of God, were sent to proclaim deliverance by the power of God. — “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” (vv. 29-30).
There is no salvation bestowed upon men except by a preached gospel. — “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believed.” Every gospel preacher knows that he has no power to deliver anyone. Yet, the preaching of the gospel is, by the will and decree of God, the means by which God saves chosen, redeemed sinners (Romans 1:15-17; 10:13-17; 1 Peter 1:23-25).
Without question, were it his pleasure to do so, God almighty could have chosen to save sinners without the use of any means or agency of any kind. Had he chosen to do so, he could have sent angels to pull us into heaven by our noses, once atonement was made for us. But that is not his pleasure. The Lord God has chosen to regenerate and call chosen, redeemed sinners through the agency of gospel preaching. The fact that God has so ordained it makes the preaching of the gospel the catalyst necessary for the communication of his saving grace.
I know that many cry out against this and say, “That limits God’s sovereignty. That makes salvation depend upon man.” Do not be so foolish as to be found fighting against God. We must never force the Scriptures to mean what we want them to mean. We must never bend the Word of God to our doctrinal notions and theological system. Rather, we bow to God’s Word. We cannot extol and honor God if we refuse to submit our reason to his Revelation.
Carefully read the Scriptures once more. It is impossible to read the following passages in their context without concluding that regeneration and faith in Christ, gifts of God the Holy Spirit and operations of his irresistible grace, are communicated to chosen, redeemed sinners through the instrumentality of gospel preaching (Romans 1:15-17; 10:13-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Timothy 4:12-16; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). In each of those passages the Lord God plainly declares that it is his purpose and pleasure to save his elect through the preaching of the gospel.
You might ask, “What if one of God’s elect is in a remote barbarian tribe in the jungles of New Guinea where no gospel preacher has ever been?” I can see how that would create a problem, except for one thing: — There are no problems with God! He knows exactly how to get his prophet to the people to whom he has purposed to show his mercy. Just ask Jonah!
We preach the gospel with a sense of urgency, knowing that sinners cannot believe on Christ until Christ is preached to them. Yet, we preach with confidence of success, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). God’s Word will not return to him void. It will accomplish his will and prosper in the thing it is sent to do (Isaiah 55:11). Every chosen, redeemed sinner must be regenerated and called by the Holy Spirit. And that work will be accomplished through the preaching of the gospel.
A Believing People
Salvation involves a gracious God, a blood sacrifice, a revealing prophet, a mediating priest, a preached gospel, and (sixth) a believing people. In verse 31 we are told that when they heard the message of deliverance from the mouths of God’s servants, “the people believed.”
There is no salvation apart from faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is as essential to salvation as God’s decree, Christ’s obedience, and the Spirit’s efficacious grace. You cannot be saved except you believe on the Son of God. — “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). — “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
In John 6:37 our Savior declares, “”All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Without question, those words declare the blessed doctrine of God’s sovereign election, inasmuch as it asserts that there are some who were given to Christ. Our Savior’s words are also an assertion of effectual calling and irresistible grace. He tells us that all who were given to him in eternal election must and shall come to him, being brought to him by the omnipotent grace of God the Holy Spirit. In this same sentence the Lord Jesus asserts the indispensable necessity of faith, declaring plainly that even those who are given to him are not saved except they come to him. They must come to him, for there is no other way to heaven but by the door, Christ Jesus. All that the Father gives to our Redeemer must come to him. None can come to heaven except they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Divine Visitation
One more thing is absolutely essential to the salvation of our souls. One more thing is necessary for the accomplishment of deliverance. There must be a divine visitation, a visitation of grace. None will ever believe except the power of God the Holy Spirit accompanies the preaching of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:4-6). The power of God must be performed. That is portrayed in verses 30 and 31.
“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.”
No sinner will ever believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, until God comes to him in the power of his Spirit. But when the day of visitation comes, salvation follows.
“And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” (Isaiah 12:1-6).
“And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).