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Living in Goshen
Blessedness in the Midst of Trouble
“Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me...And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.” (Exodus 9:1-35)
God’s saints in this world are like the children of Israel living in Goshen. Goshen was in Egypt, the place of Israel’s long sojourn, and the place of her terrible bondage and great trouble. Egypt was the land of Israel’s enemies, persecutors, and tormentors. There, in Goshen, the chosen nation was preserved, provided for, and increased for four hundred years. There, in Goshen, the children of promise lived, worked, raised their families, educated their children, buried their dead, and died themselves. There, in Goshen, God’s covenant people multiplied. And there, in Goshen, they lived in the midst of great trouble and sorrow. They got sick; but their sickness was not the sickness of the Egyptians. They had trouble; but theirs was not the trouble of the Egyptians. The land of Goshen, though in Egypt, was under the special care of God’s watchful eye, because the children of Israel dwelled in Goshen. That tiny little spot of ground is mentioned by name only twice in the Book of Exodus (8:22; 9:26). In both places, the Lord God declares his special, distinct care for that spot of ground where his people dwelled.
“And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.” (Exodus 8:22)
“Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.” (Exodus 9:26)
In this chapter Moses continues to give us his inspired and instructive record of the plagues God brought upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians for the twofold purpose of punishing them for their sins and the deliverance and salvation of Israel. The water was turned to blood; but Pharaoh refused to hearken to God’s word. The land was filled with frogs; and Pharaoh still refused to listen. Lice filled the land of Egypt; and, still, Pharaoh hardened his heart. Swarms of files covered all the land of the Egyptians; yet the king of Egypt was obstinate in his rebellion. In chapter 9, three more plagues are brought upon Egypt: a murrain (deadly disease) broke out among their cattle, boils and blains (hemorrhoids) broke out both upon man and upon beast, and a terrible, terrifying storm of thunder, lightning, and rain destroyed all that was in the field. Again, Pharaoh pretended to repent; but as soon as the plagues were removed, he was hardened the more, and refused to let Israel go.
“Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me” (v. 1). — God always warns before he strikes. Here he gave Pharaoh the very same message he had given him repeatedly before. Five times in the Book of Leviticus (26:14, 18, 21, 23, 27), he warns that he will punish all who disregard his Word. How often he has warned you who believe not of impending judgment! He has done so by his Word, by your screaming conscience, and by his providence. May he give you grace to hear his voice and flee to Christ for refuge!
“If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:40-42)
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price…Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:1, 6-7)
“For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still…” (v. 2). — That which God declared here to Pharaoh for the temporal deliverance of Israel he declares to all the enemies of his people for their eternal deliverance. When the year of the Lord’s redeemed is come, when the appointed time of love has arrived for the salvation of God’s elect, he will break the power of their enemies (Isaiah 43:3-4; 60:12; 63:4-5). But, if, like Pharaoh, you are left to your will, it will be your hell!
“Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain” (v. 3). — “Murrain” is a disease in livestock, something like foot-and-mouth disease, or anthrax, or even mad-cow disease. How far reaching the consequences of sin are, no mortal can imagine. Man sins and creation groans, groans for the complete salvation of God’s elect in the resurrection (Romans 8:22-23).
“And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.” (v. 4) — I ask, with the Apostle Paul, “Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written” (1 Corinthians 9:9-10). Here, again, we are graciously reminded by the Spirit of God that it is God himself who separates the precious from the vile, by his sovereign, free, discriminating grace (Malachi 3:11, 18).
“And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, Tomorrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land” (v. 5). — “There is a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). — And everything comes to pass according to the time appointed by our God. — “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).
“And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one” (v. 6). — Again, we are reminded of God’s discriminating grace. This is something the Lord would have us keep before our minds and cherish in our hearts continually (1 Corinthians 4:7). Though the cattle of Israel were in the same climate, breathed the same air, ate of the same grass, and drank of the same water, yet the murrain upon the cattle of Egypt was not found on one calf in Goshen. Thank God for his special care for our poor souls (Psalm 36:6; Luke 12:6-7).
“And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go” (v. 7). — “Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” (Job 9:4) — Yet, the heart of man is so obstinate and hard that it cannot be broken, except by grace (Zechariah 7:11-12).
Boils and Blains
“And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.” (Exodus 9:8-11)
These boils and blains (hemorrhoids), the “blotch” of Egypt (Deuteronomy 28:27), specifically refer us to the curse of God that falls upon men because of false religion (Revelation 16:2). That is probably the reason we are told that Pharaoh’s magicians suffered it with the rest of Egypt. Though they had been forced to acknowledge these plagues as “the finger of God” (8:19), they still opposed God’s messenger and thereby did their utmost to harden Pharaoh’s heart against him (Acts 13:8-11; 2 Timothy 3:8-9).
Marked for Ruin
“And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses” (v. 12). — Pharaoh had hardened his heart; and now the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God gave him up to a reprobate mind. He was marked for ruin. When God gives a sinner up, hell is sure to be his everlasting portion. What solemn words these are — “And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh!” More solemn words were never written. They describe the most awful state of a soul on this side hell (Hosea 4:17; Romans 1:28; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
“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” (v. 13). — Six times before, the Lord had spoken, only to have his word despised. Yet, he speaks again.
“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” (v. 14). — Pharaoh and the Egyptians were marked for ruin. They could not be saved from God’s wrath. The Lord God warns, and warns, and warns — “Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins” (Micah 6:13). Sinners are often, like Pharaoh, terrified by his warnings and by his providential judgments; but none will repent except God himself work repentance in us (Deuteronomy 28:66-67).
God the Holy Spirit tells us plainly that these acts of judgment were done according to God’s sovereign, eternal purpose (Exodus 9:15-16; Romans 9:17).
“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.”
“As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go? Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die. He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.” (Exodus 9:17-21)
“He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:14- 15). — Some of the cattle of Egypt would be needed for the chariots and horsemen to carry Pharaoh and his armies to destruction in the Red Sea, as they pursued Israel. Therefore, the Lord inclined some of the Egyptians to believe his servant; and they took their cattle to shelter.
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt. And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 9:22-23)
“Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word” (Psalms 148:8). — “He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts” (Psalm 78:47-48). — “At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire” (Psalm 18:12-13).
“So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail.” (Exodus 9:24-26)
Yet, again, we are called to take notice of God’s distinguishing grace.
“And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Entreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.” (Exodus 9:27-28)
You can mark it down. This will be the language of the ungodly in the final day of retribution. All the damned will be forced from their own mouths to confess God’s righteousness in their condemnation.
“And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord’s. But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God. And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled. But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up. And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the LORD: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth. And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.” (Exodus 9:29-35)
Israel, though living in the midst of a crooked and perverse people, though living among a wicked people under the judgments of God, was favored. Living in Goshen, they found nothing but blessedness in the midst of trouble. May it be your happiness and mine, as we read the things recorded in this chapter, to follow the design of God the Holy Ghost in recording them. Oh, may he make us “wise unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus,” effectually applying this portion of his Word to our hearts. Though God’s judgments upon the earth in this day are great, his mercies to his chosen are greater still. O my soul, never forget this! He that severed the cattle of Israel from the cattle of Egypt still separates the precious from the vile. — “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation!” The Lord Jesus Christ, our great Savior, is still the “hiding place from the storm, and the covert from the tempest.” And when the Lord hides his saints, he shows himself. Though he hides his church in Goshen, he promises, — “I the Lord do keep it, I will water it every moment lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day” (Isaiah 27:3).
There were storms surrounding Goshen; but Israel was not harmed by the storms. The Lord turned the waters of the Egyptians into blood; but the Lord graciously turns cursed water into wine for his chosen to show forth his glory in our crucified Savior (Exodus7:19-21; John 2:7-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). When the Lord sent the plague of swarms of flies, which filled all the houses of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, where Israel dwelt, there were none (Exodus 8:21-22). In the murrain God destroyed the cattle of the Egyptians; but “of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one” (Exodus 9:6). In the visitation of darkness over the whole land of Egypt the Israelites had perfect day in their habitation (Exodus 10:21-23). And when in the destruction of the firstborn, while the blood sprinkled on the door posts and lintels of Israel’s houses preserved the whole alive; we read concerning Egypt, “that there was not an house where there was not one dead” (Exodus 12:30.)
These things mark and identify for us all the history of divine providence, from the beginning of time to the end of time. There was not a single plague upon Egypt from which Israel was not taught to see spiritual blessings upon them by the plague. May God teach us by his Spirit to judge him and his works in this same way.
Yes, Solomon tells us that all things happen alike to all men, both the righteous and the wicked (Ecclesiastes 9:2). That is true, with regard to the outward circumstances and experiences of our lives. But they do not happen for the same reason, or produce the same effects. Goshen was spared the plagues of Egypt, and Israel was made better by them because…
Yes, God’s elect suffer all the evils that come upon men as the result of sin; but we suffer them not as acts of divine judgment or for punishment. We suffer them for the everlasting benefit of our souls. And we suffer all these things in the immediate presence of our great God, Redeemer, and Savior. May God give us grace to quit living our lives in survivalist mode, and teach us to live as men and women to whom God has said…
“But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” (Isaiah 43:1-4)
“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)