Chapter 23

 

Ten Words of Comfort from Our Savior

 

“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; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. 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? And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. 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? 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. 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 unto all generations. Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. And 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 which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty: But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians. (Exodus 3:7-22)

 

                  This chapter gives a brief account of some of the circumstances that preceded God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from their captivity and bondage in Egypt. But we must not forget that these things were written “for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). “They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11).                  The One speaking to Moses is speaking to us; and the One speaking is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Angel of the Lord. In these verses, our Savior speaks ten sweet, comforting words to and about his people.

 

1.        I have surely seen the affliction of my people (v. 7).

 

Deprived of liberty, the children of Israel were slaves to the king of Egypt. They were compelled to work in the open air, beneath the burning rays of the desert sun, in one of the hottest climates in the world. They were forced to make bricks without straw, having to walk great distances each day to gather the straw (stubble) needed to make the bricks.

 

                  Their work was performed under the eye of vigilant and rigorous task-masters, who constantly upbraided them and beat them. Their food was meager and contained little nourishment. It consisted only of the sheep they raised and of the leeks and onions that grew like wild weeds in Egypt.

 

                  Painful and distressing as those things were, they were the smallest part of Israel’s misery. While the fields resounded with their cries in the day, their huts echoed their lamentations night, because their sons were dragged from the arms of their mothers, and put to death by drowning to prevent their increase.

 

                  Degraded and oppressed, they had been in bondage for four hundred years. Who can imagine the anguish of heart caused by such sufferings? We cannot begin to understand their sorrows. To them the morning sun arose without hope; and the setting of the sun yielded no comfort. The beauties of new life budding forth in the spring had no charm for their eyes. The bounties of harvest in the fall only reminded them of their poverty and emptiness. Even ordinary charms of domestic life were made bitter to them. The expectation of a child being born was heart-wrenching torture. To them everything was misery, grief and despair!

 

                  Though they knew it not, and would not have believed it had they heard it, the Lord God says, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people.” In their great sorrow they had forgotten God; but they were not forgotten of God. Though, for wise and gracious reasons, he delayed to appear in their behalf for four hundred years, he was not indifferent to their sufferings. He saw their affliction and heard their cries. His eye was upon them. His ear was constantly open to their sobbing hearts. Every tear they shed was observed by him. Every groan they uttered he recorded.

 

                  These words of our Savior, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people,” might be read, “In seeing, I have seen the affliction of my people,” indicating much more than his omniscience. The words express the clear, distinct, and full sight he had of their affliction, his sympathy toward them in their trouble, an affectionate concern for them, and the fixed, settled, determination in his heart to deliver them. He thoroughly observed their affliction; and he was moved by what he saw. “In all their afflictions, he was afflicted;” and he was bent upon delivering them from it.

 

                  Child of God, ever remember this: Our God sees us. His eye is upon us. He watches over us with all the affection of a tender father, and all the goodness of his holy Being. “Thou God seest me” (Gen. 16:13). What a word of comfort that is to my soul! Though men oppress me, though Satan assails me, though sorrows crush me, though my own heart condemn me, “Thou God seest me!” He sees you. He sees you perfectly. He sees you always. He sees you where you are. He sees you with the eye of his perfect love.

 

“Within Thy circling power I stand,

On every side I find Thy hand;

Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,

I am surrounded still with God!”

 

2.        I have heard their cry (v. 7).

 

What an indescribable blessing! When we cannot put our cries into words, our Savior hears the groans of our hearts (Rom. 8:26). “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Ex. 2:23-24). The time of affliction is the time for supplication; and our extremity is God’s opportunity. The God of Glory hears the cries of our hearts. “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears” (Ps. 18:6).     The doors of mercy are always wide open for our needy souls. And the King of Heaven says to us, “Let me hear thy voice” (Song 2:14; Heb. 4:16).

 

                  Prayer is not eloquence, but earnestness. It is not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it. It is the cry of faith to the ear of mercy. By the merit and efficacy of Christ’s precious blood, the cries and groans of our hearts penetrate the very heart of our God!

 

3.        I know their sorrows (v. 7).

 

No man can truthfully make such a statement. The tender feelings of another’s heart no human sympathy can touch. But our blessed Savior, the Prince of Sufferers, he who led the way in the path of sorrow, “knoweth our frame” and remembers that we are dust. When crushing sorrow lies like ice on your heart, when the dearest earthly friend cannot enter into the grief you bear, Christ can and does! He who once bore my sins and carried my sorrows is touched with the feeling of my infirmity. His tender eyes were once dim with weeping, too.

 

                  I know their sorrows!” — He may at times hide his face, causing it to appear that he has forsaken us and forgotten us, causing us to cry, “Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” (Ps. 77:8-9). — Even then, he is bending over us in tender love. He often allows our needs to attain their extremity that he may stretch forth his omnipotent hand to help and reveal the sufficiency of his grace.

 

                  Our blessed Savior takes great care to comfort his people in their many trials and sorrows in this world. He says to his preachers, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (Isa. 40:1). Here are three things described in the Word of God that should be of great comfort to every believer.

 

A Bag

 

He has made a bag for our sins. Job said, “My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity” (Job 14:17). In ancient times, when men died at sea, their bodies were placed in a weighted bag, which was sewn together and sealed. Then they were cast into the depths of the sea. That is what God has done with our sins. They are cast “into the depths of the sea.” When Christ died, by his one sacrifice, he put away all our sins. They were buried in the sea of God’s infinite forgiveness, put away, never to be brought up again. God almighty will never charge us with sin, impute sin to us, remember our sins against us, or treat us any the less graciously because of our sin. That is forgiveness! “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

 

A Book

 

The Lord God has written a book for our names. Take heart, child of God. Your name is written in the book of God! Before the worlds were made, the Lord God inscribed the names of his elect in the Lamb’s book of life. In that book God has recorded, not only the names of the chosen heirs of heaven, but also all things pertaining to them. “In thy book all my members were written” (Psa. 139:16; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; 17:8). The Lamb’s book of life is the book of God’s eternal purpose of grace, predestination, and election. The fact that our names are written in that book means that our salvation is a matter of absolute certainty, and that all things work together for our good, by God’s arrangement, to secure our predestined end, which is perfect conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:28-30). When our Lord says, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven,” he is telling us that we have nothing to fear. All is well for those whose names are written in heaven.

 

A Bottle

 

Moreover, the Lord God keeps a bottle for our tears (Ps. 56:8-9). It was customary at ancient Egyptian funerals for mourners to have a small cloth or sponge to wipe away their tears. Then, they were squeezed into a small vial, a tear bottle, and placed in the tomb with the dead, symbolizing the care the mourners had for the one who had died. Even so, the Lord our God, our heavenly Father, our almighty Savior, and our holy Comforter, tenderly cares for us. In all our afflictions he is afflicted. We are the very apple of his eye.

 

                  Could anything be more comforting in this world of sin, sorrow, and death? The Lord our God has put our sins in a bag and buried them, our names in a book to remember them, and our tears into a bottle to show his tender care for us. Each one is counted, drop by drop, tear by tear. They are sacred things among the treasures of God! Sorrow may have entered deep into our souls, yet we have reason to rejoice. Great is our honor. We are partakers with Christ in his sufferings. Our tender, sympathizing Savior knows our sorrows. Our heavenly Father knows. John Trapp wrote, “That is a sweet support to a sinking soul, that God knows all, and bears a part.” My Father knows. That is enough!

 

I’m a pilgrim and a stranger,

Rough and stormy is my road,

Often in the midst of danger;

But it leads me to my God.

 

Clouds and darkness oft distress me:

Great and many are my foes;

Anxious cares and thoughts oppress me:

But my heav’nly Father knows.

 

Oh, how sweet is this assurance,

‘Midst the conflict and the strife!

Although sorrows past endurance,

Follow me throughout my life.

 

Home in prospect still can cheer me;

Yes, and give me sweet repose,

While I feel His presence near me:

For my heav’nly Father knows.

 

Yes, He sees and knows me daily,

Watches over me in love;

Sends me help when foes assail me,

Bids me look to Him above.

 

Soon my journey will be ended,

Life is drawing to a close;

I shall then be well attended:

This my heav’nly Father knows.

 

I shall then with joy behold Him,

Face to face my Savior see;

Fall with rapture and adore Him

For His boundless love to me.

 

Nothing more shall then distress me

In the land of sweet repose;

Jesus stands engaged to bless me:

This my heav’nly Father knows.

 

4.        And I am come down to deliver them (v. 8).

 

He who sees our affliction, hears our cries, and knows our sorrows rises from his throne, not to command the armies of angels that surround his throne to fly to the relief of his suffering children, but to come down from heaven in his own Person to deliver us! God the Son came into this world in human flesh, that he might deliver us from our sins by his obedience as our Substitute. He sends his Holy Spirit, at the appointed time of love, to deliver his redeemed from spiritual death in regeneration. And he graciously comes down to restore and revive our souls with his grace. “Clouds and darkness are round about him,” but “righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne” (Ps. 97:2).

 

“O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory. The LORD hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly showed in the sight of the heathen. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.” (Ps. 98:1-6)

 

5.        Our blessed Savior declares, “Certainly, I will be with thee” (v. 12).

 

He will be with you, child of God, in all your afflictions to encourage and protect you, to strengthen and help you, to support and comfort you, and to sustain you by his grace (Isa. 41:10; 43:1-5; Heb. 13:5). He says to you,  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isa. 41:10). “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). That is God’s promise to every believing sinner in this world. It is given to us that we may, as Isaiah puts it, “Suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (Isa. 66:11).

 

“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. Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.” (Isa. 43:1-5)

 

6.        In the last line of verse 12. Our Savior declares, “Ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”

 

The Lord God promised Moses that he and the children of Israel would serve him upon Mount Horeb, or Sinai, as they did at the giving of the law. There they built an altar upon a hill and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings (Ex 24:4-5). So it shall be with all who trust him. The high mountain of sorrow and trouble that rises before you shall be made a mountain of praise, upon which you shall offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise to your God.

 

7.        In verse 14 we have the most powerful incentive possible to believe that it shall be so. — He who made these promises declares, “I Am That I Am.”

 

That is his name. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient God, the Being of beings. He comprehends the past, the present, and the future. I do not merely mean that he knows the past, present, and future. I mean he comprehends it. It all exists in him!

 

                  Yet, there is more. This name, by which our God reveals himself, “I Am That I Am,” means, not only I am what I am at present, but I am what I have been and I am what I shall be, and shall be what I am. In a word it declares he is the constant, invariable, immutable, faithful God. Our Savior here declares that his name, “I Am That I Am,” is the sure foundation upon which we may rely. The mighty I AM will do all that he has said!

 

8.        I will bring you up out of the affliction (v. 17).

 

He purposed it. He promises it. And he will do it. And when he does, he will bring you into “a land flowing with milk and honey.” He squeezes milk and honey out of every hard rock of adversity and causes the milk and honey to flow with such abundance into our souls that the rock of adversity from which it flows is soon forgotten.

 

9.        The Lord God promises to give his people favor, even among the Egyptians, and he says, “Ye shall not go empty” (v. 21).

 

You know how the Egyptians loaded the sons of Jacob with everything they would need in the wilderness, when the Israelites fled from them. So it shall be, believer, with you, when the Lord God delivers you from any trial by which he may momentarily crush your heart. You shall not go out empty, but enriched by the experience (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:3-9; James 1:12; Rom. 8:28). Your light, momentary affliction will work for you “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The trial of your faith is more precious than perishing gold, and shall “be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” “All things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 2:10). — “For all things are yours: the world, life, death, things present, things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

 

10.    There is one more word of comfort I want you to see in the last line of verse 22. God our Savior says, “And ye shall spoil the Egyptians.”

 

Just as Israel took everything worth having out of Egypt, so it shall be with us at last. In that great day that knows no night, when God our Savior has made all things new, when all his elect have at last been made possessors of their heavenly Canaan, they shall come from all the nations of the earth, bringing the spoils of the nations with them (Rev. 21:22-27; Zec. 14:1, 9, 20-21). “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.”