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“Wait, O My Soul, Thy Maker’s Will”
“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…And Moses 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 to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.”
How often God’s providence appears to contradict his promise! Though his determination is our salvation, he often appears determined to destroy us. Though he has promised never to turn away from us to do us good, it often seems that he does us evil. In all such times we would be wise to reason thus with our souls…
“Wait, O my soul, thy Maker's will
Tumult'ous passions all be still!
Nor let a murm'ring thought arise;
His ways are just, His counsels wise.
He in the thickest darkness dwells,
Performs His work, the cause conceals;
But though His methods are unknown,
Judgment and truth support His throne.
In heav'n and earth, and air, and seas,
He executes His firm decrees;
And by His saints it stands confessed,
That what he does is ever best.
Wait, then, my soul, submissive wait,
Prostrate before His awful seat;
And ‘midst the terrors of His rod,
Trust in a wise and gracious God.”
In Exodus 5 we have a vivid picture of God’s providence appearing to contradict his promise. The Lord Jesus appeared to Moses in the bush, and said, “I have seen the affliction of my people…And I am come down to deliver them…I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:7, 8, 10). Then, he promised Moses that the children of Israel would believe his message and that Pharaoh would let his people go, assuring him of success.
Armed with the promise of God, Moses went back to Egypt with his brother, Aaron. They gathered together all the elders of Israel and delivered God’s message of deliverance to the children of Israel, the message of redemption and salvation by the hand of the Lord. — “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” (Exodus 4:31). Things were looking good. Moses’ was on his pastoral “honeymoon.” Everything seemed very promising; but that was all about to change.
In chapter 5 he and Aaron go in and tell Pharaoh God’s demands. This is a chapter full of instruction for our souls. May God the Holy Spirit teach us its message and apply it to our hearts.
Men with a Message
The first thing that is obvious is this: — God’s prophets are men sent of God with a message that must be delivered.
“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” (v. 1).
In this day of religious foolishness it must be stated that the gospel preacher is a man, never a woman. He is a man sent by God, called, gifted, equipped, and sent by God himself. He is sent with a message, not a lesson, not a proposal, not an offer, but a message, a message that must be delivered. God’s prophets are watchman set upon the walls of Zion. And their message is the message of redemption, grace, and salvation by Christ (Isaiah 52:4-10; Ezekiel 3:27).
Notice, too, how Moses describes the believer’s worship of God. In Exodus 4:23 the Lord Jesus calls it serving him. Here, Moses calls it keeping a feast. We worship our God and serve him as we feed upon Christ our Savior by faith (Psalm 63:5; Isaiah 25:6; John 6:51, 53-58). — “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).
Some Believe Not
We are, by the gospel we preach, to some a savor of life unto life, but to others a savor of death unto death. When we proclaim redemption by the blood of Christ, when we declare salvation accomplished by his out-stretched, omnipotent arm of grace, some believe and some believe not. The gospel is, to those who believe, the power of God unto salvation. But to those who believe not, it is foolishness. And the message Moses and Aaron delivered was to Israel the power of God unto salvation. — “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” (4:31). But to Pharaoh and the Egyptians it was foolishness. Look at Pharaoh’s response in verse 2.
“And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.”
Pharaoh knew not the Lord! What a dreadful state. To know Christ is eternal life. Not to know him is death. Yet, it is this lack of knowledge in the fallen sons of Adam that is the cause of all the sin and contempt people have for him throughout the earth (Job 21:14-15; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
God of the Hebrews
The next thing we see here is the fact that the Lord God of heaven and earth, the triune Jehovah, is distinctly and specially the God of his people, “the God of the Hebrews.”
“And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath 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” (v. 3).
He was the God over the Egyptians; but he is “the God of the Hebrews.” He had distinctly attached himself to them by covenant and by revelation. He is also distinguished as “the God of the Hebrews” to distinguish him from all the gods of the Egyptians.
So it is today. The Lord our God is unlike all the gods of men. He who is our God is God indeed, the only true and living God, holy and wise, gracious and good, faithful and true, sovereign and merciful. He is the God of his chosen, and he “delighteth in mercy!” He has distinctly attached himself to us and us to him by sovereign, free grace. He is our God; and we are his people.
The word “Hebrews” is used synonymously with both Israelites and Jews. I cannot find a definite meaning to the word translated “Hebrews” in the Scriptures; but it conveys the idea of “one from beyond,” or “one who passes over,” or “one who lives beyond.” That is a pretty good description of God’s people. Don’t you think? The child of God in this world is one from beyond, who passes over the earth, and lives beyond it. “We are the circumcision (the Hebrews, the people of God), which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).
A Slandered People
Just as the children of Israel were falsely accused and slandered by Pharaoh, God’s people in this world are constantly falsely accused of evil and slandered by those who despise our God.
“And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words” (vv. 4-9).
Pharaoh knew that his accusation against God’s people was baseless and completely untrue. — “They built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses” (Exodus 1:11). Yet, he said, “They be idle!” So it is to this day. God’s saints have many faults, faults they readily acknowledge and confess. But they are falsely accused of evil and slandered by people who know their accusations are false (Romans 3:8). It is often slanderously reported that we say, “Let us do evil that good may come.” Because we preach God’s total sovereignty in all things, we are accused of living licentiously. Because we preach salvation by grace alone, we are slandered as promoters of wickedness. Because we preach the believer’s complete freedom from the law, we are accused of being opposed to the law. And those who would do us evil are often, if not most commonly, people who assert that they are our brethren.
“And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw. Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as heretofore?” (Exodus 5:10-14)
Those taskmasters were probably Egyptians; but their officers were Israelites. They were like the publicans of our Lord’s day (Matthew 18:17), Jews who gained favor with Israel’s oppressors by oppressing their brethren. Painful as it is to put up with such people, we are wise to leave them alone. Never retaliate. Just wait (Isaiah 10:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5; James 5:8).
We might think it unreasonable for us to be expected to put up with such behavior, to bear it patiently, and not retaliate. But we have good reason to do so. — Our Master did. The Lord Jesus left us an example, that we “should follow his steps” (Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:21-24; John 15:21).
It is still true, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). But our tribulation here will soon be forgotten. John Trapp wrote, “Things commonly go backward with the saints before they come forward…Deliverance is at next door by…When things are at their worst, they will mend.” (See Revelation 7: 13-17.)
A Foolish Mistake
In verses 15-19 we see the officers of the children of Israel praying to Pharaoh.
“Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people. But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD. Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task."
What a sad and foolish mistake they made! This was a presumptuous attempt to take the matter of their deliverance into their own hands. God had not performed his promise. So they decided to help him. Ignoring Moses and Aaron, God’s messengers, they hoped to reason with Pharaoh! Perhaps they decided that Moses and Aaron had been unreasonable, demanding too much, hard, unbending, unwilling to compromise. They were ready, in their foolish pride, to modify God’s Word, seeking compromise with the very man who was tormenting them! Christ is our Deliverer. He is mighty to save. In every circumstance we will be wise to wait upon him (Isaiah 63:1-5; Lamentations 3:25-33; Isaiah 40:31).
Jacob blamed Simeon and Levi, saying, “Ye have troubled me to make me stink among the inhabitants of the land…And I shall be destroyed” (Genesis 34:30). In verses 20-21 we see the sons of Jacob blaming God’s messengers for their woe.
“And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: And they said unto them, 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.”
What a heart-piercing accusation that must have been! Remember, Moses and Aaron were merely God’s messengers. They were really blaming God for their woe! In all things we ought to bow to our God. How sad it is when we blame him (Jonah 4:4-9).
Remember, also, these same people had believed God’s promise of deliverance when they heard it. They bowed and worshipped before him (4:31). Here we see them not only relinquishing their confidence, but also murmuring against God and blaming him and his messengers, because their professed faith had brought them trouble.
But we must not be too hard in our judgment concerning them. — Do we not act the same way, do we not blame God, when in times of darkness and displeasing providences we murmur and complain? God forgive our unbelief! May God the Holy Spirit ever give us faith and uphold us by his grace, enabling us to keep a steady eye fixed upon our blessed Savior, that like Abraham of old, we stagger “not at the promise of God through unbelief,” that we may ever be confident of his Word, his all-sufficient grace, and his salvation.
How heart-broken Moses must have been! In verses 22-23 he goes to God in prayer, and unburdens his heavy heart to the Lord his God.
“And Moses 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 to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.”
What a blessed volume of instruction this portion of Holy Scripture is! In all our troubles, in all our distresses it is always right, wise, and best to return to the Lord, putting him in remembrance of his promise and seeking his mercy (Isaiah 43:26). The Lord sent Moses to deliver his people out of Egypt. He had heard their groanings, and graciously promised to deliver them. The people believed the Word of the Lord, bowed their heads and worshipped him, adoring his great goodness. But, then, the oppression and afflictions, under which they had groaned, instead of lessening, began to increase. Soon, they became desperate, and charged God foolishly. Moses himself, who had talked with God at the bush, who had seen “the good will of him that dwelt in the bush,” and saw the miracles God performed to confirm his commission, appears to have been somewhat tainted with the same spirit of unbelief, and questioned the Lord God. — “Moses said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is 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.”
What a picture we have in this chapter of our poor souls and our corrupt, depraved hearts! In all they experienced the Lord God was pursuing nothing but good for his people. He was, even in their woes, performing his great purpose of grace. The deliverance he had promised, he was performing. There had been no alteration in his purpose, no amendment of his covenant, and no change in his love. The Lord God was performing his wise decrees in such a way as to make their emancipation the more blessed and glorious, and his distinguishing mercy, love, and grace more striking.
But Israel could see nothing but their pain and trouble. They experienced disappointment after disappointment, frustration after frustration, and heartache after heartache. All about them was darkness and gloom. And they forgot all that God had promised.
How is it with you? How is it with me? When the promises of God seem to clash with his providence, and, according to our limited view of things, seem to be impossible, how do we act? How do we respond? We are far too much like Israel, ever disposed, rather than believing God to take counsel with flesh and blood. How quickly unbelief engulfs us! The lusts we thought were completely subdued break out afresh in full force. We find ourselves, like Peter, sinking in the tempestuous sea. Then, the hand of our omnipotent Savior is stretched out to catch us again and raise us up! Wondrous mercy! Yet, how soon it is forgotten!
Oh for grace, in the midst of dark providence, in trying times, to trust our ever gracious, ever faithful and true God and Savior! Oh for grace to hear his voice in the whirlwind and the storm! It is our blessedness to wait upon the Lord, to depend upon him, to believe him, to trust his promise when everything seems to say, “He has forsaken us, he has forgotten to be gracious, his mercy is clean gone forever!”
We do not expect too much when we expect God to do what he has promised. Moses had been preaching that God had visited his people to deliver them. But, instead of being delivered from their furnace, the furnace just got hotter. Where else should he go, but to the throne of grace? I recognize that his faith was mixed with unbelief. Yet, he turned to God in faith. It is the crowning grace of faith, "against hope to believe in hope;" and amid the most desperate circumstances, to cling to Christ as a sure Friend, when in his providence it appears that he comes forth as a determined enemy. In such times he truly honors God who can confidently say with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
With blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His works in vain;
God is His own interpreter.
And He will make it plain.”
“We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us” (Isaiah 59:11). — Such was the cry of God’s saints of old. And such is, and will be their cries until grace is consummated in glory. But our times of trouble and trial shall not last an hour, not even a moment beyond our Lord’s appointment. Then, deliverance will come. When he sees that our power is gone, he will show himself gracious. May he give us grace to trust him!