After a long time, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned and cried out under their burden of slavery, and their cry for deliverance from bondage ascended to God.
1. It was long delayed.
(1) Till tyranny had done its worst.
(2) Till the last hope of help from man had disappeared.
Improvement may have been looked for at death of king.
2. It came at last.
(1) When the bondage had served its ends.
(2) When the people, in despair of man, were crying to God.
3. When it did come -
(1) The man was found ready who was to bring it.
(2) God was found faithful to his promise. - J.O.
Death is so dim-sighted and so blundering-footed that he staggers across Axminster tapestry as though it were a bare floor, and sees no difference between the fluttering rags of a tatterdemalion and a conqueror's gonfalon. Side by side we must all come down. No first class, second class, or third class in death or the grave. Death goes into the house at Gad's Hill, and he says, "I want that novelist." Death goes into Windsor Castle, and he says, "I want Victoria's consort." Death goes into Ford's Theatre, at Washington, and says, "I want that President." Death goes on the Zulu battle-field, and says, "I want that French Prince Imperial." Death goes into the marble palace at Madrid, and says, "Give me Queen Mercedes." Death goes into the almshouse, and says, "Give me that pauper." Death comes to the Tay Bridge, and says, "Discharge into my cold bosom all those passengers." Alike! Alike! By embalmment, by sculptured sarcophagus, by pyramidal grandeur, by epitaphal commemoration, by mere intoxicated "wake" or grander cathedral dirge, we may seem to give a caste to the dead, but it is soon over. I took out my memorandum.book and lead-pencil in Westminster Abbey a few weeks ago, and I copied a verse that it would interest you to hear: —
Sighed by reason of the bondage.
The Israelites were to be a witnessing nation — a nation in which the worship of the true God was to be maintained, while other nations were sunk in idolatry; and the revelation which God gave of Himself preserved, while all the worm was sunk in grossest darkness; and the humane principles of the Divine law, not only taught, but practised, in a world where injustice and violence and cruelty were rampant. And it requires no very acute or penetrating discernment to perceive how their experience under the Egyptian bondage was likely to conduce to the fulfilment of their mission.
I. It was an illustration to them of THE TREATMENT WHICH THE CHURCH MIGHT EXPECT FROM THE WORLD, FITTED TO PROMOTE IN THEM THE ISOLATION which it was necessary they should maintain. Egypt was the world in its best state. They saw in her an illustration of what the intellect and muscle of man may accomplish when his heart is alienated from God. She was a learned and powerful nation, great in war and advanced in art. The Israelites were thus brought in contact with the world in its best and most attractive form, and thereby taught, by bitter experience, what treatment they might expect from the world, and what relation to it it behoved them to sustain.
II. In another way their bondage experience would tend to the same result, BY PROMOTING THAT MUTUAL SYMPATHY WHICH IS THE NECESSARY BOND OF NATIONAL LIFE. Great troubles and great deliverances shared in common have the effect of fusing into one body those who before were only an aggregate of individuals without any uniting tie.
III. But there was yet another end to be served by their bondage — THE TEACHING AND PRACTICE OF THE HUMANE PRINCIPLES OF THE DIVINE LAW, IN THE FACE OF THE OPPRESSION and violence and cruelty which were then prevalent throughout the world.
THE KING DYING.
1. He was despotic in his rule. Unmoved by human suffering.
2. He was vindictive in his temper.
3. He was altogether out of sympathy with the providential arrangements of God. And now he dies. The despot meets with the conqueror. He must appear before the God whose authority he has tried to dethrone. The folly — woe — eternal ruin of sin.
II. THE PEOPLE SUFFERING.
1. Their suffering was tyrannic. Freedom lost. Spirit broken.
2. Their suffering was intense. "Sighed."
3. Their suffering was long continued.
4. Their suffering appealed to the Infinite.Suffering should link our souls to God. It should be an inspiration to prayer.
III. GOD REIGNING.
1. God reigns, though kings die. Wisdom of trusting only in the Infinite.
2. God reigns, though men suffer. Realize the Divine Rulership.
3. God reigns in harmony with His covenant made with the good.The Divine will is not capricious, but benevolent in design, and continuous in operation. Let every nation and family have a covenant with God. Lessons:
1. Do not despond in times of affliction.
2. Afflictions are designed to bring us into harmony with the requirements of God's covenant for our good.
3. It is the purpose of God to work the freedom and welfare of men.
Oppressors may die, and yet persecution not die with them.
2. Cries to heaven are often extorted from God's persecuted children.
3. If men want freedom, they cannot do better than direct their attention to God.
"'Think how many royal bones
Sleep within these heaps of stones;
Here they lie — had realms and lands —
Who now want strength to stir their hands."
God heardI. SALVATION BEGINS WITH A SIGH. Until a sinner is weary of sin, it is of no use to bring the tidings of redemption to him.
II. GOD HEARS THE GROANINGS OF POOR SINNERS. Psalm 18:6; Psalm 34:6; Psalm 77:1; Joel 2:32; John 6:37.
III. HE SEES OUR AFFLICTIONS AND KNOWS OUR SORROWS.
IV. HE REMEMBERS HIS COVENANT.
()At last they remembered God and His promises. They thought of their ingratitude towards Him and towards Moses, and they began to sigh after God. This was what God was waiting for in order to show them mercy. He was waiting for their humiliation, their return to Him, their aversion to Egypt, their fervent prayers. It is to this frame of mind that God wishes to bring His children when He corrects them, and leaves them for a time in the hands of the wicked. You will find immediately afterwards, in the following verses, four expressions, which describe the goodness of God towards this unhappy people. "God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them." Remark that the name of God is repeated four times in these verses, as if to express with greater force the free grace and sovereignty of His merciful dealings with the Israelites. It was not because of their merits that He had pity upon them, any more than it is because of ours that He sends His gospel to us who have broken His law, neglected Him, and insulted Him by our ingratitude. But to us He calls, and says, "Come unto Me, that ye may have eternal life."
()My little boy has three calls. He opens the study door and calls, "Papa." I pay no attention to him because I know it is merely to attract notice. Again he comes throwing the study door open, and running in, he calls, "Papa, look here, I have something to show you." I know by his call that he is really in earnest, and I turn to share in his joy. He has still another call; when he is in the garden he may meet with an accident; in a quick and distressed voice he calls, "Papa." I know by the call that my child is in trouble, and I am out of the house in an instant, and by my boy's side, doing what I can to help him. In like manner God deals with us. We sometimes call to Him, scarcely meaning anything by our call, and never looking for or expecting a reply. Then, again, we wish to call the Lord's attention to some unexpected joy or pleasure which we have received. He listens to us because He delights to share in all that concerns us. But, dear friends, how quickly the Lord will come to the call of one in distress! He knows all the different calls of His children, and specially those in trouble, for has He not promised, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee."
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