MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 9:13-16
THE DIVINE NAME AS MANIFESTED IN THE HISTORY OF A WICKED AND REBELLIOUS SOUL
We must clearly understand the teaching of the sixteenth verse of this paragraph, or we shall be apt to have a wrong view of the character of God, and to indulge unholy thoughts in reference to the method of the Divine administration over the human soul. We must not imagine that God made Pharaoh obstinate on purpose that He might show His power on him, and thereby get glory to Himself; for God needs not man’s malice for the setting forth of His glory. We must not understand by it that God decreed Pharaoh to be rebellious, and that it was therefore impossible for the proud monarch to be otherwise. The verse does not mean that God created Pharaoh for the purpose of manifesting His power in him. The king of Egypt had been passing through great afflictions, which were enough to be the death of him, and from these God had raised him up to manifest His power and mercy. The same word occurs in James 5:15. We have here the principle clearly established—viz., that God reveals His name, character, and method of moral government, in the lives of individual men. God not only reveals Himself in the inspired volume which He has caused to be written; not only in the material universe around us; but also in the experiences and soul-histories of the race. Human society gives us an insight into the character of God, and enables us to understand the method of the Divine procedure. We see the laws of heaven operating in the lives of men. This is an interesting study. It is likewise admonitory.
I. From the history of Pharaoh we see that it is not the way of God to remove a wicked soul by the immediate stroke of power. We know right well that the Divine Being need not have held any controversy with the king of Egypt in reference to the freedom of Israel; as far as power was concerned He could easily have stricken Pharaoh into the grave at the outset. But this would have been contrary to the ordinary method of the Divine government, which is not to subdue men by power, but to win them by moral considerations and by manifestation of Divine mercy. Force is a token of weakness in the moral sphere of life. Hence God does not annihilate the sinner. He does not immediately inflict death upon him, but mercifully prolongs his life through many retributions, until mercy is useless and justice is imperative. Then the sinner meets his just doom, which he might have averted by deep and true repentance. We sometimes wonder that God allows the criminally sinful to live, to reject His claims, and to pollute His universe. His mercy is the only explanation that can be given of their continued existence. Hence the mercy of the Divine name is declared in the prolonged life of the sinner.
II. From the history of Pharaoh, we see that it is the way of God to surround the wicked soul by many ministries of salvation. God did not make known His will to Pharaoh in reference to the freedom of Israel, and then leave him to his own rebellious inclination without further warning. But he sent messenger after messenger to the impious monarch. He sent Moses and Aaron time after time, who uttered the word of the Lord to him. He authenticated the word they uttered. He sent plagues to enforce it. But all in vain. Hence we behold the merciful manner in which God deals with the sinner. How many ministries has heaven sent to lead men to salvation and to the cross. There is the ministry of truth, the ministry of the pulpit, the ministry of conscience, and the ministry of daily events; the sinner is indeed surrounded by messengers who would lead him to repentance.
III. From the history of Pharaoh, we see that it is the way of God to follow the wicked soul with continued judgments. Pharaoh was followed by the judgments of heaven. They came in quick succession. They were grievous in their infliction, and awful in their retribution. The sinner cannot be happy. He is in conflict with God. All nature is against him. He is exposed to innumerable perils. Sin is always associated with plagues. It is punished in this life. But this is ever a merciful arrangement, in that the soul may be led to repentance, and thus escape the retribution of the life to come. We cannot but see in the entire history of Pharaoh, the disasters that overtake a wicked life, and that by Divine permission. The sorrows of the wicked are not fortuitous or casual, but Divinely arranged and continuous. No man need envy the penalties that follow sin. Hence in the life of the sinner is seen the power of the Divine hand. LESSONS:
1. That God permits wicked men to live in the universe, notwithstanding the continued rebellion against Him.
2. That a life of sin is a life of judgment.
3. That the sovereignty, mercy, power, and justice of God are seen in his dealings with men.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 9:13-14. God pursues persecutors early in multiplying His plagues upon them.
Seven times, yea and seven, will God demand His church out of the hand of oppressors, until he deliver them.
God has a time of mustering up all His plagues together, when single ones are despised.
God makes hearts sick with smiting, when blows will do no good upon the outward man.
Heart-evils are more grievous plagues from God upon men.
Heart-plagues are signal to make proud sinners acknowledge the supremacy of God.
God will be known by His judgments to be the one Lord in all the earth.
I. The time when they are sent. They are sent when the soul is rebellious to the claims of God, and when those claims have been continuously rejected. These heart-plagues follow other judgments less severe. They are the emphatic voices of heaven. They are indicative of the soul’s ruin. The time of their advent is generally predicted.
II. In what they consist. They consist in the inward suffering of man’s moral nature. Not in external affliction, however terrible, but in the inner agony of the spirit. It is better to be tormented in the body and in the circumstances of life than in the thoughts, sentiments, and affections of the soul.
III. For what they are sent. They are sent to teach men the supremacy of God, and their duty in relation to the Supreme Being. How many are apparently unmindful of the only true God, and are only brought to acknowledge Him by agony of soul.
Exodus 9:15-16. Pestilence:—
1. The outcome of Divine power.
2. The outcome of Divine anger.
3. The indication of final destruction.
Though God spares sinners a time, he will manifest His power in them at last.
God will have the whole earth know His name in his judgments.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Sinner’s self-will! Exodus 9:13-16. It is not “Raised thee up”—but “made thee stand.” The meaning is that Jehovah permitted him to live and hold out until His own purpose was accomplished This did not make the monarch’s heart any worse. He might have let Israel go without being in the least degree better. The soil from which the hardness sprang would have been just the same. When the clay has not the sunbeams to indurate, it may yet be hardened quite as much by being placed in a furnace. Once hardened, it is easier to break than to soften a brick. Pharaoh had hardened his heart in the fire of self-will, and every fresh message from God—like a warm sunbeam—only made it harder. Pharaoh afterwards could not relent. The fakirs of India keep their arm or leg stretched out, until it becomes stiff; and they are unable to draw it back again. The Egyptian tyrant held out his heart so long against God that at last it was unable to yield. Standing in the Divine way, it must either bend or break:—
“The whole creation’s strange and endless dealing,
In spite of shields, and veils, and arts concealing,
Proclaims that whosoe’er is long a sinner,
Can only be by it of woe a winner.”
Truth’s Power! Exodus 9:14. When Pilate was brought close to Incarnate Truth, there seems to have been a momentary giving way of his former scepticism. The personal presence of the Truth, his bearing under the long and terrible trial—the serenity of soul—the calm, unwearying patience under insult—all seem to have awakened in Pilate a feeling as though he was dealing with a Being of superhuman powers. It was but a flash; for when the Truth uttered His testimony, the sceptic had gained the victory over the rising conviction, and with a sneer said: What is Truth? Equally transient were the emotions of conviction aroused in the heart of Pharaoh. All the miracles—convincing though they were—could not effectually satisfy His prejudiced mind: Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him?
“I feel these piercing pains—
Yet still I sin—I sin.”