Let My People Go!
December 21st, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
LET MY PEOPLE GO!
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-21-58 8:15 a.m.
Now you can easily follow the message this morning if you will turn to the third chapter of the Book of Exodus; the third chapter of the Book of Exodus. The first time in the Bible that God refers to “My people” is in Exodus 3:7:
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.
The first time He calls them, “My people.” He repeats that with great emphasis in the fourth chapter of Exodus and the twenty-second and twenty-third verses: “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even My firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me” [Exodus 4:22-23]. Then in the fifth chapter of the Book of Exodus, Moses and Aaron go in, and say to Pharaoh, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, let My people go” [Exodus 5:1]. That is as if God had said, “I have counted them one by one. Not a single, smallest, littlest one that belongs to Me is to be left in the land of darkness. All of them are to go, all of them. I have counted them. These are Mine, they belong to Me. And thus saith the Lord God, Let My people go” [Exodus 5:1].
If I could just say a comment here that is a glorious picture of God’s people who are going to be ultimately redeemed; who now dwell in the land of the shadow of death [Psalm 23:4]; and who are imprisoned in the tombs, and the sepulchers, and the graves of this earth. Some of these days, the whole purchased possession will be redeemed [Ephesians 1:14]; our spirits now, when we are converted and regenerated [Romans 8:10]; our bodies by and by [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], when God says to Death and to the kingdom of darkness, “I say unto thee, let My people go [Exodus 5:1]. I have their names written here [Luke 10:20]. I have counted them. I know them every one” [John 10:3].
And when that day arrives for the great ultimate and final exodus, there will not be left in the region of the shadow of death one of the least, littlest ones who have placed their trust in the Lord. There will not be a bone left in the region of death. There will not be a relic there for Satan to gloat over and exalt over. We all shall be delivered and we all shall be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51]. “Thus saith the Lord God, Let My people go” [Exodus 5:1].
Don’t you worry, God won’t forget you. Don’t you be afraid or embarrassed, don’t you tremble. God knows your name and when He counted up those who belong to Him, He counted you. “Let My people go” [Exodus 5:1]. I tell you, it’s a glorious thought.
So when the demand was made, instead of lightening their burden, it increased it. Instead of finding favor in the sight of the oppressor, he oppressed them all the more. So much so that in the fifth chapter of Exodus, in the fourteenth and following verses you have a description of the terrible taskmasters who stood over the lives of the people and made them despair of their very existence itself because of the heavy burdens laid upon them [Exodus 5:14-19].
In the sixth chapter and the sixth verse you have a description of their spirit; they were beat, they were broken. “And Moses spake unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage” [Exodus 6:6-9]. They were helpless, they were pitiable, they were broken, they were beat down, they were crushed; and every tear that fell to the ground, and every sigh that was cast upon the breeze but emphasized and exclaimed the more of their oppression and their bondage. And their very slavery and their very anguish but was a public proclamation of their servitude and their helplessness.
That’s exactly how it is with us when we fall into the region of the valley of death; every tear that is shed at the grave but emphasizes our bondage and our helplessness. Every sigh, and every groan, and every broken spirit is but a public declaration of our helplessness in the presence of the cruel and terrible enemy who reigns over the valley of the shadow of death. Every time you see a grave, every time you see a tomb, every time you see a monument, every time you see a cemetery, every time you see a flower wreath, every time you see a family bowed down in sorrow, every time you hear the groans of those who are in cruel, heartbrokenness over the invasion of the taskmaster; all of those things are just emphases of our cruel oppressor and our helplessness in the presence of the prince of the kingdom of death and of darkness. Just as it was here, they could not deliver themselves any more than we can deliver ourselves.
When the time comes for you to die, I’d like to see you deliver yourself. When the pale horseman knocks at your door and says, “I’ve come for you,” I’d like to see you deliver yourself. And when they embalm your body, or because of poverty or exigency they just wrap you in burlap and put you in the earth, I’d like to see you deliver yourself; I’d like to see the man that can raise himself from the dead. You talk about helpless; there is no helplessness comparable to that when we fall into the cruel hands of the oppressor.
We cannot save ourselves; we cannot help ourselves any more than these, God’s people, “My people” [Exodus 3:7], could help themselves when they were in the land of bondage, and for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage, they lay prostrate and broken. If we are saved, it lies in the hands of God. If we are ever delivered, it lies in the strength of the Almighty. If there’s not any salvation in Him, there’s not any salvation for us at all.
In the land of bondage, we cry and groan in cruel oppression and finally are laid in the very dust of the ground; but God, but God, God says, “I have counted them. I have named them” [John 10:3; Luke 10:20]. There’s not a sparrow even that falls to the ground without the Father’s eye [Matthew 10:29]. “I saw it when it happened, and I numbered it. These are Mine. They belong to Me. And I say unto thee, prince of the power of darkness and death, let My people go” [Exodus 5:1]. You talk about an exodus here that we’re going to describe when they went out with a high hand [Exodus 14:8]; brother, that’s not anything like the exodus we are going to see some of these days, when we are delivered with a high hand in the power and glory of the Lord out of the kingdom of death and darkness, into the kingdom of the liberty and life of the glorious Son of God [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17].
All right God says, “Let My people go” [Exodus 5:1]. So Pharaoh says, “Who is this Lord? I have never heard of Him. Who is this God? I do not know Him” [Exodus 5:2]. That is what the skeptic says today, “Who is this God that could raise the dead? We don’t believe in raising the dead. Who is this God who can make us to live again? We don’t believe we live again.” That’s the skeptic. He doesn’t change. He was back there 1500 years BC. He is here 2000 years AD. He doesn’t ever change and he’s everywhere.
“Who is this God? Our gods are gods that we can see, they are gods we can touch, they are gods we can shake hands with. And they are gods that we can find remunerated in this world.” And whether they make an image of him or whether they just worship him in the spirit, the skeptic, and the unbeliever, and the infidel, their gods are here in this world.
Sometimes today we worship money, and we worship power, and we worship influence, and we worship fame; and not many of us make images of them, but back there they made images of them. And the Nile was a god, and the sun was a god, and fertility and fecundity were a god. And all of the elements were gods. You see? They were just a little more naïve than we, that’s all. But they were the same kind of skeptics and the same kind of infidels that we have today. “Who is this God that can raise the dead and give us the kingdom of light, and glory, and liberty? We don’t know any God like that.”
So the Lord proceeded to answer that question. And now as I said last Sunday morning, every one of these plagues, they were not adventitious, farcical, facetious, fanciful, haphazard, just something. Every one of them had a meaning. Every one of those plagues took one of those false gods or goddesses and pulverized it; every one of them. The Nile was a god, and they worshipped the god of the Nile. Every once in a while you will see a picture of the Pharaoh, and he has got an image of the god on this side, and the image of that god on the other side, and he stands in the middle, reading water lilies. The Nile was a god, so the great Lord God Jehovah just turned the whole Nile into a gory stream from bank to bank, and it ran pure blood. And the fish died and the whole earth stank [Exodus 7:17-25]; that’s what the Lord God can do with a false imposter god.
And all of those frogs, they had a goddess named A-G-K-T. And her head was a frog, and she was the goddess of proliferation and fecundity like you would have rabbits at Easter time, except they just worshipped. And the Lord God took that goddess and so multiplied the fecundity and the fertility until the whole land stank with her. Just got so tired and so weary of sleeping with frogs, and eating frogs, and living with frogs, and going to bed with frogs, and getting up in the morning with frogs, sitting down with frogs, got so weary until they just nearly died. And the whole earth stank again with the goddess A-G-K-T [Exodus 8:1-15].
Then those people who were so scrupulously, slavishly, punctiliously given over to the ceremonial ablutions, they were washing Apis the sacred bull. And they were washing the sacred goat, and they were washing all the sacred animals, and they were washing the priests and going through all those ablutions in the Nile. The Lord God covered them with lice [Exodus 8:16-19]. Every time a fellow went to worship his sacred god, there he was a-scratching, and a-itching, and a-pawing, and a-shaking ‘cause lice were all over him. There in the sacred temple where the priests were supposed to be so scrupulously, and punctiliously, and ablutionally clean, ceremonially clean, there he was covered in lice; lice all over him. That’s what the Lord God was doing to the land of Egypt [Exodus 8:16-19].
Every one of those plagues hit a god right square in the face, or entered the domain over which a god was to preside and to protect. The Lord pulverized them.
Now the great god of all the gods was named Ra. And that was the name of the god of the sun, Ra. That name was incorporated in their sacred city. And that name was incorporated in the name of their, the title of their king, “Pharaoh, O Pha-raoh.”
The great sun god and in that ninth plague [Exodus 10:21-29], the Lord blotted him out, just blotted him out. For three days and three nights, the Egyptians couldn’t even get out of bed. They couldn’t find their feet, except to go down there and feel to see if they had feet. They couldn’t put on their clothes; they couldn’t find their clothes. It was a darkness that could be felt [Exodus 10:21], you could cut it, you could reach out there and touch it. That’s what God did to Ra, the sun god [Exodus 10:21-29].
Can you imagine the impression that made on a land that is bathed in sunshine 365 days out of every year? Ah, those were great times when God took a notion to teach Pharaoh who all the Lord was. “Who is this Jehovah? I never heard of Him, I do not know Him” [Exodus 5:2].
And I tell you, some of these days the infidels, and the skeptics, and the unbelievers are going to have a great time when God teaches them that there is a God and His name is the Lord Jehovah, Jesus the Christ. And they’re going to learn it some day too. “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord” [Philippians 2:10-11]. It’ll come. It’ll come. It has to come. It will come; it came here.
Now when Pharaoh was in the hands of the Lord and the Lord was saying to Him, “Let My people go” [Exodus 8:20], why, Pharaoh had some deals to make. He had some compromises to suggest. And the first one is in the eighth chapter of Exodus and the twenty-fifth verse [Exodus 8:2]. God says, “I want My people out of the land of Egypt. I want them out of the land of darkness. I want them in the land of Canaan, in the Promised Land with Me in glory.” And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Go to sacrifice to your God in the land!” [Exodus 8:25].
“Stay right where you are; why should you go down that aisle? Why should you shake that preacher’s hand? Why should you confess your faith in Christ? Why should you be baptized? Why, you’re all right! Stay right where you are. Don’t you be persuaded, don’t you listen to that preacher; you stay right where you are. You are as good as any one of the members in that church. Why, don’t you know? Long time ago or yesterday, one of the members of the church cheated you. Don’t you know? Don’t you know? Don’t you remember? Why, you’re as good as any of those church members, already and all right? You just stay right where you are. Don’t you move. Don’t you attend. Don’t you go. Don’t you confess. You just stay where you are in the land just as you are.”
Yes sir, you do that and you’ll be lost. You’ll be lost. When the fire falls and burns them up, it’ll burn you up. When the hail comes and pulverizes that land, it’ll pulverize you. And when the great judgment of darkness of God falls upon the land, it’ll fall upon you. If you don’t get out, if you don’t flee from the wrath to come, some of these days that awful judgment will fall upon you. You can’t stay where you are and be saved. You can’t worship God in the land. “Out,” says God. “Out,” says the Lord, “Out!” Joseph is dead and it’s time for Israel to be gone.
You can’t worship God—don’t care who you are—you can’t worship God and not come to Christ. You can’t worship God and not go to Jesus. You can’t worship God and not get up and go.
Look at the second compromise. In that same eighth chapter and the twenty-eighth verse, and Pharaoh said, “I will let you go . . . only ye shall not go very far” [Exodus 8:28]. Only, ye shall not go very far; if you are just bound and determined to listen to that preacher and you are just set on doing something about your soul, why, then it’s all right. But don’t go very far, not very far out of Egypt and not very far toward Canaan; not very far out of the world and not very far toward God.
“Now if you are just bound and set to do it, why, I guess for you to go to church on Easter and Mother’s Day is all right. And if you want to whoop it up a little bit on Christmas and go to the Messiah once and hear it, why, I guess that’s all right, but don’t you be fanatical about this religious stuff. Don’t you do it. Why, it’s unthinkable to go down there every Sunday. Why, think of how you need to sleep. Man, you need to sleep! You need to rest. You need to recreate your family’s weary bones and body, and those fanatics that go down there every Sunday, why, that’s just foolishness. Don’t you go very far. You know, you can get touched in the head about religion, you know that. I knew somebody one time who told me that he knew somebody one time who went crazy over religion. Don’t you do that. Don’t you go very far. Don’t you go very far. Don’t you let them get you in down there up to your neck, because you have got other things to do. You have got golf to play, and you have got picture shows to go to, and you have got entertainments, and you have got dates, and you have got lots of things on, and don’t you give up these things out here in the world in order to go down there and work for God; don’t you do it. It’s all right for you to go now and join, especially if you can just sign up or hold up your finger and jive. It’s all right for you to jive. Maybe respectable people, after all, ought to jive up; maybe they should, maybe they should. But don’t you get in it very far, don’t you go very far.”
That’s what he says. Moses said, “No, sir! We’re leaving out, we’re leaving out. We’re not being here anymore. We’re going, we’re traveling.” And then the day passes, and now he’s got up there, and he’s got a third compromise here. You turn to the tenth chapter. You turn to the tenth chapter, and Pharaoh says here in the eleventh verse—ah! We have to read a little of the context. Moses and Aaron, in the eighth verse there, Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, and he said, “Go, serve the Lord: but who is going? Who is going down there?” And Moses said, “We are all going. The baby is going with us” [Exodus 10:9].
“Now don’t you know you shouldn’t take the baby to church? Why, he’ll get diphtheria, and typhoid, and tetanus, and pneumonia, and cholera, and diarrhea, and dysentery, and colic, and sleeping sickness, and polio. Don’t you know that?”
I asked my mama—and this was before they ever heard of any miracle drugs and before they ever heard of sun lamps and ray killing beam, germ-killing beams, and before they had a nursery—I asked my mama, bless her old heart! She was so sick; I asked my mama, “How old was I when I went to church?” And she said I was a month old, I was a month old. I knew I couldn’t remember when I went to church; I was a month old, I was a month old.
Moses said, “We all are going, babies and all, we all going” [Exodus 10:9]. And Pharaoh said, “Not so!” Look at that eleventh verse; “Not so, just some of you going.” He picked out some of the men; “Just some of you going. Just some of you go” [Exodus 10:11].
The devil hates family religion. You know that? He hates it. If he can persuade a father and a mother to take the children and dump them out here on St. Paul, and leave them and then come back and pick them up, it just tickles him to death because he knows that boy and that girl, when they see that they say, “Well, when I get big enough, I won’t go either. I won’t either. Mother and father don’t go, and I’m not going either when I get big enough to get over all this foolishness, and all this fanaticism, and all this silliness.”
No, “We all going! Dad’s going, look at him! Dressing up, shaving, and washing, cleaning up, putting on his Sunday clothes”—I wonder if we have any Sunday clothes anymore? We used to have clothes we just wore on Sunday. Sunday clothes, putting on his Sunday clothes, dressing up, going to church; Dad is, and Mother is, all the children are. “We’re all going, we’re all going, every last one of us, we’re all going.”
Now this last compromise, and we’ve got to quit. Here in the tenth chapter and the twenty-fourth verse [Exodus 10:24], why, when the Lord got through with Pharaoh, why, Pharaoh says, “All right, all right, go ye, serve the Lord. All of you go, the whole family; father, mother, wife, daughter, son, the whole tribe. All of you go. Only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: even your little ones go with you” [Exodus 10:24]. That’s the twenty-fourth verse, “Even your little ones also go with you.” The whole family go, only leave what you have behind. And in the twenty-sixth verse, why, Moses says, “Not so! Our cattle shall go with us. There shall not an hoof be left behind, for therefore must we take to serve the Lord our God” [Exodus 10:26].
Now you look at this last compromise. And Pharaoh says, “Now, it’s all right for you to go then, if you’re going to go; only go empty-handed, don’t take anything with you—don’t take anything for the Lord.” Moses says, “Not so, for when we go before the Lord we are not going empty-handed, but we have to take something wherewith we must serve the Lord” [Exodus 10:25].
Like David said, “Neither will I offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. “But when we go, we are going to take an offering in our hands and dedicate it to the Lord our God, for that is the way we serve the Lord Jehovah” [Exodus 10:25-26].
When I go, I’m going to take something with me. When I go, I’m going to have a dedication to lay at His blessed feet. And when they went, they all went. And everything they had went [Exodus 11:1-3, 12:30-36]. And that’s the way a man ought to be when he gives his life to the Lord. “I’m going down there to the church, but my business I’m going to leave out of the circle of God’s will. And my life and my interests are going to be beyond what God can touch, and I’ll just go down there by myself.”
No sir, when we come, we’re coming all-out. Everything that I’ve got is in His hands. My business belongs to God, as well as my children belong to God, and my family belongs to God, and my interests are God’s. And all that I have, everything is God’s. And here we are, Lord, the whole kit-and-kaboodle of us. Lock, stock and barrel; every interest, every day, every moment, everything, every part and piece and parcel, all of us, all of us given to God. Ah, what a way to do! And the preparation for a glorious exodus when they went out with a high hand, led by the Lord [Numbers 33:3].
LET MY PEOPLE GO!
I. Pharaoh’s compromises
1. Stay where you are
2. Do not go very far
3. Some of you may go
4. Leave your offerings behind
II. God’s plan for Christian is to escape bondage