Moses Returned to Egypt
November 23rd, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
MOSES RETURNED TO EGYPT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 4, 5
11-23-58 8:15 a.m.
Now we are going to turn in our Bibles to the fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus. And this is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the morning message entitled Moses Returned to Egypt. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus, beginning at the eighteenth verse, we shall follow the Holy Scriptures this morning from Exodus 4:18, through the fifth chapter of the book.
In the great chapter of the heroes of the faith in the Book of Hebrews, four times it is said that what Moses did, he did by faith. "By faith Moses," and then again, "By faith Moses," then again, "By faith Moses," four times, "By faith Moses" [Hebrews 11:23, 24, 27, 28]. That is the same appeal, the same desire of our Lord when He searches us. The thing that He looks for is not how much of us there is, how much we are able, how gifted, or how strong, or how beautiful, or how fine, or how good, but what God looks for us, but the thing God looks for in us is that vital, necessary ingredient of faith. And the reason for that is that by faith a man turns aside from himself and what he can do, and he gives himself as a channel, as a medium, as an instrument in the hands of God to see what God can do. If a thing is easily done by us, it is not by faith that we accomplish it; we just go do it. But a thing that is beyond us, that we cannot reach, that we cannot accomplish, we cannot achieve, we cannot do, we cannot attain unto it, then to attempt it, to reach out for it, is in ourselves impossible; and if it is done, it is done in the ableness and the might and the adequacy of God. That’s what faith is: the seizing upon a thing, the taking of a thing, the achievement of a thing, the doing of a thing that to us is impossible, we cannot attain unto it, but we give ourselves as instruments in God’s hands for God to do it.
Now, when we follow the life of Moses, the secret of his life, so the Scriptures say, is this: that he finally came to an end of himself, and then God had an opportunity to begin in God’s power and in God’s strength. God allowed Moses to attempt the emancipation of his people in his own strength, and in his own power, by his own right hand. And He permitted him to fail egregiously [Exodus 2:11-15]. Driven from Egypt, out on the back side of an illimitable desert [Exodus 3:1], Moses was washed of all of the pride of his princely throne; all of the wisdom of Egypt was taken out of his mind, that his soul might be filled with the whisperings of heaven. There he came to the end of himself; and it was then the Lord appeared to him in a bush that flamed with fire [Exodus 3:2]. And God gave him a blank check from heaven, "I Am" [Exodus 3:14]; just fill it in. Are you in the dark? "I am the light of the world" [John 8:12]. Are you lost? "I am the way" [John 14:6]. Are you weak? "I am thy shield and buckler, thy strength and thy exceeding great reward" [Genesis 15:1]. Are you defenseless? "I am the good shepherd" [John 10:11, 14]. Oh! the whole world was opened unto Moses when God appeared to him and said, "I Am hath sent thee" [Exodus 3:14]. So Moses returns to his people in Egypt, no longer full of himself, but now as yielded to the will of God as the staff that he held in his hand. And Moses did as the Lord God commanded [Exodus 4:19-20].
Now the first thing, when the flame of fire died from the bush, and the light above the brightness of the sun went out, and the voice was still, he took his flocks from the back side of the desert to the camp of Jethro. And according to the ancient custom of the clan, he asked permission from the head of the clan to leave [Exodus 4:18]. And Jethro bid him Godspeed, and permission to leave. So, Moses leaves and takes the rod of God in his hand [Exodus 4:19-20]. And as he turns his face toward Egypt, three things happen. First, in Exodus 4:21-23, there is given to Moses a little epitome, a small outline of what is to happen ahead. And that’s what God does with us. When we take the first step and yield to God in this first mandate, then God will give us light for the second step and revelation for the next part of our work; the will of God for our lives is rarely ever all disclosed at one time. But God shows us step at a time, piece at a time, part at a time; and if we do what God wants us to do now, then God will show us what He wants to do next. There will be light for this day, then when we have lived for God this day there will be light for the following day. So it is here in the life of Moses. As he gives himself to the work of God, then the Lord gives him light for what lies immediately ahead. And so Moses lives his life in the will of God; light for today, and then tomorrow, light for the next day, step at a time. And it is small faith that has to know the end. We trust God for it, we are on the way, we have started out, and we leave the ultimate to Him. So the first thing, God gives Moses a further revelation. Now he starts; now God shows him light for the next way and day. The second thing that happened along the way was, Moses almost died.
It came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.
Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
So He let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
That’s one of the strangest things. What apparently came to pass was this: Moses fell into a terrible illness, and he came to the point of death, and the reason for that affliction that came upon him was that he had neglected the rite, the ordinance of circumcision. And this son, that apparently had just been born, had not been subjected to the rite and the mandate and the commandment of the Lord. Now, to a man, God’s commandments and God’s ordinances are to be trifled with; they don’t amount to very much, what does it matter whether we obey them or not? It is immaterial. That’s what Zipporah said. And Zipporah, Moses’ wife, apparently objected to the ordinance of God, and Moses let her have her way.
Now that poses always a decision making in the lives of the children of the Lord. What are we going to do about the ordinances and the commandments and the mandates of God? There are theologians, and there are pastors, and there are preachers, and there are their church members by the millions who say it does not matter about the ordinances and the commandments of the Lord. God says, for example, that we are to be buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death, and we are to be raised with the Lord in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]; we are to be baptized, buried and raised. That’s what God says. Any theologian, any scholar, any teacher of the Word of God, who is true to it will admit that that is the commandment of the Lord. That is what God says. That’s what the Holy Scriptures avow [Matthew 28:19]. But they say it is immaterial, it does not matter. So, whether you are baptized or not, buried with the Lord and raised with the Lord, is immaterial. You can be sprinkled, and it’s just as well. You can be sprinkled as an unconscious infant and it be just as well. Now God somehow in His Word and in His way does not delight in that. God says that that is small gravel in the machinery. God says that that is a stone in the shoe of the pilgrim. God says that the tendency to circumvent and to turn aside from the commandments and the ordinances of the Lord are filled with weakness and eventual great hurt.
So it was here in the life of Moses. He had neglected the great ordinance and commandment of the Lord regarding circumcision, and apparently he had done it on account of his wife. So in order to save his life the ordinance was kept, and the circumcision was made, and Zipporah did it against her will [Exodus 4:24-26]. And the incompatibility of the situation caused Moses to make a decision concerning his family: he sent Zipporah back to her father, and the children back to her father, and he himself went down into Egypt alone [Exodus 4:27-31]. And in after years, according to the promise of the Lord, he met his family in Midian [Exodus 18:1-12]. But this caused a separation there in the work, and Zipporah goes home, and Moses goes on.
Well, those things are all spoken of in the Bible. "Do not think that I have come to set peace in the earth," He said, "I have come to introduce a sword, to set father against mother, and children against parents, and friends against households" [Matthew 10:34-36]: for when it comes to doing the commandments of the Lord, there is an innate depravity and a congenital stubbornness in the hearts of Adam’s fallen race that is everywhere apparent. "I’m not going to have my children down there in that church." "I’m not going to be baptized." I could not tell you the number of people I have talked to that have said to me, "I do not care what the Bible says, nor do I care what you say as you read it out of the Bible, I am not going to be baptized," or, "I’m not going to let my children be baptized." Same thing exactly, and it always ensues in something that is hurtful and tragic.
If I had the time to expatiate this morning – and I do not – you would never have had a state church had it not been for infant baptism. You would never have had the dark pages of the Inquisition and the terrible persecutions of people who called themselves the true church and Christians had it not been for infant baptism. Infant baptism made it possible for a citizen of the state to become also a member of the church without regeneration. The great fundamental doctrine of the church of Jesus Christ is this: that it is a called out people, it is a regenerate people; all the members of the church are they who are born again, they have been born into the kingdom of Jesus. To be naturally born is not enough, by nature we are children of wrath; we must be born again [John 3:3-7]. And we are born again by publicly confessing our faith in Jesus and giving our lives to Him [Romans 10:9]; then, on that confession of faith, as a soul standing in the presence of God in an own personal decision, not an unconscious child, but in a decision we have made for ourselves, taking Jesus as our Savior by our will and our choice and our volition [Romans 1:17-21], then we are baptized upon that confession of faith, just as it says in the Book [Acts 9:36-38].
But to Zipporah, those things were not to be countenanced. Might I also say about Zipporah, though it was wrongly done, it was on account of this woman that Miriam and Aaron fell into a tragic disgrace. Miriam greatly objected to Zipporah [Numbers 12:1-2]. I do not know why except just this one incident here. And Miriam became leprous, and Aaron fell into disgrace on account of this woman [Numbers 12:10-11]. I do not, of course, know beyond what is written in the Book; but I tell you a woman in a household that does not wish to follow God can create more unmitigated disturbance, and heartache, and frustration and disappointment than you could add up in a lifetime. Oh, the woman in the home has so much of the turn of the life of the family! Now the man can go off on a train somewhere, he can go out hunting, or he can go play golf, and he can just go; but the turn of that home and the turn of that family is so very much in the hands of the woman in the home, the wife in the home, the mother in the home. And if she objects to church, or objects to God, or objects to Christ, or objects to the Sunday school, or objects to the ordinances of God, the husband, however he may want to do, has a most difficult time. On the other hand, why, I’ve seen many, many godly families brought up and the husband be a reprobate. He can just go his own way; but if the mother and the wife in that home stays anchored on God, bring those children to church, obey the Lord, teach them the way of the Lord, why, I’ve seen many, many, many times great stalwart preachers and missionaries come out of a home where the husband and father was a renegade, but the mother was a great woman and woman of faith.
That’s just one of the things that God has done. In that house, in that home, the religion, the obedience to God is so much in her hands. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, and it’s certainly true in matters of religion. Ah, God give us consecrated, devoted, sanctified women, mothers and wives in our homes! This is a tragic thing that happened to Moses. "And the Lord sought to slay him [Exodus 4:24]. You cannot be My man and allow your wife to interdict My commandments. And the Lord sought to slay him." And Zipporah apparently was prevailed upon just to save his life, to be obedient to the rite and the ordinance [Exodus 4:25]. So Zipporah goes home [Exodus 18:2-3], and Moses goes down into the land of Egypt [Exodus 4:27-31].
Now the third thing that happened on the way was, "And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him" [Exodus 4:27]. That’s the first time in forty years that Moses and Aaron had seen one another; and there they are together. So they face this enormous assignment and God-given task, just those two men; one is eighty years old, one is eighty-three. Down in the land of Egypt they go, and they gather together all the elders of the children of Israel: the heads of the families, and the heads of tribes, and the heads of clans [Exodus 4:29]. And Aaron speaks the words for Moses, all that God had said unto Moses; and they do the signs in the sight of the people, and the people believed [Exodus 4:30-31]. And when they heard that the day of deliverance had come and the hour of God had struck, oh, can you imagine the thrill and the delight that fell into their souls when they turned their faces toward the Promised Land? [Exodus 4:29-31].
Did you know, after three thousand five hundred years, that thing is still the universal characteristic of the Jewish people? Wherever they are, wherever they are, in Russia, in Ethiopia, in Argentina, in the Orient, in the Occident, in the North or the South, wherever they are, their hearts turn toward a national home, to Jerusalem, to Palestine, to the Holy Land. It has never died, though for centuries there were no Jews over there. These people are like their people today, and their hearts thrilled and their eyes were lifted up in anticipation and gladness at the wonderful news that their faces were turned homeward [Exodus 4:31].
So Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh [Exodus 5:1] – can you imagine there the mixed emotions of Moses? That’s the first time he had seen that palace, walked down those hieroglyphic corridors for forty years. Can you imagine the mixed emotions in his soul at the difference of his surroundings and in himself as he walks through those palaces? Forty years before he had walked the other way. The crown prince who was giving up his throne in behalf of his enslaved people; now he’s coming back and this time a suppliant – and Moses went in, and told Pharaoh, and announced what God had told him to say, in Exodus 3:18, "Let My people go." Oh, hasn’t that been a ringing cry through the centuries since? "Thus saith the God of Israel, Let My people go" [Exodus 5:1]. And then lest Pharaoh have cause to say the appeal is unreasonable, why, God took that excuse away from him, "That they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness" [Exodus 5:1], that is, they have been in incessant servitude and toil for centuries, now they deserve a little holiday. So they ask, after the centuries of labor, a three day holiday to go worship the Lord.
Now, Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should let Israel go? That I should obey His voice? I never heard of the Lord, neither will I let Israel go" [Exodus 5:2]. Now, you have to understand who that is speaking there, if you’re going to get the content and savor of what he said. For in Egypt, the god of all gods was Pharaoh himself! He was the son of the sun, the child of the heavens; and in every temple, back in the recesses there you would find images of Pharaoh before whom the people bowed down in worship. For him all Egypt existed; for the Pharaoh, the Nile flowed; for the Pharaoh, the people lived and died; for the Pharaoh, the armies of servants and courtiers and slaves and soldiers ministered. The greatest oath was by the life of Pharaoh.
Now, here comes in Moses and says, "The Lord God says, Let My people go!" [Exodus 5:2]. And Pharaoh is insulted: "How dare you walk into my presence and in the hearing of my servants, and my courtiers, and my magicians, and my astrologers, give a mandate to me from another God? Who is that other God? Who is this Lord that I should obey His voice? [Exodus 5:2]. I who am the greatest god of this kingdom and this empire and this people, who is this God of these slaves, this paltry deity? Who’s sending me word and commanding me that I should let Israel go?" [Exodus 5:1-2].
And when Pharaoh heard that with supercilious scorn and the curl of his lips, I can hear his commandment, "And the king of Egypt, Pharaoh, said, Get you back to your burdens" [Exodus 5:4]. And Moses and Aaron walk out from his presence, and I can just see as they go through that long line of servants, and magicians, and astrologers, and courtiers, and all the rest, I can just see them look upon those two slaves with such scorn and contempt. Ah!
Then the terrible thing happens. Oh, we don’t have time. Then the terrible thing happens: Pharaoh made an edict: "No longer do we deliver to you straw; find your own stubble, and the tale of bricks is not to be lessened." So the people are divided; part of them are sent over the whole face of the land to find stubble, and the rest of them are making brick; and they have to do double work in order make up for these who are absent seeking stubble [Exodus 5:6-13]. And like men who are stripped to the waist, pumping out a boat, and the more they pump and the harder they work, the level of the water doesn’t go down, it spills in as fast as they pump it out. And they can’t make the tale of brick, and finally, oh. These men – Moses and Aaron – they take it in their own hands; they bypass Moses and Aaron, they go into Pharaoh themselves and they plead for their lives under the whip and the lash of the taskmaster. "We cannot live" [Exodus 5:15-16]. And Pharaoh said, "Why you are people of leisure, you have time on your hands! You want to go out here and holiday and go worship this God of yours. Get back to your tasks!" [Exodus 5:17-18]. And on the way out, the representatives of the people met Moses and Aaron, and they poured upon them the invective. "What have you done? Our nation faces no other thing than death under the stripes, under the lash of the taskmaster; and you did it!" And Moses fell on his face before the Lord. Ooh! That’s the corn of wheat to die [John 12:24]. He dies to self esteem, he dies to the pride of his miracles, he dies to the enthusiasm of the people; it’s no easy thing to die to yourself. Forgo every hope, forgo every dream, forgo every plan of your own – and Moses is prostrate before God [Exodus 5:22-23]. And when he lies there on his face in the dust before God, then the Lord said unto Moses, "Now, now, Moses, now, thou shalt see what I will do" [Exodus 6:1]. Oh my soul! I repeat: Quit as I begin, it is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we have a beginning with God. And Moses on his face and in the dust, come to the end of the way, dying to self, then the Lord said, "Now, now shalt thou see what I will do" [Exodus 5:20-6:1].
And we’ll pick it up there next Sunday, "what God will do." So may we sing our song? On the first note of the first stanza, somebody to give his heart to the Lord, or to come into the fellowship of the church, while we make this appeal, would you come and stand by me? Anywhere, a family you, one somebody you, on the first note of the first stanza, in the balcony, on the lower floor, while we sing the appeal, would you come? Now let’s all stand and sing.
MOSES RETURNED TO EGYPT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 4, 5
I. Faith of Moses
1. After first forty year Moses allowed to try to emancipate Israel
2. Then forty years in solitude
3. Moses yielded to God’s plan and purpose
II. Journey to Egypt
1. God revealed His will one step at a time. We learn as we obey
2. Injustice emphasized
3. Brotherly alliance with Aaron
4. Interview with elders
5. Audience with Pharaoh
6. Superiority attitude of Pharaoh
7. Moses baffled and in agony