The historical books of the Old Testament present to us a regular series of types, each book having a set of its own, connected with a special line of truth, upon which in perfect order the separate gems are strung. To read them aright, therefore, we must see first what is the truth which characterizes each, and then each individual type will find its place.
For instance, in the book of Genesis, a series of seven lives is given exemplifying the life which God gives to man not the life which is now natural to him, but, in contrast with that, the life which we have as born of God, shown in its different stages and features from the first point where it begins with conviction of sin, in Adam, to the time when, in Joseph, it is master of the world. A series of seven lives gives its whole history.
In Exodus we have a fresh beginning, and a new line of things. It begins a little later than in Genesis; for we must first of all have life before we can be redeemed. It is His people whom God redeems out of bondage, redemption being this actual deliverance, which must be accomplished in order for any practical Christian life.
In Leviticus we still find an advance on this. We enter as priests into the sanctuary, and are instructed in all that suits His presence there. The theme of the book is Sanctification; having learned which, we are prepared, in Numbers, to go out into the world, and walk with Him there.
I need not go any further, but the order in which they are given is to be as much observed as anything else. And we must not run these things one into the other. Each is a picture by itself, and we must be careful how we join together even things which are apparently the same, until we have learnt their peculiar significance in the separate books. We shall have, no doubt, examples of this as we proceed.
To come now to the book before us: It has two main parts. In the first part, the first eighteen chapters, we have the redemption or deliverance out of bondage itself. In the last part, from the 19th chapter onward, we have the other part, so to speak, of redemption — we are redeemed to God.
In the first part, the tyrant who rules over us naturally is dispossessed; in the second part, we are brought under the yoke of our true Master. Each part is the complement of the other. It is absolutely necessary, in order that deliverance should be realized, that the Deliverer should become the Sovereign. His service is indeed the only perfect freedom. It is necessary for the house not only to be emptied of its former occupant, but the way whereby he will be kept out is by One stronger than he being in possession.
Before we speak of the deliverance itself, let us first look at the land of bondage, the state to which this deliverance applies.
Egypt is a very remarkable land in itself, and in every point peculiarly fitted for the type for which God uses it. As we think of it we realize how true it is, as the apostle says in 1 Cor. 10, speaking of the history of Israel: "All these things happened unto them for types," God controlling things that really happened, so as to make them fit representations of the greater things which He has in His heart through these to communicate to us. What a wonderful thing it is to be permitted to look upon these things thus unveiled! — to have things which were kept so long waiting till God could reveal them, now made known to us "upon whom the ends of the ages have come!"
The land of Egypt is a remarkable land in this way; that it is a little strip of country along the great river which makes it what it is, and is in perpetual conflict with the desert. This desert runs on both sides, and a little strip through which the river flows alone is Egypt. The desert on each side hems it in, blowing in its sands in all directions, and the river is as constantly overflowing its banks and leaving its deposit upon the sand. and renewing the soil. The Scripture name is not Egypt but Mizraim; and Mizraim means "double straitness." This doubtless refers to the two strips, one on each side of the river. Mizraim was son of Ham, the Ammon, or Khem, of profane history — a very significant name in this connection. It means black or sun-burnt — darkened by the light. Ham is the father of Mizraim. That is, what we call the natural state is not what is really natural; for it is not the mere absence of light, but the effect of the light itself. And such is the darkness of the world.
For instance, the heathen often are spoken of as groping after the light and unable to find it; and it is looked upon as their misfortune, not their sin, because they are bound down by circumstances too hard for them. Now that is not really so. The truth is, "There is none that seeketh after God." God's account of it in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a totally different one. God states there by His apostle that, "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." That was the beginning of heathenism. It is man,not seeking God, but endeavoring to escape from God, and has escaped, so to speak, into the darkness. The darkness is the darkness of resisted light, not the absence of light. The light has not been absent. The very character of the darkness shows that it has not.
The land and river of Egypt present a scene of perpetual conflict between death and life. While the mercy of God is feeding that land by the rain of a far country, no rain comes, or seldom falls in Egypt. The rain falls far off. The people know nothing about it. It comes rolling down in the shape of a mighty river, and that perpetual stream ministers unfailing plenty to the land. It is, so to speak, independent of heaven. I do not mean it really is independent; but that it is watered not from the clouds, but from the river. In their thoughts the people do not look up for it, but down. It is the very thing God points out in contrasting the land of Canaan with the land of Egypt, that Canaan, Israel's portion, drinks in the water and the rain of heaven. Canaan is a land of dependence. Egypt is a land of independence, figuratively.
And that is the serious character of our natural condition, alas! what is natural to us now — that we are independent of God! God indeed supplies the streams of plenteous blessing, and none else than He; but they come so regularly, so constantly, that we speak of natural laws, and shut God out. Just as for long years men were sent to find the sources of that river, so men have been constantly seeking to explore the sources of natural supply, and have hardly succeeded yet. They are taking up as new a very old question, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" to settle it in their own fashion (Job 11:7).
From the side of so-called science, they are beginning to say "God is the Unknowable." God said long ago, that that would be the result of their unholy efforts to remove His veil. But they did not believe it; and now, when they find it out themselves, they vaunt it as a new discovery, and yet will not believe. They only decide that, if science cannot find out, He is not to be found at all. The gracious revelation, by which He has come near to put away the darkness, they will not accept; but putting forth their very ignorance as knowledge, prate of Him as Unknowable.
Egypt worshiped her river. The river came to her so constantly that she was practically independent of heaven; yet heaven was the source of her supply. She did not see the blue hills which shed down the blessing they received. And they worshiped but the river. It is our state of nature away from God. God was far off to us. We did not realize the blessed hand from which all things came, and we took the blessings in willing ignorance of the hand upon which both they and we really depend.
This Egypt was remarkable in other ways — as the abode of science and civilization. To that wonderful country people go now to study her monuments and her architecture. Egypt built as if she had eternity before her to enjoy it in. Her buildings were made to outlast by ages the people of a day who builded them; they could not make the people last, yet tried their best at that. They embalmed their dead; and sent their dead down to the generations yet to come side by side with what their hands had made, as if solemnly saying: "Here are the mighty works of those over whom a mightier has triumphed." What a comment upon all her grandeur! Her main literary memorial is a "book of the dead." In her monuments death is stereotyped. The desert, after all, has vanquished the river. The land of science and of art is a land of death, not of life.
And that is the history of the world. Death is what is stamped upon it everywhere. It is the stamp of "vanity" upon a fallen creation. It is more; it is the stamp of Divine reprobation. For "in His favor is life." Could He repent and unmake, unless we had given Him cause for repentance? Surely He could not. What a solemn thing that we should have given Him a reason! When God is able to rest in His love, as He will by and by, that will necessitate the eternity of the condition in which He can rest. All that in which He can rest, will be stamped as eternal. When He "rests in His love," nothing can deprive Him of the object of it.
The religion of Egypt was remarkable. They had a religion in which were embalmed the relics of another religion, the dead tradition of a life that had been. It is remarkable that the very expression which God employs when He tells Moses His name, "I am that I am," is attributed to God in the monuments of Egypt. Yet, with all that, what did Egypt worship? Emphatically, and universally, the creature — not the Creator. Egypt, which testified of the true God, took up everything that was His total opposite, and deified a hundred bestial objects — the images of their own lusts, debasing themselves by the service of these!
Their worship was a deification — as all heathen worship is — of their own lusts and passions. That is everywhere what controls man naturally. In the garden of Eden, Satan said to the woman, "Ye shall be as gods." It was the bait he presented to her: and man has sought after this ever since. There is a craving in man's heart for what will satisfy; and not being able to find satisfaction in God, not able to trust God's love and care, lust and care devour him. He worships himself, in a way continually more and more brutalizing and degrading.
Let us now look at the king that reigned over Egypt. Pharaoh is a title, as "king" or "kaiser." A very absolute king he was. The key to the interpretation of types is found in Scripture itself. The types of Redemption in Exodus, for example, are interpreted for us in the epistle to the Romans. There we find one from whom we are delivered, who is exercising a despotic power over man his captive, and the steps of the deliverance are there detailed. "Sin hath reigned unto death." How that expresses Pharaoh's iron rule over the Israelites in Egypt, Verily, it was a reign unto death. And then, for deliverance, "Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed; that henceforth we should not be the slaves of sin." There you find truly and exactly what answers to Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea. Pharaoh and his host were cast into the sea.
We have looked at the land, and its king who rules over the land; let us look at the state of bondage in which we find Israel.
It is striking how the book opens. "Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came into Egypt. Every man and his household came with Jacob." Jacob means Supplanter. His other name, which God gave him, is not given: it would be out of place here. They are indeed the "children of Israel," but "every man and his household came with Jacob." We also came into the land of bondage with our father Adam.
The bondage itself does not begin at once; for bondage is not the expression of our mere natural state. You take the man in the 7th of Romans. Some say it is the natural state, but it is not so. In the natural state you will not find a man crying out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" That is an expression of felt bondage. There was a time when Egypt pleased us well enough, as for a time it pleased Israel. We know how in the wilderness they not only lusted after the good things of Egypt, but went after its gods too. The golden calf was made in imitation of the worship of Egypt. They had a flourishing and happy time, a time when they were not slaves, but the very contrary. And it was God, who, as He says, "raised up Pharaoh," and thus brought about this state of bondage. God promised Abraham this very furnace of affliction in the vision of Gen. 15. This iron furnace is God's representative, along with the lamp, when it passes between the pieces of the sacrifice. It was the necessary means to bring them out for the inheritance He promised them. It is His way to make them the people He wants them to be. God pledges them they shall have this fiery furnace, and Pharaoh was the instrument in God's hand for this.
And it is surely part of God's faithfulness to us when He allows us to know what real bondage is; and although in the first place we do not cry to God, God hears. Mark that, in this 2d chapter, it does not say they cried to God because of their bondage; but "they cried," and the Lord heard them. And when we wake up to find out what this world is, what a place of useless conflict with death, what an iron hand rules over us — when we wake up with yearning at last after some better condition, when we begin to find out where we are, and a little what we are, it is God that is producing that in our souls already. It is light breaking in, though the discovery is of darkness. Thus the life of God begins. It enables us to feel even death. We never know really what it is to be dead, until we are alive. It is when we come to live, when life begins, that we learn what death is.
And so here, and always, it is God that makes us open our eyes to see — if it be not, at first, so much a yearning after Himself, as yearning after relief. And when we do come to Him, is it not, as the prodigal, for the bread in our Father's house, rather than for the Father's sake? Yet He receives; for He says simply, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." He does not say, "Come in such a way" — nay, not even, "Come, feeling your sins." In fact there are different ways in which God draws men to Himself. On the one hand, a sense of guilt which needs a Saviour; and on the other, through hunger and thirst and weariness, which need rest and satisfaction. But the Lord says to just such, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
We may take the Lord's words in the largest way. We can say there is no weariness to which the Lord's words would not apply; no state of desolation and unrest and evil in which and by which He is not calling souls unto Himself. Yet sin must of course be felt; and this will come. And bondage to sin is what is typified here.
Let us look at this a little more closely.
You find in the first chapter, "There arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people: Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come on, let us deal wisely with them . . . and they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses."
They built "treasure cities" — magazine cities, cities of warlike provision. Pharaoh sets to work to keep the people down and in bondage; and for this purpose he uses their own strength against themselves. He makes them labor to rivet their own chains: for these cities were in Goshen, the land allotted to themselves. And that is what is being done everywhere the world over. Men are rivetting their own chains; are building Pharaoh's magazine cities to enable him to hold them fast. Take the drunkard: every cup he takes makes him more and more a slave to it, although he knows what a hard and bitter service it is, and what a terrible master he is working for. "He that committeth sin is the slave of sin," says the Lord. He cannot give up his master's service, when he pleases. There is One surely ready to hear his cry; but that is another matter. If it is money that man covets, every dollar that he puts into his treasury only makes his heart more set upon it. The very heathen had a proverb: "The love of money increases with the increase of money." And so it is; the more you succeed in getting what your heart prizes, the more it will attach your heart to itself.
And this is true of Christians too. If we allow our hearts to go out after the world in any shape, the more we gain of it, the more its weight will drag us down to earth.
Now let us look at the deliverer. We have Moses brought before us in the 2nd chapter. I need not say that Moses is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is son of a Levite: and Levi was the third son of Israel. The third speaks of resurrection, and of Divine display. Leah says when her third son is born, "Now will my husband be joined to me," and she calls him Levi, "joined!" The true Levite is He who really joins God to man, and man to God. Need I say who He is? — the Risen One who, having passed through death for us and gone on high, is thus our Daysman, the "One Mediator between God and man." We find thus the genealogy of Moses and Aaron carefully given in the early part of Exodus, in order that we may know these men as the double type of the Lor Jesus Christ.
Moses is exposed to the death-sentence under which Israel lies in Egypt: he of course by birth. We must distinguish and contrast, however, for here we have the shadow, not the very image. The Lord only came to put Himself under our sentence, in grace, not being exposed to it naturally, I need not say. Nor did it have title over Him at any time. He could have gone to God in that sin less, perfect humanity of His with twelve legions of angels from the garden where He delivered Himself up into His creatures' hands. "Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," but no principle of mortality lurked in the body prepared Him. It was only when He came into it for others that He could die. He took of course a body capable of dying. That is truly so: but He did not take a body with a seed of death in it. He took a pure spotless humanity; a true humanity, of course: truer than our own because it was humanity without flaw or defect, entirely according to God's thought of what humanity should be. Even in the grave the Holy One of God saw no corruption.
Moses was naturally exposed to death; but the Lord went down into it in grace. In this sense too His zeal for God was what devoured Him.
Before Moses becomes a deliverer, he has to be exposed to death and taken out of it. He does not actually die, we know. He could be spared, as Isaac too was spared. Only His own beloved Son God could not spare. Sentenced to death at the world's hand, Moses is taken out of it; then he has to take his place in rejection at the hands of his own people, else he would not be properly a type of the Deliverer here. He is not only cast out by the world, but rejected by his brethren, as was our Lord. True, there was failure on Moses' part, however much the affliction of his brethren was in his heart. There was a true desire for them, and a presentiment that God had chosen him to be the deliverer. As you find in Stephen's words to the Jews, he thought they would recognize him as such. They did not recognize him. They say, "Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?" and Moses fled into Midian, rejected by his brethren. It is in that character that we have to do with the Lord Jesus Christ now.
We find Moses then in the land of Midian, and soon with a Gentile bride. But his son's name tells us that no real home is yet found by him. He names his son, "Gershom" — "a stranger" — for he says: "I have been a stranger in a strange land." Beautifully here Moses reflects our character and position in the world, and of Him to whom we belong. The wife belongs no more to Midian, but to her husband. The "stranger" son becomes no resident of the land in which he is born. These things should want no interpreter to any of our hearts. God grant us only to be more Gershoms in the land of Midian — strangers in a world where, if Christ can find a bride, He cannot a home.
In the next chapter, Moses will appear distinctly as the divinely appointed savior. This to-night, is a preliminary sketch, by way of introduction to that which is the great theme of the book. The story in Exodus itself is so far brief and rapid. We shall have soon abundant details of the deepest interest details of our own history as God's redeemed: a history which transcends this wonderful story as the antitype must needs transcend the type. From the Passover to the Land, the wonderful and majestic dealings of God with a people whose weakness and waywardness made them the objects of his tenderest care, and the subjects of the display of His power and grace, are our types, "written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." What must we be to Him who has written our history in the records of these by-gone ages! Oh, may we adoringly accept the love, and bow our hearts to receive the admonition!