« PreviousContinue »
he named Gershom, which means a stranger there," for,” he said, “I have become a stranger in a strange land;" and when the second was born, he said, “the God of my father has been my help, and has delivered me from the hand of Pharaoh,” and he called him Eliezer (God is help). We may also call to mind the miserable style in which he set out to return to Egypt (Ex. iv. 20): his wife and child he placed upon an ass, and he himself went on foot by their side.
THE CALL OF MOSES.
Vid. Die Berufung Moseh's (by Hengstenberg ?) in the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung 1837. No. 50–51.
§ 20 (Ex. ii. 23— iv. 17).—The oppression of the Israelites in Egypt still continued. The king died, but the principles of his government were carried out by his successor. The change of rulers appears to have excited hopes in the minds of the Israelites, which were doomed to disappointment. Their oppression was not only perpetuated, but rendered increasingly severe, and their disappointment added to their sufferings. But the first signs of a powerful agitation were just appearing among the people, an agitation which was to ripen them for freedom. It was not a resolution to help themselves, or a plot to overthrow the existing government, which grew out of these disappointed hopes, but a movement of a much more powerful character, namely a disposition to sigh and mourn and call upon Him who is an avenger of the oppressed, and a friend of the miserable. And this movement attained its object; God heard their complaint and remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The hour of their redemption was drawing nigh. Moses, too, who was destined to be the saviour of Israel, had passed through the chief school of his life, the school of humiliation and affliction, and was now ready to obey his call. This call was now for the first time distinctly made known to him as the voice of God. He was feeding the flock of Jethro in the fertile meadows of Mount Horeb (1), when there appeared to him one day a miraculous vision. He saw a bush in the distance burning with brilliant flames, and yet not consumed (2). As he was hastening to the spot to look at this wonderful phenomenon more closely, he heard a voice calling to him and saying, “put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." This was a voice which had been silent for 400 years, the voice of the angel of God, in whom God had so often appeared to the fathers of his people (Vol. i. & 50.2). Moses was not left for a moment in doubt as to the Being who was addressing him, for the voice continued: “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” On hearing this, Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look on God (3). The word of God, which was then addressed to Moses by the angel of the Lord, contained the key to a right understanding of the vision: Jehovah had seen the affliction of his people in Egypt, had heard their sighing and their cries, and had come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and bring them into the land of promise. “Come, now, therefore," he said, “I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people out of Egypt.” Moses was directed to
to Egypt, and having assembled the elders of Israel, to introduce himself to them as a messenger of God sent to effect their deliverance. He was then to go with them to Pharaoh, and first of all demand of him, in the name of Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews, that he would let the people go a three days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to their God. It could be foreseen that such a request would be strongly opposed by the king; in fact, this was expressly foretold him by God: but with this prediction there was coupled the assurance, that the almighty
hand of Jehovah would open the way before him by means of signs and wonders (4).
How did Moses act when he heard the words of God announce this divine commission, and beheld the representation of its object in the miraculous sign? He had become a different man in his exile. Formerly he had burned with eager desire to appear as the deliverer of his people, and had offered to effect it of his own accord; but now he sought in every way to excuse himself from the divine command, by which he was called and equipped for the task. The training he received at Pharaoh's court had borne its fruit, and this fruit was essential to the fulfilment of his vocation; but it also gave birth to pride, false confidence, and a trust in his own power, which were unsuitable for the work. The discipline of his desert-school had broken down this pride and taught him humility, and had made him conscious of his utter weakness. His false confidence in his own power and wisdom had vanished, but he still wanted that true and proper confidence in the power and wisdom of God, by which the weak can be made strong. Not that he had any doubt as to the power of God; but he doubted his own fitness to serve as the organ of this power, although God himself had called him: and in these doubts there was just as much false humility, as there was false pride in the confidence he felt before. Still, excessive humility is always nearer to the proper state of mind than pride, that knows no bounds. And this was the case with Moses. With inexhaustible patience God follows the windings of his false humility, meeting his difficulties with promises and assurances of strength, and his refusals with mildness, but with firmness also (5). “Who am I,” said Moses, “ that I should
go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” To this Jehovah replies: “I will be with thee," and places the issue of his mission in the most striking manner before his mind, by telling him that on that very mountain the people should sacrifice to God, when they had been delivered out of Egypt. The altar for the sacrifice was already built. So certain was God that it would be offered, and so important was the sacrifice in the estimation of God, that when he founded the world, he had prepared the place on which it was to be presented. Thus Sinai itself was a pledge of success, a monument, and a witness of the call of Moses and the promises of God. The scruples of Moses were at length removed, at least for a time. He began to grow familiar with the thought, that he was to appear before the people as the messenger of God, and to reflect upon the manner in which he should introduce himself to them. It was now four hundred years since the God of the fathers had manifested himself. Hence it appeared the more important, that this God should be announced to the people by a name, which would clearly and definitely express the character of the new revelation. It was requisite that the name of the God, who appeared to deliver, should contain in itself a pledge of success, if it was to excite any confidence at all.
Moses, therefore, asked for some name, which he might hold up before the people, as the banner that was to lead them to victory, and which he might use as the watchword of the coming conflict. His request was granted. God communicated to him the name, which from the very first had expressed his relation to the sacred history, the name Jehovah ; but by the explanation, which He gave of that name, He made Moses feel that it was a name, whose fulness would not be exhausted, till the eternal counsels of salvation had been fulfilled and exhausted by the events of history, and which therefore, whatever might be its age, would still be always new (6). Moses then raised another difficulty : " Will they believe me, when I appear before them as the messenger of God ?"
Jehovah met this difficulty by giving him a threefold miraculous power, by which to attest his mission both before the people and Pharaoh (7). There was still one ob
stacle remaining: his slowness of speech, his want of eloquence. But Jehovah replied: "Did not I create man's mouth ? Go and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shall say.” The difficulties in Moses' path were now all removed, and his reasons for refusing were exhausted; so that we naturally expect to find him cheerfully yielding obedience to the will of God. But no; faint-hearted and froward, praying and doubting at the same time, he exclaimed: “O my Lord, send I whom thou wilt send !" This showed at once all that was in his mind, and the festering unbelief, which had been hidden, unknown to him, beneath the outward covering of humility, now came to a head. But this is the way to a cure, first softening applications, then the sharp lancet of the physician. “ Then,” says the record, “the anger of the Lord was kindled” (8). But this anger was still attended by the love which assists the weak. Moses was told that Aaron, his brother, should be sent by Jehovah to meet him, and should stand by his side to assist him in his arduous task. The eloquence of Aaron would thus hide his brother's want of the gift of speech, and supply the deficiency. “He shall be thy mouth, and thou shalt be his God. And now take the rod in thy hand, with which thou shalt work miracles, and go." And Moses went (9).
(1). The name Horeb is applied in the Bible to the whole of the mountains in the peninsula ; Sinai, on the other hand, is the name of the particular mountain, on which the law was delivered. (See Vol. iii. $ 8.1). The fact that the mountain, on which God appeared to Moses, is here called “the mountain of God,” is a proof that the call of Moses took place on the very same spot which was afterwards to be the scene of the calling of the people, the conclusion of the covenant, and the giving of the law. Even now it was holy ground (chap. iii. 5); when Israel departed from Egypt to offer sacrifice to the Lord in the desert, they had a definite spot in view, and one which had been already appointed by God. And in this consecrated spot they were to gain the as