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Israel's Times Of Discipline And Deliverance

Essential to the great purpose of God to dwell with men in the eternal ages (Rev. 21:3) was the call of Abraham and the redemption of Israel, "whose is the adoption ... and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh" (Rom. 9:4,5).

The Furnace of Affliction

Jacob rightly feared to go down into Egypt with his numerous family, but God drew near and reassured him, "I am God, the God of thy father: fear not

I will also surely bring thee up again" (Gen. 46:3 A). Jacob died there, and as the time of the promise drew near, the people "grew and multiplied in Egypt, till there arose another king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph" (Acts 7:17,18). One of Satan's men had arrived. Slavery, taskmasters and heavy burdens followed, but the Satanic expectancy evaporated, for instead of seeing a diminishing, weak and dying people, the rulers of Egypt saw a law of the Spirit of God in operation - "The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad" (Ex. 1:12).

The suffering in Egypt turned Israel to the Lord and their cry went up to God for deliverance, but before deliverance could come God in His infinite wisdom and knowledge must demonstrate to principalities and powers and to men that "there is no wisdom or understanding nor counsel against the LORD" (Prov. 21:30), and make known throughout the earth the name and power of Jehovah.

"At which season Moses was born" (Acts 7:20) - an astonishing fact! But the ways of God are as foolishness to the natural mind. Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses, were in the mind of the Lord when they complied with the edict to cast every son into the river (Ex. 1:22), but carefully and comfortably secure in a waterproofed ark of bulrushes. Jochebed received an adequate child allowance. Moses received the best education possible and even in his name Moses we discern the over-ruling of God. In the birth of Moses, God had already answered the prayers of those who cried to Him, but many never saw or knew. They died (in faith) before their saviour's time had come.

At forty years of age Moses by faith chose to be ill-treated with the people of God (Heb. 11:25) and to visit his brethren. But his brethren "understood not" and Moses had to flee and spend the next forty years in Midian. Eighty years of affliction and suffering was a long time for men and women of faith to cry to God for deliverance, but "As for God, His way is perfect" (Ps. 18:30). At the appointed time He sent Moses, the man whom they rejected forty years before. The same Moses but a different Moses. Now it is Moses, with the commission of God to the people, "The LORD ... hath sent me unto you" (Ex. 3:15), and with the message of God to Pharaoh, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me" (Ex. 7:16).

No more straw to make bricks! They must get the straw themselves and still maintain the same production targets! The elders spoke bitterly to Moses and Aaron, "The LORD look upon you and judge" (Ex. 5:21). Later when Moses went to them with God's assurance of ultimate deliverance they "hearkened not for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage" (Ex. 6:9) "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which cometh upon you to prove you ... but rejoice" (1 Pet. 4:12,13), Peter wrote to persecuted disciples in his day.

The Exodus

After nine fearful judgements, hardened Pharaoh would not let Israel go. "Yet one plague more" (Ex. 11:1), God decreed, and this time Pharaoh would thrust them out. Every firstborn son was to die, but "when I see the blood (of the Passover lamb) I will pass over you" (Ex. 12:13). At midnight there was "a great cry" and the haughty Pharaoh, who had defiantly said, "Who is the LORD?" was now begging his servant to "Go, serve the LORD, as ye have said" and he added a prayer, "and bless me also"! (Ex. 12:31,32). Israel was redeemed by the blood of the lamb, and let go to serve the Lord,

"All the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:41). "Hosts"! The word has in it thoughts of glory and order, of a brilliantly uniformed army. To men of this world they were a boisterous, undisciplined crowd departing with the spoils of Egypt. God made that crowd into a host, the host of the Lord.

The Red Sea

God did not lead Israel by the shortest route to Canaan. Men of faith, like Caleb, were few. The years of slavery had left their mark. There was a spirit of fearfulness in most which could not be thrown off in a day. God therefore instructed Moses "to turn back and encamp before Pi-hahiroth... by the sea" (Ex. 14:2). There unrepentant, pursuing, Pharaoh overtook them and rejoiced that they were trapped, that he had them in his power. Terrified Israel learned (but soon forgot, as we do) that where the Lord leads is best. This place of apparent imprisonment and destruction proved to be the place of freedom and final deliverance. It was not Israel but Pharaoh and his army who experienced

imprisonment and destruction. They presumed to take the way through the Red Sea - fatal presumption! Faith does not presume; faith depends on a word from God.

Israel were "baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10) and sang the song of Moses, "I will sing unto the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously" (Ex. 15:1). They were dead to the old life, raised to walk in an altogether new way of life. They arrived at Marah's bitter waters after three days journeying in the wilderness without water. Forty years later God revealed the reason why (Deut. 8:2,3), but now the singing changed to murmuring until the Lord showed Moses a tree that made the waters sweet. Obedience to His commandments brings health, "I am the LORD that healeth thee" (Ex. 15:26). Today this has a spiritual connotation, for many of God's most loved and obedient children abound in spiritual vigour but do not enjoy bodily health.

In the wilderness of Sin they hungered and returned in heart to the fleshpots of Egypt. "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?" (Ps. 78:19). The answer of God - in the evening, quails and in the morning, manna. The manna had to be gathered morning by morning, an omer a head, sufficient for the day. His mercies "are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness" (Lam. 3:23). How sad that later Israel complained, "Who shall give us flesh to eat? ... we have nought save this manna to look to" (Num. 11:4,6). "We want ... we want ... we want". He gave them their request" (Ps. 106:15) and a severe judgement, "there they buried the people that lusted" (Num. 11:34). Let us beware of wanting something so much that in achieving our purpose we go against the good, acceptable and perfect will of God for us and bring judgement on ourselves instead of blessing.

From Sin to Rephidim, or rather from sin to sin. Massah and Meribah are sad memorials of Israel's sin of murmuring, striving and tempting the Lord. The scripture's commentary on incidents' like these is, "He suffered their manners in the wilderness" (Acts 13:18). What about our manners? Are they still as crude as in the days before we came to know the Lord? Do our manners grieve Him? How do we speak to each other? "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt", the salt of truth.

Amalek was a powerful foe. Joshua took men and fought. Moses took Hur and Aaron and prayed. Both actions were vital. The uplifted supplicating hands reached the throne of God and God gave the victory. Without earnest supplications on behalf of the preachers our outreach work must fail (Eph. 6:18,19). We can see in the oath of the Lord ("The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation" - Ex. 17:16) the truth of the continual spiritual warfare which the new man in Christ has with the old man in Adam (see Rom. 7:7-25 and Gal. 5:16,17).

Mount Sinai and God's Dwelling with Israel

Sin is daring, daring in an unholy and God-defying way. Under the very mount where they heard the voice of God, where they heard the commandment, "Thou shalt not make a graven image" (Ex. 20:4), there they made a golden calf; "These be thy gods, 0 Israel" (Ex. 32:4). Aaron realized the seriousness of the sin and attempted a compromise. He built an altar before it and proclaimed, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play" (Ex. 32:5,6). But it cannot be done without fault. It is impossible to worship the Lord acceptably if His word is flagrantly disobeyed. The worship was a mere facade, a hypocrisy. What they really wanted was the liberty to do as they wished. The Levites answered the call of Moses and executed the judgement of God on the idolaters, and, for their zeal, were appointed by God to the charge of the Tabernacle and to carry the Ark instead of the firstborn. To this people God said in wondrous grace, "Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8). Inseparable from the Tabernacle was the priesthood, the sacrifices, the covenants, the service of God, the orderly arrangement of the tribes and that wonderful blessing of health: "The LQRD bless thee and keep thee: the LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the LORD lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace" (Num. 6:24-26). Unwilling Balaam had to confess, "How goodly are thy tents, 0 Jacob, thy tabernacles, 0 Israel! ... as gardens by the riverside" (Num. 24:5,6); a people greatly favoured!

Entrance into the Land

God's purpose in redemption was that His people might serve Him in the land flowing with milk and honey, where they would worship Him at the place of the Name with deeper thankfulness and richer offerings and thereby enjoy richer blessings. They were to "go in to possess the land" (Josh. 1:11).

Jordan was normally impassable in flood, but The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth went into Jordan before the children of Israel "and all Israel passed over on dry ground". They passed over "right against Jericho" (Josh. 3:16,17). Jordan was crossed, but then another obstacle, Jericho! then Ai, then another.

For the Israel of God today it is a continual warfare "from faith to faith". Jordan and Jericho pointed the way to the victorious possession of the land, namely, faith in the Lord and obedience to His word.