Morning Sermon: Exodus 6:28-7:13; The Righteous Kept Through Judgment

New Testament Reading: 2 Peter 2:1–11

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.” (2 Peter 2:1–11, ESV)

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Old Testament Reading: Exodus 6:28-7:13

“On the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, the LORD said to Moses, ‘I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.’ But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?’ And the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.’ Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh. Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’’ So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.” (Exodus 6:28–7:13, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

The passage that is before us today functions as an introduction to the story of the ten plagues. 

In verses 8 through 13 Moses and Aaron work an introductory miracle before Pharaoh by casting Aaron’s staff before him so that it would turn into a serpent and then back again. This introductory sign is significant, and we will consider it shortly. But we must also pay careful attention to what God said to Moses and Aaron in verses 1 through 7, for the words of God to help us to understand what he was demonstrating through the outpouring of the ten plagues.

So then, you can see that this passage is divided into two parts: One, the record of God’s word to Moses in verses 1 through 7. And two, the record of the first miracle performed by Moses and Aaron before Pharoah in verses 8 through 13. 

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God’s Word To Moses and Aaron

First, let us consider God’s word to Moses. 

To do this we should pick up in verse 28 of chapter 6 where we read, “On the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, the LORD said to Moses, ‘I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.’ But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?’” 

I am the LORD

I am uncircumcised lips

In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 7, we find God’s response to Moses: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land’” (Exodus 7:1–2, ESV).

So here was the arrangement: God would speak to Moses, and Moses would speak to Pharoah through Aaron. The Hebrew actual says, “I have made you God to Pharaoh”, not “I have made you like God”. Clearly, the meaning is that Moses was God’s representative. Moses spoke with divine authority and Aaron functioned as his intermediary. 

One very important thing to remember is that Egyptians considered their Pharaohs to be divine. They were thought to be incarnations of the gods. I think you can see that what we have here is a showdown. God is about to put Pharoah in his place. And he is going to use two very insignificant men (worldly speaking) to do it. Moses the exiled shepherd, and Aaron the Hebrew slave were used by God to Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, to open shame. 

In verses 3 through 4 God makes two commitments. The first concerns Pharoah, the second concerns Egypt. One, he says “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you.” So here is that theme again which we have considered in previous sermons. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Two, God said, “Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment” (Exodus 7:3–4, ESV).

Let us carefully consider the second of these two “I will” statements. When God said, “I will lay my hand on Egypt”, he did not mean to bless, but to judge. The context is very clear about that. God judged Pharoah, and he also judged Egypt in the Exodus. Secondly, “God promised to bring [his] hosts, [his] people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.” So this second “I will” statement really consists of two commitments: God’s commitment to judge Egypt, and to bring Israel out. 

The title of today’s sermon is, “The Righteous Kept Through Judgment”. I think that is an accurate description of what God accomplished in the Exodus event. He poured out judgment on the wicked idolaters, but he kept his people. He protected them, preserved them, brought them out of bondage to lead them towards the promised land. One of the things we will see as the Exodus story unfolds is that God knows how to do this. He is able to pour out wrath on the ungodly while preserving his own.  

Peter drew attention to this reality in that passage we read just a moment ago. In 2 Peter 2 we are reminded of how God preserved Noah and his family while judging the world with a flood, and how he preserved Lot and his family while pouring out his judgments on Sodom and Gomorrah. And after reminding us of these historical events, Peter concludes, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment…” And I would argue that this is a major theme in Exodus too. Here God speaks to Moses and promises to simultaneously judge the Egyptians and to keep the Hebrews. Again, he would “lay [his] hand on Egypt and bring [his] hosts [army], [his] people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment” (Exodus 7:3–4, ESV). I’m wanting you to see that this is kind of a big theme in the Exodus story, and it is kind of a big theme in the overarching story of redemption that is told in scripture. Peter knew this. And that is why he said, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment…” 

This should matter greatly to us, for we, like Noah, Lot, and the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, sojourn in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation” (to use Paul’s language from Philippians 2:15). We must know for certain, therefore, that God is able to simultaneously judge the wicked and to keep the righteous. He knows who are his, and he is able to preserve even while he pours out his wrath. 

This should matter greatly to us always, but especially in these days when we sense that the wickedness around us is so very great. You can sense it, can’t you? Things aren’t right. So much is wrong in this nation and world. God sees it all, and he is able to judge with precision and to keep those who are his to bring them safely into the Promised Land. This should bring us great comfort and peace, brothers and sisters. 

In verse 5 we find these words: “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” This brings us back to a point that was made in previous sermons. The Exodus event was a demonstration of God’s power and supremacy over all things in heaven and on earth, yes, even the King of Egypt, and the so-called god’s of Egypt. “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD”, God said. 

Verses 6 and 7 tell us about Moses and Aaron’s obedience. “Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.” 

Notice this about Moses and Aaron. Though they had their doubts, their shortcomings, and their failures, they were obedient. They are to be commended for this. But we must also acknowledge that they were obedient by the grace of God. God was very patient with Moses, wasn’t he? He put up with Moses’ lack of faith and he reassured him over and over again that he was LORD, and that he would surely do all that he had promised. Lord’s may we be faithful like Moses. Be gracious to us as you were to him, we pray. 

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Moses and Aaron’s First Sign

We come now to the second half of our text for today wherein we learn of the first sign that Moses and Aaron worked be for Pharoah. Signs demonstrate things. Soon we will hear about the ten signs that God worked in Egypt which we commonly call the ten plagues. But here we learn of an initial sign. 

Verse 8: “Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent’” (Exodus 7:8–9, ESV). 

Evidently, it was Pharaoh’s custom to request that miracles be performed before his eyes in order to prove that things were true. Soon we will learn about the wise men and sorcerers of Egypt. Evidently, these had learned how to comply with Pharaoh’s demands by working  “miracles” for him. As the narrative unfolds they will be exposed as frauds, charlatans, tricksters, and not real miracle workers. But the wonders performed by Moses and Aaron would be undeniably the works of God. The magicians of Egypt will admit it themselves after the third plague, saying, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said” (Exodus 8:19, ESV).

So here is what Moses and Aaron were to do when the Pharaoh requested a miracle: Moses was to say to Aaron, “‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent” (Exodus 7:9–10, ESV).

What is the meaning of this sign?

The staff is a symbol of authority, it is a tool in the hand of is owner, it is a common thing.

The serpent was a symbol of Pharaoh himself. 

When the staff (a symbol of authority, a tool in the hand of is owner, a common thing) was transformed into a serpent (and then taken up again), it signified that the LORD had authority over Pharoah, that Pharaoh was a tool in the hand of his Maker, and that he was a common thing, and not in fact divine as he claimed. In other words, the LORD was the one who brought Pharaoh into existence and exercised authority over him in life and in death. 

Pharaoh could not allow this sign to stand unanswered, so he “summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents…” (Exodus 7:11–12, ESV). That this was mere trickery and not a true miracle is proven by the next statement, “But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs” (Exodus 7:11–12, ESV). And to this, the magicians of Egypt had no answer. In other words, it is not hard to imagine that the magicians of Egypt were able to produce the illusion of staffs turning to snakes, but they could not duplicate the miracle of Aaron’s staff (snake) swallowing theirs. 

This passage concludes with the words, “Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said” (Exodus 7:13, ESV).

Signs and wonders have this effect on people in the scriptures, they convince some, and they harden others. We see this is in the ministry of Christ too. He worked signs and wonders before the people to demonstrate that he was from God, and that he was the Christ, just as he claimed. The elect of God were softened by these signs, convinced and drawn to saving faith. But many were hardened. And their hearts grew progressively harder as they denied one sign after the next, some even coming to the place of attributing the work of Christ to Satan. They could not deny that miracles were being performed before their eyes, but neither could they bring themselves to admit that this Jesus was the Messiah, so they claimed that he worked by the power of the Evil One.

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Reflections

I would like to conclude today by offering two reflections on this passage. 

One, I wish to return to the point that God is able to keep his people while pouring out his just judgments upon the wicked in this world. As I have said, he demonstrated this in the days of Noah, Abraham, and Moses. And Peter was concerned to remind New Covenant Christians of this reality. Why? Because we, the New Covenant people of God, are sojourners too living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Or to state it differently, God’s people today do not live in a land of their own but are foreigners, spiritually speaking. This is not our home. We are exiles and aliens, spiritually speaking. And the nations in which Christians live today are all wicked, to one degree or another.

Our situation is comparable, not to Israel in the promised land after the conquest (Israel ceased to sojourn when they came into the land to possess it), but to Noah as he lived amongst the idolaters, to Abraham as he sojourned amongst the pagans, to Lot as he dwelt in the midst of the perverse, and to Israel in Egyptian captivity. All of these lands were liable to God’s judgment, and God’s people were there interspersed. This is our situation. And I am saying that God is able to simultaneously judge the wicked and to keep the godly. By this, I do not mean that the godly will never suffer. No, I say they will be kept. They will be kept from falling, and they will be kept for all eternity, but the wicked will be judged, for God knows who are his, and he is able to keep them. 

These truths should always comfort God’s people, but especially in times of trouble. And these are times of trouble, aren’t they? These days are not characterized by physical war, but it seems that there is a war of another kind raging. It is an invisible war, an ideological war, a technological war. And it seems to me that this world, and this nation, is cruisin for a bruisin. Right is called wrong, and wrong is called right. Corruption and injustice are running rampant. The strong are oppressing the weak. 

With the exception of the technology, none of this is new. This is the story of humanity. And I am saying that God knows how to deal with this. He knows how to keep his people while pouring out his judgements on the wicked. We need to hang tight to Christ, brothers and sisters, and trust in our Sovereign King. 

Two, I wish to reflect for a moment on our eschatology (our doctrine concerning last things). And I wish to connect it to what we are seeing in Exodus and also what we are seeing in the world today. Do you remember our study through the book of Revelation, brothers and sisters?  Do you remember what I taught you concerning the proper interpretation of that book? I firmly rejected the interpretation that is so common today, which is to interpret the book literalistically, and as if it pertains only to the future. Instead, I taught you that the book is meant to be interpreted symbolically (if that isn’t obvious, I don’t know what is), and idealistically. In other words, the book of Revelation does not only have to do with the future (yes, some events described in the book are future events only), but for the most part it describes to us how life will be on earth for the people of God always and until Christ returns. We noticed that Revelation is not organized chronologically, but that it recapitulates. It tells the same story over and over again, but from different camera angles, if you will. I’m here trying to summarize many sermons in one brief statement, but I think it is pertinent. 

These pretribulational, premillennialists preachers — and there are many of them today — what do they say when times get tough? It’s the same thing over and over again. These are the last days! The end is near! Here is THE Antichrist. This is THE mark of the beast, etc., etc.  You would think that people would catch on. These men are frauds. And that they are frauds is proven by the fact that they are wrong time and time again. Their error is not in seeing that these forces are at play in the world today, but in claiming that they are able to know the Lord’s will concerning the time of the end. The scriptures explicitly warn against doing this, and yet they do it! Their error is not in seeing that antichrist is present in the world today, but in saying this is THE one. The same may be said regarding the mark of the beast. It is not a literal mark, brothers and sisters, but signifies one’s allegiance either to Christ and his kingdom, or to the Evil One and his. When these pretribulational, premillennialists preachers say “these are the last days”, they forget that the Christ and his Apostles were saying the same thing 2,000 years ago. And what did they mean by it? They meant that this is the last era of human history before Christ returns to make all things new, for there is nothing left to be accomplished except the final judgement and the consummation of Christ’s Kingdom. No distinct time of tribulation, and certainly no distinct future millennium awaits us. In other words, yes, these are the last days. We have been in them ever since Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the Father, and we will be in them until Christ returns. When will that be? The scriptures are so very clear… no one knows. 

So what should we think when we see powerful rulers oppress God’s people and oppose all that is good? What should we think when false prophets arise and seem to prevail? What should we think when we hear of wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines (not to mention blood moons)?  Should we lose our minds and say, the end is certainly near? No, we must see these things as more of the same. The people of God have experienced them ever since Christ ascended. Indeed, they have been experiencing trials, tribulations, and persecutions from the time of Adam’s fall into sin and the first utterance of the gospel. 

I wonder if you remember that Revelation is filled with imagery drawn from the Old Testament in general, and the book of Exodus in particular. Think especially of the dragon of Revelation 12 who pursued the pregnant woman into the wilderness and attempted to consume her and the child with a flood of water imitating from its mouth, but the earth opened to swallow the water to deliver the woman and child. That’s Exodus imagery, brothers and sisters. Those are Exodus themes. And so my point is this: the book of Revelation helps us to see that the kinds of things experienced by the Hebrews in Egypt under Pharaoh will be experienced by the people of God until the Lord returns. 

The Pharaohs themselves were a type of antichrist.  They opposed the Christ before he was born as they attempted to exterminate the Hebrews who were entrusted with the promises of God, and from whom the Messiah would emerge. The whole course of human history is marked by this theme on to this present day. But what are learning? The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” He proved it at the time of the Exodus.

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that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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