Exodus 5:20
When they left Pharaoh, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who stood waiting to meet them.
FailureH.T. Robjohns Exodus 5:1-21
Unheeded ExpostulationJ. Orr Exodus 5:15-20
Thoughtless Smiters of a Brother in AdversityD. Young Exodus 5:19-21
LessonsG. Hughes, B. D.Exodus 5:20-21
Ministers BlamedG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Exodus 5:20-21
Murmuring and FaithJ. Orr Exodus 5:20-23
The Israelites were naturally sorely disappointed at the issue of the interview with Pharaoh; and with the unreasonableness so often seen in those whose expectations have received a check, they turned on Moses and Aaron, and accused these innocent men of being the authors of their misfortune. Moses and Aaron themselves were almost as dumbfounded as their accusers at the turn events had taken; but one of them, at least, behaved with wisdom. The Israelites accused men: Moses took his complaint to God, and opened up to him all the soreness of his heart. This portion of the narrative suggests the following reflections: -

I. GOD'S PROVIDENCE OFTEN ASSUMES AN ASPECT OF GREAT MYSTERY TO US. It did so to Moses and the Israelites (vers. 22, 23). They had concluded that now that God had taken up their cause, their trials and sorrows were at an end; but in entertaining so comfortable a hope, they found they were deceived. The first step on the road to the promised deliverance had plunged them into a worse plight than ever. They had almost felt the breath of liberty on their cheeks, when suddenly their hopes are dashed from them, and the situation darkens till in its pitiless rigour it becomes well-nigh unendurable. So God's providence is often to the godliest a sore and perplexing mystery. It is not merely that things are not going as we wish, or as fast as we expect - this need not surprise us, though oftentimes it does - but that Jehovah seems acting contrary to his own perfections, to his character, to his revealed purpose, to the promise on which he has encouraged us to trust. The wicked prosper; the righteous are afflicted (Psalm 37.; 73.). Prayers seem unanswered, and the hopes we had begun to cherish, the expectations we had built upon his Word, are bitterly disappointed. The race seems to the swift, and the battle to the strong of this world, while "waters of a full cup are wrung out" to the saints whom God has pledged himself to bless and to protect. This is what distresses us, and the distress is not surprising.

II. THE MYSTERY WHICH MEETS US IN GOD'S PROVIDENCE ACTS AS A TEST OF CHARACTER. It drove Moses to prayer, but the multitude to murmurings and reproaches. As this storm burst over Israel, the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed (Luke 2:35). Doubters would curse themselves for trusting to one whom, they would declare, they had always suspected of deceiving them; the timid would be heard reiterating, "We told you it would come to this; we saw it from the first!" while the profane would break out into open blasphemies, and the superficial crowd - those who had been most carried away by the enthusiasm - would groan and weep in utter disconsolateness, and pour out rash accusations against Heaven and against Moses and Aaron, who had brought them into all this trouble. Yet with foolish inconsistency they would call on the God they were mistrusting to judge between them and the men who had brought to them his message (ver. 21). Comp. Christian and Pliable at the Slough of Despond in 'Pilgrim's Progress.' Mystery in God's providence, in itself a moral necessity and inevitable, is thus used by him for important ends in the testing and disciplining of character. It brings to light our weaknesses; sifts the chaff from the wheat; educates us to trust; convinces us of ignorance; disenchants us of illusive hopes; leads us to prayer and wrestling with God. Thus it prepares us for further discoveries of the Divine wisdom when the time comes for the veil being removed, and educates us for higher service.

III. THE MYSTERY WHICH ENSHROUDS GOD'S PROVIDENCE ARISES FROM OUR PARTIAL AND IMPERFECT COMPREHENSION OF HIS PLAN. Had God's purpose been simply to get Israel out of Egypt in the easiest way possible, and with least cost of suffering to the people, the permission of this new cruelty would indeed have been inexplicable. But it is not in this way, or for such ends, or on these terms, that God Conducts the government of his world. The error of Israel lay in looking on this one little bit of an unfinished work, and in judging of it without reference to the whole design of which it was a part. For God's purpose was not merely that the people should be delivered, but that they should be delivered in such a way, and with such accompaniments of power and judgment, as should illustriously glorify his own perfections, and print the memory of his goodness on their hearts for ever; while, as regards Pharaoh, his desire was to glorify his power upon him (Exodus 9:16), and make him an example to all after ages of the folly of resisting the Almighty. This being the end, it was obviously indispensable that events should not be unduly hastened, but allowed, as far as possible, to take a natural course. Time and scope must be given to Pharaoh to develop his real disposition, and the development must not be prematurely interfered with. The people must be led by a way they knew not, and in paths they had not known; the way chosen could not be the absolutely shortest, but must include many turnings and windings, and even seem at times to be bending backwards; but the end would be "to make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight" (Isaiah 42:16). And this is truly the explanation of all our difficulties with regard to Divine providence. It is not God who is at fault, but our own haste and shortsightedness, that perceive not all the ends he has in view, nor how wonderfully he is working towards those ends by the very circumstances which perplex and baffle us. We know but "in part" (1 Corinthians 13:12). The thoughts of Infinite Wisdom cannot all be made plain to us. The little that is before us we see, but how much lies beyond which is involved in the hiding of his power! (Habakkuk 3:4.) Our walking must be "by faith;" not "by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). - J.O.

Ye have made our savour to be abhorred.
1. Sense of evil from tyrants may make the oppressed fall foul with their best friends.

2. Providence orders His servants sometimes to meet with friends after sad usage by oppressors.

3. Ministers of salvation wait to meet God's afflicted, when they looked not after them.

4. Instruments of deliverance may desire a good egress of the oppressed from tyrants, and not find it (ver. 20).

5. Sense overcharged with oppression may make men reproach God and curse His ministers.

6. Unbelieving souls are ready to set God against His own word, and instruments sent by Him.

7. Hasty unbelievers under cross providences are ready to charge the cause upon God's ministers.

8. It is the lot of God's instruments of life, to be charged to be causes of death, by foolish souls.

9. Such unreasonable charges are recorded to the shame of such brutish creatures (ver. 21).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

There was no other to lay the blame upon; and so they charge their trouble upon Moses and Aaron. "If you had not come we should have plodded along in our bondage, bearing it as best we could; but you came and raised our hopes, not only to dash them down, but to make our already hard lot more bitter and unbearable." They were angry, apparently not with Pharaoh, but with God's ministers. I have heard it said, that most sinners who have been aroused out of the sleep and death of sin "wake up mad." Indeed, I am quite sure that this is often the case. I remember the case of a man who came to me at one of our meetings in America. He was in the greatest distress of mind, fairly frantic with the conviction of sin, and with the terror of conscience working mightily under the law. At the same time he was bitterly angry with Mr. Moody, who had preceded me in those meetings, and also with me. With a terrible oath he said: "I wish to God you and Moody had never come to this city, and begun these — Gospel meetings. Before you came and began to preach I had no trouble. I used to go to church regularly on Sunday morning; but I was not troubled about my sins. What a fool I was ever to come into this rink! I have had no peace day or night since I first heard Moody preach. And you have been making it worse. You talk of peace and joy; but you have turned my soul into a perfect hell. I cannot stay away from the meetings; and to come to them only makes me worse. You promise salvation; and I only find torment. I wish to God you would clear out and leave the city; and then perhaps I could get back my old peace. If this is religion, I am sure I do not want any of it." And thus he raved and tore about like a madman. The devil was giving him a great tearing; and he could not distinguish between what the devil and his sin were doing in him, and the grace that was even then loosing him. Let us not be discouraged or surprised if the first effect of our preaching, or labour with souls, seems to make matters worse. "I am a lost soul," cried George Whitefield's brother, one day, while sitting at table with Lady Huntingdon, his brother, and some other earnest Christians who were talking of the things of the Kingdom. "Thank God for that," cried Lady Huntingdon; "for now I am sure the Lord has begun a good work in you." Conviction of sin, and the struggle of the old man to get out of the grip of God's law, are not pleasant experiences; but they precede conversion.

(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

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