Exodus 5:3
"The God of the Hebrews has met with us," they answered. "Please let us go on a three-day journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD our God, or He may strike us with plagues or with the sword."
Sermons
It is Right to Recognize the Danger of Disobedience to GoS. S. TimesExodus 5:3
LessonsG. Hughes, B. D.Exodus 5:3
A First InterviewJ. Orr Exodus 5:1-4
God's Demand and Pharaoh's AnswerJ. Urquhart Exodus 5:1-5
FailureH.T. Robjohns Exodus 5:1-21
Moses and Aaron, somehow or other, have found their way into Pharaoh's presence. All things, so far, have happened as God said they would happen. The very brevity and compactness of the record at the end of ch. 4. is an instructive comment on the way in which Moses had mistaken comparative shadows for substantial difficulties. The actual meeting of Moses with Israel is dismissed in a few satisfactory and significant words; as much as to say that enough space had already been occupied in detailing the difficulties started by Moses in his ignorance and alarm. It is when Moses and Pharaoh meet that the tug of war really begins. Moses addresses to Pharaoh the commanded request, and is met, as was to be expected, with a prompt and contemptuous defiance. Observe -

I. PHARAOH, IN HIS REJOINDER TO MOSES, PUTS A QUESTION WHICH GOD ALONE CAN PROPERLY ANSWER. "Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?" This was evidently in Pharaoh's opinion a question which needed no answer at all. It had nothing interrogative about it, except the form. Taking the form of a question, it served to express more forcibly Pharaoh's defiant spirit. There was, in his opinion, really no need to consider or confer at all. "Am I not the great Pharaoh, successor to many great Pharaohs before me? Is not my power accepted and undisputed far and wide?" He could not so much as comprehend any danger unless it took the form of physical force; and not only so, but a form plainly visible - near, threatening, overwhelming. If only some great king had been approaching - strong with the strength of a large and victorious army - to demand the liberation of Israel, Pharaoh would not so have spoken. To him the invisible was as the unreal. Pharaoh listens to Moses, and what does he hear? - a claim that seems to dispute his supremacy, from this new deity, whose image he has never seen, whose name mayhap his priests have told him is not that of any deity worshipped in Canaan of which they have ever heard. Certainly it looks a large claim upon the first presentation of it, small as it is in comparison with what is to follow. This, then, is what he hears, and the audacity and presumption of it are not diminished by what he sees. There stand Moses and Aaron, completely devoid in person and surroundings of anything to impress the king with the peril of refusing their request. Surely if the men who say they are sent look so contemptible, the unseen being from whom they say they come may be safely neglected. Such is the reasoning, silently powerful, if not openly expressed, of those who despise and reject the claims of God. Christ is judged of, not as he is in himself, but by the superficial aspect of Christians. Because they are often low in station, or inconsistent in life, or lacking in disposition and ability to make much outward show, the world thinks that there is little or nothing behind them. It' is the folly of only too many to take Pharaoh's stand. For the right reception of the things of God we need all possible humility and ]PGBR> openmindedness; what then is to be done, if upon the very first approach of religion, we pooh-pooh it as mere superstition, folly, and delusion?

2. This was a question to which Moses could have given a very effective and alarming answer if only he had been allowed opportunity. Moses, fresh from the revelations and sanctities of Horeb, could have told Pharaoh such a story of the workings of Jehovah as would have been enough, and more than enough, to guide the steps of a right-minded listener. Not only his own personal experience; not only the sight of the burning bush, the rod transformed, the leprous hand, the blood where water ought to be; but also the fulness, the terrible fulness of Jehovah's power in the earlier days of the world, were within his reach to speak about. He could have told Pharaoh very admonitory things concerning Sodom and the Deluge if only he had been willing to listen. We may well believe that the effect of Pharaoh's defiant attitude would be to send Moses away striving to refresh and sustain his mind with the evidences, so available and so abundant, that in spite of this proud king's contempt, Jehovah, in his vast power and resources, was indeed no vain imagination. When the proud and self-sufficient ask this Pharaoh-question, it is for us to make such answer as may be reassuring to ourselves; not to doubt our own eyesight because others are blind, our own heating because others are deaf.

How few sometimes may know, when thousands err. The truth which we may not be able to make even probable to others, we must strive so to grasp and penetrate, that more and more it may be felt as certain and satisfying to ourselves.

3. Thus we see how the Lord himself needed to deal with this question. Knowledge of God is of many kinds, according to the disposition of the person who is to be taught, and according to the use which God purposes to make of him. Pharaoh was evidently not going to be a docile scholar in God's school - one who comes to it willing and eager, thirsting for a refreshing knowledge of the living God. But still he had to be a scholar, willingly or not. He had to learn this much at least, that he was transgressing on the peculiar possessions of God when he sported with Israel in his despotic caprice. It is for no man to say that his present real ignorance gives assurance that he will never come to some knowledge of God. It may be as pitifully true of the atheist as it is encouragingly true of the godly, that what he knows not now, he will know hereafter. Now he knows not God, but in due time he will know him; not dubiously, not distantly, but in the most practical and it may be most painful and humiliating manner. Pharaoh says, with a sneer on his face, and derision in his voice, "Who is Jehovah?" That question is duly answered by Jehovah in signs and plagues, and the last answer we hear anything about on earth comes unmistakable and sublime, amid the roll of the Red Sea's returning waters.

II. But Pharaoh not only puts this defiant question; HE UTTERS A MOST DETERMINED RESOLUTION WHICH GOD ALONE CAN ALTER. "Neither will I let Israel go." What then are Israel's chances for the future? There was every certainty that, if left to himself, Pharaoh would go on, tyrannous and oppressive as ever. From a human point of view he had everything to help him in sticking to his resolution. His fears, if he had any - the wealth which he and his people had gained from the incessant toils of Israel - the great dislocations and changes which would have been produced by even a temporary withdrawal of Israel - all these things helped to a firm maintenance of the resolution. It was a resolution which had strong and active support in all the baser feelings of his own breast. It is just in the firmness and haughtiness of such a resolution, revealing as it does the spirit of the man, that we get the reason for such an accumulation of calamities as came upon his land. Here is another significant illustration of the manifold power of God, that he could break down so much proud determination. There was no change in Pharaoh's feeling; no conversion to an equitable and compassionate mind; he simply yielded, because he could not help himself, to continuous and increasing pressure, and God alone was able to exert that pressure. Pharaoh here is but the visible and unconscious exponent of that dark Power which is behind all evil men and cruel and selfish policies. That Power, holding men in all sorts of bitter disappointments and degrading miseries, virtually says, "I will not let them go." Our confidence ought ever to be, that though we can do nothing to break this bitter bondage, God, who forced the foe of Israel to relax his voracious grasp, will by his own means force freedom for us from every interference of our spiritual foe. It was Pharaoh's sad prerogative to shut his own heart, to shut it persistently, to shut it for ever, against the authority and benedictions of Jehovah. But no one, though he be as mighty and arrogant as a thousand Pharaohs, can fasten us up from God, if so be we are willing to go to him, from whom alone we can gain a pure and eternal life. - Y.







Let us go, we pray thee, three days' Journey.
1. God's ambassadors must not forsake His message, upon man's denial.

2. Further arguments must press God's message, when the proposal is not enough.

3. The God of the Hebrews must be owned by them, though despised by Pharaoh.

4. Relation unto God, and call from Him necessitates souls to follow His commands.

5. Although God command powers, yet it beseemeth His people to entreat them.

6. To go at God's call, and serve Him only after His will must be insisted on by His.

7. Small desires of the Church for God, leave powers on earth inexusable in denying.

8. To sacrifice to God and to feast with Him are synonymous.

9. Entreaties from powers to serve God for averting His judgments is reasonable.

10. Pestilence and sword are God's judgments exacting the neglect of His service.

11. These plagues are incident on all that neglect God, but much more on them that forbid others to serve Him.

12. The fear of these judgments should awe souls from slighting His message to them.

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

S. S. Times.
d: — "Let us go... lest He fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword." It is right to have in mind the fact that God will punish us if we refuse to do as He tells us to. It may answer for other people to talk about needing no other motive to well doing than love; but you and I are not always influenced by love alone. If we knew to-day that we could do wrong with entire impunity — do a little wrong, I mean, a pet wrong, a wrong that no one would know anything about, and that wouldn't seem to harm anybody very much any way — could do it without any suffering or any punishment; do you think we should be just as strong for the right as now, while we know that the disclosure and the punishment of sin is sure? Well, even if you and I think so, God doesn't take that view of it. God threatens as well as entreats. He holds up the danger of punishment for sin, as welt as the rewards of loving and serving Him trustfully; and God doesn't make any mistake in so doing.

(S. S. Times.)

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