Page images




“Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord.”—Isaiah xxxi, 1–3.

The importance of Israel's history to the church of God, arises from its peculiar character as a nation, in contrast with the other nations of the world by which it was surrounded, and from which its special glory and privilege was to be separate and distinct.

Israel, as a people, was God's elect nation, of whom He says, “ This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise.” And, again, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will punish you for all your iniquities.” Hence their obedience or failures come to be most instructive to God's people now, because they exhibit the effect of God's principles, either in subjection to them, with all its happy issues; or in departure from them, with all its calamitous results.

This, it will be admitted, is true of their history generally; while, in one special part of it, the Scripture expressly teaches, that they were types of us." — " All these things happened to them for ensamples*; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

This is the point of importance in Israel's history, that they were a people in connexion with God. Their conduct had its main importance in this respect. It had its bearing on their own national welfare, or the reverse; but it had a much higher importance in relation to God, as it exhibited His character and principles before the nations around. “ Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord."




a 6 TUTTOI," types.

The nations of the world were the witnesses of the power and policy of man, and they exhibited the ways and principles of man ; but Israel should have been a witness before the nations of that truth. Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and the sword of thy excellency, and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee.”

It is on this ground that Israel and “Egypt" are found, in their national character, so frequently presented in contrast in the Old Testament, just as the church and the world are set in constant opposition in the New. The principles of God had their place in the one, and the principles of man were working in the other, which necessarily placed them in opposition.

But Israel had another character besides that which was stamped on them by their connexion with God. They were men, and they had, naturally, all the feelings and propensities of men. Hence, whenever their faith failed, and they were left to their own unrestrained action, they invariably displayed nothing but human tendencies, and sought for help in the natural resources

of men.

It required the knowledge of God, and the recognition of the special relations he sustained towards them, and an active trust in His power and protection-in a word, faith in Him as God, and their God- to enable Israel to walk on God's principles, and to act in character before the nations. In like manner, now, it requires faith on the part of the church of God, in all God's blessed relations toward it, and the sense of His presence, in order to walk with Him, and to exhibit a heavenly character before the world. “ They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee"! And what wonders of love and grace are wrapped up in the knowledge of that name! 56 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But saints are men, as well as Israel of old, and in that character have been schooled and trained in the world, as Israel was trained in Egypt, and in either case the effect is seen, for the certain result of acting on the principles of the world, is to lose the principles of God. The


world is a definite sphere, where the principles of man, under the influence of Satan, " the god of this world," are paramount and in action; while the church is the only sphere in which the principles of God are working. * Egypt” had its wisdom, and policy, and power; but Egypt could be only the oppressor or the corrupter of the people of God. Indeed, there is nothing more affecting in Israel's history, than their constant hankering after Egypt, after all that they had suffered there, and after all that God had done to deliver them from it. It only yields, in infatuation, to that which has been manifested in the history of the church, in its turning from the grace and presence of a divine Comforter and Guide, to the miserable shifts and appliances of this present evil world.”

The earliest mention of Egypt, except in Gen. x., in the division of nations, is as the place whence Abram, the child of faith, sought help from the famine which pressed upon him, when a sojourner in “ the land of promise." And, indeed, it was the land of earthly plenty.

, . The comforts of this life were there in abundance; but we learn, in Abram's sojourn there, what a price must be paid by the believer for its “ cattle, and silver, and gold,” and for the favour of its prince! _The faith of the patriarch and his altar belonged not to Egypt, but to the land of Canaan, which he had now left behind.

Egypt was the land of plenty. It was well watered, and the fruitfulness of its river was proverbial. But it did not drink of the “rain of heaven;” nor did it enjoy the fertilising dews from above. It is coupled with Lot's portion in the plain of Jordan; of which it is said, “it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as thou comest unto Zoar.” Still its river bore only “the fatness of the earth;” and in this respect it is contrasted with Israel's portion, as chosen by the Lord." The land whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence

ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot as a garden of herbs: but the land whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven.

Accordingly, in after times, when their moral corruption was hastening on the sorrows of the Babylonish captivity, the Lord, by His prophet Jeremiah, expostulates with them thus:-“The children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God when He led thee by the way? And now what hast thou to do with Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor ? Or what hast thou to do in the


of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” Israel (had they known how to value it) had their own fountain of living waters;" and ought never to have been indebted to the streams of Egypt, or the nations around them.

As to Egypt, Joseph's history may indeed cast a halo of glory over it;—as even the world itself will be changed in its character when the humbled One comes to take His power; b still its real character is to be found only in the hard and bitter bondage of Israel. For how often is that word repeated in the books of Moses, “Remember ye were bondmen in Egypt!” And their redemption is thus characterised in Deuteronomy iv. 20, “ The Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance as it is this day.”

It required the plagues of Egypt, and the blood of the Passover, to put God's captive people and their oppressors,

b So, in God's prophetic purposes, there is another destination for Egypt, when Israel under Messiah becomes the head of the Gentiles, and “they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord to Jerusalem.” This is presented in Isai. xix. " And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt; every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts, which he hath determined against it" (ver. 17). “In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord, in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord " (ver. 19). " And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation" (ver. 20). “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Égypt, my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance (ver. 24, 25). The whole chapter is one of the deepest interest in connexion with the millennial glory and blessing of the earth.


[ocr errors]

into their true relative position towards each other. And accordingly, God's relation to Israel, in redemption, is thus expressed, “ I am the Lord thy God that brought thee out of Egypt;" while the confession that was connected with the offering of “the basket of first fruits” was designed to be the constant memorial of this.

6. Thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish, was my father; and he went down to Egypt to sojourn there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous; and the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage; and when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked upon our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression; and the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs and with wonders; and He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land that floweth with milk and honey.” (Deut. xxvi.)

Still, almost as soon as ever they had reached the wilderness (the place of earthly destitution, and of heavenly supply), Egypt assumes another character in their eyes than the land of their oppression, and the place of God's judgment. “The children of Israel said unto them [Moses and Aaron] would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the füll.” And they were not ashamed to say,

" it was well with us in Egypt!The reason of all this is obvious and instructive. To walk with God in a wilderness requires faith, and that spirit of dependence which nothing but faith can give. But to be satisfied with the supplies of Egypt is a thing which is perfectly understood by sense. Thus, whenever the necessities of their condition demanded the exercise of faith-and faith was not there, they, “in their hearts, turned back again into Egypt." And on one occasion, they said, “were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt." Nor was this all: their religion was corrupted by Egypt. The worship of “ the calf” was Egyptian idolatry;

« PreviousContinue »