“Certainly I will be with thee.” (Exodus 3:12)
VERY various are the discipline, the schooling, and the training through which each one of God’s people pass. I have sometimes said, and it is perfectly true, that God does not teach His people in classes, but that each one has to learn his lesson for himself. One by one are the people of God taught.
How wonderful was the training of God’s servant Moses for the mighty work, which the Lord had allotted to him! The wonder-working hand of God in Providence is seen at the very outset of his career, when from the reedy river Moses was drawn out, and brought to Pharaoh’s daughter,–drawn out of the jaws of death, and presently drawn out of an ungodly world. His training was exactly suited to the work, which God had for him to do. We kick against it; we often fight and rebel against it, but depend upon it, each one’s pathway and training, whether we serve God in public or in private, are managed by our great and wise and glorious Lord.
Now Moses we are told, was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in words and in deeds,–that is, the whole compass of science, and of earthly knowledge so far as the Egyptians knew it, Moses was conversant with. The mighty advance of science among the Egyptians is proved by those marvelous structures, which were standing in Moses’ day, the Pyramids, which were more than simple tombs, for they demonstrated the astronomical knowledge of the people. In early manhood God implanted His holy fear in the heart of Moses, for when he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be numbered with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. When God implants His holy fear in a human heart, it is always “an unctuous light to all that’s right, a bar to all that’s wrong.”
First, Moses refused; secondly, under the power and fear of the Lord, Moses chose, and thirdly, he esteemed. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He choose to be numbered with the afflicted people of God, and he esteemed the reproach of Christ to be greater than all the treasures of Egypt. This is a religion of God’s own giving by which a man in the midst of a court, a man who was on the high road to succeed to the crown, was neither dazzled nor ensnared by the things of the world. He cast in his lot with the poor and despised people of God. Now he is to be schooled in tribulation, and the school of tribulation commences when he refuses to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Now he is to learn in seclusion, and no man or woman has a religion of any depth unless they know what it is to be trained somewhat in seclusion. Moses is brought into the land of Midian, and for forty years he sits there at the feet of God, being further trained for his great work.
In Horeb. Martin Luther’s Horeb was the Augustinian convent, where light broke in upon him. John Knox’s Horeb was the seventeen months he passed laboring in the French galleys. Moses’ Horeb was in the land of Midian. Now God comes to him and unfolds before him his life work. “Moses, you have to testify before Pharaoh, who has become your bitterest enemy, and you are to bring forth Israel out of Egypt.” Like all the people of God who know their own weakness, and the plague of their own hearts, Moses trembled, and said, “Who am I, Lord, that I should be called to this great work?” Who is sufficient for these things? Our sufficiency is of God. And there came the words which must have fallen upon Moses’ heart with strengthening and divine power, “Certainly I will be with thee, I will not send thee a warfare at thine own charges; I will not give thee a message and then desert thee; I will not call thee to stand in the forefront, and then leave thee.” No word is of any private interpretation, and God says to every one of His dear children here, “Certainly”–there is not the shadow of the shade of a doubt about it–“certainly I will be with thee.”
God had given to Moses, prior to the speaking of this promise, that glorious object lesson. He had drawn near and seen the burning but unconsumed bush; not one fragile branch, not one green leaf, was being shriveled or scorched by that fierce fire. Why was this? Because God was in the midst of it! God was there, and so, dear believer, this morning the dark clouds of tribulation may hover over your horizon, the fierce fires of affliction and anxiety may be blowing around you, but if you are the Lord’s, God is with you, and with you as He is with His [Elect], of whom it is written, “God is in the midst of her.” Those fierce fires did not consume Israel in Egypt. God was with His people.
Our text, then, is the promise of Him that dwelt in the bush, the promise, which emanates from the goodwill of Him that dwelt in the bush. Who was He? Who is He? The believers Guardian and covenant God. He who has said–and we have proved the faithfulness of the word–“When thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isaiah 43:2)
“Who sends me?” asks Moses. “I AM THAT I AM,” replies the Lord, that is, “I am the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Infinite power hand in hand with infinite love! Infinite power and infinite love combined with infinite wisdom. Our covenant God in the midst of His people. No age stops His arm. No use exhausts His energies. No sin causes His love to dwindle, and no ingratitude chills it. It is ever, ever the same. Oh the blessedness of the Spirit-guided ones who this morning repose beneath the wings of Jesus Christ our Lord!
Let us briefly speak of three questions, which arise out of this Divine declaration. First of all, HOW is God with His people? secondly, WHEN is He with His people? thirdly, WHY is He with His people? How, when, why.
How is God certainly with His [Eternal] Church, and with every individual member of it? First of all, in the great and glorious fact of living union,–Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit, ever with His people. “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in One.” (John 17:23) Can you compass this word? I cannot. I stand in wonder, adoration and amazement.
“It is a deep that knows no sounding,
Without bottom or a shore.”
But it is a living fact. Your spiritual existence and mine depends upon it. It is a union which nothing can sever, a union, which nothing can dissolve: a union with God the Father through His Son; a union with God the Son through His Spirit! Father, Son and Spirit in living union with the worm Jacob! In living union with every tried saint! It is the covenant; it is the covenant union.
Secondly, and very briefly, WHEN is He with His people? Always. Have I been brought to depend day by day upon Christ Jesus the Lord? Have I been brought day by day, under a sense of weakness and dependence to cleave wholly to Jesus because there is no other refuge for my soul? Will He accept me? The Spirit of the living God proceeding from the Father through the Son comes into the soul, and faith, hope and love, the gifts and graces of the Spirit, are manifested thereby. Is it your daily experience? There are so many who can speak of their conversion so many years ago, and apparently things have gone on smoothly with them ever since. Why, we have to prove that in ourselves we are worse than nothing and vanity. God keep us from being unfruitful, dead branches, filled with self-conceit, filled with false piety. “I was converted years ago; that is all past and gone.” Then you do not want this promise, “Certainly I will be with thee.”
Now the God who did all this in eternity, the God who became incarnate, the God who in Person of His Son suffered, bled and died on Calvary’s cross, and who has now risen to die no more, has said, “Certainly I will be with thee.” May the comforter revive us in this precious knowledge. Never has He failed us. He has suffered us to hunger, but in another place we read, “The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.”
Lastly, WHY is this promise given? Because of our need, and so we are permitted to be brought into circumstances where Christ in the living experience of the heart is felt to be incalculably precious. Remember that word of John. It does not apply to John the Baptist merely, but to [every believer], “He must increase, but I must decrease.” To know the power and the preciousness, the touch, the grace, and the fullness of the Lord our God, there must be decrease on our part. We must go down, and He go up in our experience and estimation, so that the most needy shall know most of the stability of Christ. You mourn your deadness–“Certainly I will be with thee.” He is the Fountain of life, and it is life that makes you mourn your deadness. You mourn your darkness–“Certainly I will be with thee.” He is your light, and you have light to mourn over your darkness. You mourn over you lack of love. Satan may sometimes say, “You have no more love than I have,” but God knows we have. What a Saviour He is! “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb (Christ Jesus the Lord), but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet,” (Proverbs 27:7) and God knows we do not loathe the honeycomb, and as hungry souls we shall yet know the sweetness of the bitter things.
“O, Christ He is the Fountain,
The deep sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
More deep I’ll drink above.
There to an ocean fulness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land!”
God give unto us then that in the strength of this promise, we may go forward. With us in life, in death, in trouble, and in joy, and with us down all the ages of eternity!