Cole Newton

Chosen to Proclaim | 1 Peter 2:9

We proclaim Christ because He called us out of darkness into marvelous light. Speaking of Christ should not be a chore because we are giving the good news to those who are still in darkness. If you have been brought by Christ out of darkness, you are then a new person with a new identity, but with that identity comes the need to proclaim Christ. May we never cease proclaim His excellencies throughout the duration of our exile.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV

Peter’s first epistle is filled with hope to a persecuted people. Throughout the letter, the apostle makes references to the condition of the believers’ lives, comparing their lives in this world to the Israelites in the Babylonian exile. He calls them exiles and sojourners, saying that they are of the Dispersion, which is another term for Israel’s exile. It is very clear that these Christians no longer belong to the culture around them. They feel as though they are strangers and foreigners, even though they are living in the cities of their youth.
Peter explains why in this verse. Christians are supposed to feel strange within the culture around them because we are foreigners. As followers of Christ, we are a new people group, a nation within the nations. Our primary identity is no longer our homeland nor our ethnicity; it is our being in Christ.
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The LORD Knows—Psalm 1:6

Even if Christ does not return for another millennia, each of us will surely see His face, in either grace or judgment, within the next century. But we certainly do long for the day when the very path to destruction itself will be destroyed.

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,but the way of wicked will perish.Psalm 1:6 ESV

After all has been said in the first five verses of Psalm 1, this sixth and final verse gives us the fitting concluding contrast between the blessed and the wicked. The blessed, here synonymously called the righteous just as the wicked and sinners are used interchangeably, are known by the LORD, while the wicked are doomed to perish. Of course, when the psalmist states that the LORD knows the way of the righteous, he does not simply mean an intellectual knowledge, for we know that the LORD knows all things. He has numbered each hair, each heartbeat, each breath, of both the righteous and the sinner. No, an experiential knowledge is being described here; He has a personal knowledge of the righteous, whereas the wicked perish by being cast out of His sight.
Yet notice that the psalmist is not really speaking of the righteous nor the wicked directly. Instead, ‘the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.’ The path of the righteous is always in the LORD’s blessed sight, as David rightly said: “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). That is the reality being conveyed here. Even when the righteous fall, they do not come to ruin, for the LORD continues to uphold them.
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The Wicked Will Not Stand | Psalm 1:5

Although we may lament the prosperity of the wicked, let us keep the day of judgment ever before our eyes. In Psalm 73, Asaph began to envy the wicked, who seem to have no trouble at all, yet when he went to the sanctuary of God, he was reminded anew that the LORD establishes the wicked “in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin” (Psalm 73:16). 

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment
Psalm 1:5 ESV

After giving a three-verse portrait of the blessed, the psalmist gave a terse contrasting image of the wicked. Unlike the blessed, they do not delight in and meditate upon God’s Word; thus, they are not rooted in eternal truth like trees beside streams of water as the blessed are. Rather, they are like chaff that the wind drives away. ‘Therefore,’ the psalmist continues, ‘the wicked will not stand in the judgment.’
While there can be any number of judgments that the LORD pours out upon the wicked in this life, the psalmist likely has the final judgment in mind, the day when “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Elsewhere, Scripture calls this the Day of the LORD. Under the new covenant, we know it also as the return of our Lord, the second coming of Christ. John records his vision of that day:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated upon it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.
REVELATION 20:11-12, 15
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The Wicked Are Not So | Psalm 1:4

Do you walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scoffers? Do you take no delight in the Scriptures and never meditate upon them? If so, then you certainly cannot claim to be rooted like a tree in God’s Word as the blessed are. You, therefore, meet the criteria of the wicked. Thankfully, there is hope in this life, even for the wicked. 

The wicked are not so,
Psalm 1:4 ESV

As we set our gaze upon verse 4, the psalmist presents us with the great contrast of this psalm. You see, for the first three verses, the focus has been upon the blessed man, the one who is favored by God. Verse 1 revealed the company that he avoids (the wicked, sinners, and scoffers). Verse 2 then gave us what company he keeps, namely, the LORD via meditating upon His law. Finally, in verse 3, the psalmist illustrated the steadfast prosperity of the blessed man by comparing him to a fruitful and ever-green tree. All of this must necessarily be understood in order to grasp at the depths of meaning within the simple statement of this verse: the wicked are not so.
Although the psalmist has already introduced us to the wicked, he now presents the wicked as a category opposite to the blessed. As we already discussed, the overall teaching of this psalm is to contrast these two groups of people and then to ask ourselves to which we belong.
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One Plague More | Exodus 11

Although Pharaoh continued to exalt himself above the LORD, God made the king of Egypt into a joke in the sight of his people before finally swallowing him down into the deep. Moses, however, gave himself to being God’s servant. In humbling himself, the LORD exalted Moses above Pharaoh.

Following the explosiveness of the first nine plagues, we come now to a very short chapter that serves as an interlude before the tenth and final plague is poured out upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Here Moses concludes his dialogue with Pharaoh for good, promising a great wail of death throughout Egypt to come. As we study this chapter (moving somewhat backwards), we will focus upon three main themes: the purpose of the plagues, God’s curse upon the Egyptians, and God’s blessing upon the Israelites.
The Purpose of the Plagues // Verses 9-10
Let us begin with how this chapter concludes, which should be quite familiar to us by now:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.
Specifically, these two verses are repeating the words that God spoke to Moses before the prelude sign of the staff becoming a serpent was worked before Pharaoh (see 7:3-4). Thus, these two passages form a sort of bookend on these first ten signs that the LORD displayed to Pharaoh, and they build up the tension for the final plague.
This is also a great place for us to conclude by reflecting upon the purpose of the plagues that God brought upon Egypt. The ultimate reason is suggested in verse 9: that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. God worked the wonders of the plagues so that His glory would be displayed throughout the land of Egypt. Again, God’s glory is the radiance of His nature and character, the visible display of who He is. Thus, the purpose of the plagues was to show both the Israelites and the Egyptians that the LORD is God and there is none like Him.
Indeed, consider the reasons that God has given for all of the signs in the book of Exodus so far:
Exodus 4:5 | that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.
Exodus 7:3–5 | 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.
Exodus 7:17 | Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood.”
Exodus 8:22–23 | But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.
Exodus 9:14–16 | For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.
Exodus 10:1–2 | Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”
Notice the pattern: God did these signs in the land of Egypt as a revelation of Himself, to display His glory. Pharaoh’s ever-hardening heart, His judgment upon the Egyptians, and the blessing of the Israelites throughout these plagues were all about the LORD making Himself known to the all the earth, both in that generation and beyond.
Death Comes to Egypt // Verses 1, 4-8
Our text begins with the LORD speaking again to Moses, saying, Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. As we said of verse 1 in chapter 6, the LORD still has not directly told Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave Egypt permanently; instead, the demand has only been to let them go a three-day’s journey into the wilderness to worship Him. To emphasize the utter hardness of Pharaoh’s heart, the Egyptian king did not yield to this demand even after nine plagues that left Egypt in ruins. God, however, was determined not only to break the king’s stubbornness but would actually use him to send the Israelites out of Egypt entirely.
But how could the LORD so thoroughly change Pharaoh’s mind when he was so blind to the message of the first nine plagues? He would do so with a final plague that would make the others seem like child’s play in comparison. Verses 4-6 record the warning that Moses gave to Pharaoh:
So Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.
We might first rightly ask how Moses was able to give this warning to Pharaoh after the conclusion of the ninth plague. While we could easily envision Pharaoh going back on his word, the fact that Moses agreed to never see Pharaoh’s face again means that this declaration to Pharaoh likely immediately followed that dialogue at the end of chapter 10. Indeed, we can easily imagine Moses preparing to walk away as he said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.” But before he left the palace, the LORD gave the prophet one last word to speak to the king of Egypt. And what a word it was!
First, the LORD promised to bring death upon the land of Egypt. But this would not be random and indiscriminate death. No, it was going to be a precise, targeted death that fell upon all firstborns in Egypt, from Pharaoh’s own crown prince to the poorest slave girl and even to the cattle. The specificity of this plague would leave no doubt that the LORD Himself had worked this plague.
Also, since the Egyptians were obsessed with death, this was a very fitting climax to the signs and wonders that God performed. Indeed, Ryken notes how this plague also humiliated Egypt’s gods:
The god of the dead was Osiris, whose name meant “the Mighty One; he who has sovereign power.” His assistant was Anubis, the god of the underworld. Anubis supervised the embalming process and guided the dead during their passage to the afterlife. He came in canine form, which incidentally may partly explain the reference to dogs in verse 7a: “But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast.” The Israelites would remain untouched by death, thus proving that Anubis held no power over them. Meanwhile, the death of Egypt’s sons would prove that Israel’s God was the Lord of life and death.[1]
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Its Leaf Does Not Wither | Psalm 1:3

Charles Spurgeon once fittingly wrote: “The Lord’s trees are all evergreens. No winter’s cold can destroy their verdure; and yet, unlike evergreens in our country, they are all fruit bearers.” Each season will bring its own variety and quantity fruit in the life of a Christian, yet throughout each season, the blessed man’s leaves remain green. He is rooted beside streams that do not run dry, which keep his leaves unwithered.

and its leaf does not wither.
Psalm 1:3 ESV

As we continue to meditate through Psalm 1, we reach the third and final metaphorical description of the blessed man’ tree-likeness: and its leaf does not wither. As we have seen, the comparison of God’s people to a tree is meant to convey steadfastness that, although it begins small and grows slowly, becomes large and mighty in the end. To this end, the previous phrases have described the tree’s source of growth (streams of water) and its fruitfulness in season. Now the psalmist describes the endurance of the tree through its unwithered leaves.
Interestingly, our association of trees with fortitude is typically centered upon trees’ trunks. The trunk, after all, is the largest, strongest portion of a tree. The psalmist, however, does not describe an unbroken trunk as a metaphor for the endurance and perseverance of God’s people; instead, he turns to the leaves, which are quite easily the most fragile part of a tree. Indeed, every year winter’s winds shrivel tree’s leaves until the fall to the earth dead. Of course, in warmer places, the great heat of the summer can do the same, which is likely what the psalmist had in mind.
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Flies, Cattle, Boils | Exodus 8:20-9:12

The judgment of God on that day will be far more severe than all the plagues against the Egyptians, which means that every person ought to give the best of their attention to discovering whether they are counted among God’s people or not. Again, the Israelites were no less sinners than the Egyptians; they were spared simply because God chose them to be His people. The wrath of God will soon be poured out once for all, so we should strive to dwell in a land greater than Goshen.

Last week we began to study the ten great plagues that the LORD brought upon the land of Egypt in response to Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to let God’s people go. We continue here with the second set of three plagues, and there is indeed textual evidence for viewing the first nine plagues as three sets of three all leading up to the tenth and final wonder that God would work. Each set follows a similar pattern. Plagues one, four, and seven all have Moses and Aaron going out to meet Pharaoh in the morning. Plagues two, five, and eight all see the prophets going into Pharaoh’s palace. Finally, plagues three, six, and nine are each brought forth with no warning given to the king of Egypt.
There also appears to be themes that connect each set of three plagues. The first three focus upon the Nile and the dust of Egypt being turned from instruments of sustenance to instruments of pestilence, and they also end with Pharaoh’s magicians bowing out of the conflict. The second three seem to be directed at the people and households of Egypt and particularly emphasize the distinction that God made between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The third set of three are each plagues that come from the heavens, while also showing that even Pharaoh’s servants were beginning to protest against him.
I will Set Apart the Land of Goshen // Verses 20-32
The fourth plague begins with Moses and Aaron again going before Pharaoh in the morning as he went out to the Nile. God’s demand is the same: Let my people go, that they may serve me. Of course, the Egyptian king was not yet going to obey the LORD, so a plague of flies was both threatened and enacted.
As with the gnats, the exact insect that God brought upon Egypt is unclear. Perhaps they were the very household flies that we still swat at today. They also could have been some sort of biting fly. Some think that a swarm of scarab beetles is being described. Again, we simply do not know which insect the LORD used here. Both some type of fly and scarabs would have been significant to the Egyptians. If this was a swarm of flies, then perhaps this was the desecration of Uatchit or even of Beelzebub, who was also worshiped by some Egyptians.[1] If this was a swarm of scarabs, then a sacred emblem of Egypt was being cast in full upon them, similar to the plague of frogs. Indeed, we should remember that the text before us is God’s inspired Word, not the historical event itself. Therefore, even if the LORD only brought one kind of insect upon the Egyptians, perhaps the insect is purposely ambiguous as a way of displaying that God could have used either.
A new element is now added to the plague equation.
But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people.
While it seems likely that God also shielded His people from the effects of the first three plagues, the distinction was explicitly pointed out to Pharaoh in this fourth plague. While there is much to say about this division between the Israelites and the Egyptians, it is a theme that runs throughout these three plagues, so we will discuss it more fully toward the end.
Here is another one of God’s ironic reversals. In chapter 1, Pharaoh and the Egyptians set themselves apart from the Israelites that were “swarming” their land by enslaving them and then murdering their infant sons. Here the LORD is only widening the distinction that the Egyptians had already made, and He is showing them what an actual swarm looks like.
In response to the ruining of Egypt with flies, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron to say, Go, sacrifice to your God within the land. Here we see a progression in the language of Pharaoh. In response to the second plague, he said that he would let the people go if Moses and Aaron would plead with the LORD to take away the frogs. Now we find his immediate command for Moses and Aaron to take the Israelites to make their sacrifices to the LORD. How wonderful! Or is it?
Notice the compromise that Pharaoh is demanding. He permitted them to sacrifice so long as they remained in Egypt, yet that was not Yahweh’s demand. The LORD demanded that His people be given leave to go a three-day’s journey into the wilderness to worship Him. Especially given the reality that this would not be Pharaoh’s final attempt at reaching a compromise, we should take time to consider the dangers therein. You see, it would have been all too easy for the fearful Moses to justify going along with this compromise. After all, Pharaoh was going to let them worship the LORD. That was what truly mattered, right?
As time goes on, I come to an ever-greater appreciation of the regulative principle of worship, which argues that the church’s gathered worship should be regulated by what Scripture commands us to do. Those commands would be to pray, to sing, to preach the Word, and to observe the ordinances. While there is certainly a great amount of freedom in how each congregation can practice those elements of worship, virtually everything else is being excluded from the Lord’s Day gathering. I continue to see the benefit of that regulation because within our age of self, it is all too easy for us to turn worshiping God into work of self-actualization.
In other words, we like to individualize worship just as much as we individualize everything else. We see this at play whenever someone claims that doing [insert any given hobby] is more worshipful to them than going to church. We also see it in the lives of Christians who can never settle into a particular congregation because they cannot find their Goldilocks church that is neither too hot nor too cold but just right. The sorrowful reality is that they may have already found membership within the church of Laodicea.
Of course, this mentality is by no means limited to corporate worship because we all are capable of turning to various things for spiritual nourishment instead of reading and meditating upon God’s Word. Scripture is clear, however, that God does not simply demand worship; He also demands to be worshiped in a correct manner, in obedience to His commands. We see this in the First and Second Commandments. The First Commandment demands that we worship God alone, but the Second Commandment (and even the Third and Fourth as well) dictates how God is to be worshiped. The form matters. Indeed, the LORD told His people through the prophet Isaiah that He hated their sacrifices and festivals because of their wicked hearts (see Isaiah 1). They happily worshiped God yet still held onto their sin. They accepted a variation of Pharaoh’s compromise, thinking that they could worship the LORD without ever leaving their own personal Egypts.
Are you likewise compromising? Is their sin that you still cling to, hoping that it is small enough not to negatively impact your worship of the Holy One? More broadly, how do you think of worship in the first place? Is your view of worship rooted in the scriptural commands of God or in your perceived individual needs?
But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he tells us.”
Take note of Moses’ answer to Pharaoh’s proposed compromise. He began by immediately declaring that it would not be right for them to accept the king’s offer, but he then offered two reasons as to why.
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Pharaoh Will Not Listen | Exodus 6:10-7:13

Through the great wonders that God would pour out upon Egypt, He was declaring to both the Israelites and the Egyptians that Yahweh is God. Both peoples would come to know Him. The Israelites would know Yahweh as their God, while the Egyptians would be forced to acknowledge that He is the Most High, the only true God. Of course, some of the Egyptians would be so convinced of Yahweh’s might that they would abandon Egypt and join Israel in their exodus; most, however, would remain as hard-hearted as their king.

Last week we observed God’s second revelation of Himself to Moses, and we should note that such there is a similar repetition to all of chapters 5-6. You see, in chapters 1-4, we find this overall pattern: God’s people suffer and cry out, God hears their cry and reveals Himself to Moses, and God commissions Moses to speak to Pharaoh. After his and Aaron’s first brief encounter with Pharaoh, the pattern is then repeated: God’s people suffered even more, Moses cries out on their behalf, God hears and further reveals Himself to Moses, and now in our present passage, God sends Moses again to Pharaoh’s court.
We will break up our passage into three scenes. First, we find Moses again declaring his fear and inability to serve on God’s behalf. Second, God sends Moses and Aaron to their second encounter with Pharaoh. Third, the two men prelude the oncoming plagues with the sign of their staff becoming a serpent in Pharaoh’s court.
These are Moses and Aaron //  Verses 10-30
After God’s repeated and emphatic self-revelation to Moses, we read:
So the LORD said to Moses, “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.” But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” But the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
Just as at Horeb, these verse record Moses pleading his inability and fear before God’s recommissioning. Chapter 5 proved his previous fear that the Israelites would not listen to him, and he has no reason to expect that Pharaoh would listen either. His mouth is simply not sufficient to accomplish the task that God has given him. Nevertheless, the LORD gave Moses and Aaron authority to do the work that He called them to do.
You may have noticed that a genealogy of Moses appears to be randomly inserted after these verses. Douglas Stuart, however, informs us that the genealogy’s placement is not as random as it may first appear:
In the style of ancient Near Eastern writing and according to the concerns of ancient Near Eastern culture, a genealogy here is neither out of place nor stylistically intrusive but welcome and perfectly placed. At the end of 6:12, the ongoing narrative stops for a moment: right at the point where Moses said, in effect, “I can’t do it.” This would be the ideal point for a commercial in a modern TV dramatic presentation, the point just before the resolution of the suspense, since the viewer’s interest level is held by the emotional interest in story resolution. Most ancient narratives had no concern for preservation of suspense per se. But neither did it hurt to place a review and retrospective, which is that 6:13-27 functions as in Exodus, at a location just prior to a major story resolution, the final, great divine reassurance of Moses’ call, commission, and challenge (6:28-7:7) equipping him for the launching of the plagues (7:8 and following).[1]
Indeed, the importance of this genealogy is emphasized by verses 26-30 essentially restating verses 10-13, although with the repetition of these are the Moses and Aaron… this Moses and Aaron. All genealogies in Scripture give us a chance to pause and marvel at God’s providential care of His people throughout seemingly unimportant generations. While it is easy for our eyes to gloss over while trying to read these foreign and difficult names, we should remind ourselves that each name belonged to a flesh and blood fellow image-bearer with hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows that were just as real as yours or mine.
This particular genealogy, however, takes that providential point and applies it squarely upon Moses and even more pointedly upon Aaron (notice that Moses’ wife and descendants are not listed, while Aaron’s are). Ryken explains that this genealogy establishes Moses and Aaron “as full-blooded Hebrews.” He goes on:
The same Moses and Aaron who led Israel out of Egypt were true sons of Israel. But the genealogy is especially interested in the status of Aaron. Its purpose is to show that he is a legitimate leader in his own right, and thus a worthy partner for Moses.  Up until now the focus has been on Moses, who as everyone knew was called to be Israel’s prophet. But as the story resumes in Exodus 7, we are prepared for his older brother Aaron to take an increasingly prominent role.[2]
That prominent role will later be seen as Aaron becomes the first high priest of Israel. Furthermore, is it not an interesting parallel that God answered Moses’ original concern over his inadequacies of speech by promising to send Aaron with him, and now God’s providential hand in Aaron’s lineage and descendants is particularly highlighted?
The listing of family of Aaron and Moses displays that God did not randomly or arbitrarily select these men to lead Israel; instead, the LORD’s hand was upon the lives of each of their ancestors, as it would also be over their descendants. God always intended to use Moses and Aaron for this task, even while their patriarch Levi still lived. The words that Mordecai spoke of Esther were equally true of Moses and Aaron: they were born for such a time as this, born to lead God’s people out of their bondage in Egypt.
This divine orchestration of God is most clearly seen in the genealogy of Christ, which gives us an opportunity to reflect over God’s sovereign preserving of Abraham’s promised offspring until the fullness of time for God’s Son to take on flesh had come. Indeed, two persons from Jesus’ genealogy are also found here: Amminadab and Nahshon, who were the father and brother of Aaron’s wife. Thus, the LORD has even worked history so that Israel’s first high priest married into the family of the eternal High Priest of God’s people.
Returning to Pharaoh // Verses 1-7
In these verses, we arrive at our second scene. While the first scene addressed Moses’ fears by displaying God’s sovereign plan of raising up Moses and Aaron, this scene gives us the LORD’s message to Moses as he readies himself to appear before Pharaoh a second time.
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.
While there are numerous points that we could draw from and remark upon these verses, let us address four.
First, despite Moses’ fears and inability, the LORD began by saying that He has made Moses like God to Pharaoh with Aaron acting as his prophet. We should note, however, that the word like is not in the Hebrew text. A literal reading is, therefore: See, I have made you God to Pharaoh. While we might rightfully squirm at that language being used, we can, of course, relax that God is in no way calling Moses a deity. Indeed, Moses has clearly shown us all of his fears and failures in the writing of this book, by no means hiding God’s marvelous grace in using him to deliver God’s people.
Yet neither is the LORD speaking a falsehood. He was not deifying Moses in actuality, but in Pharaoh’s eyes, Moses was God, for he was the LORD’s ambassador and representative. Pharaoh certainly knew enough of foreign diplomacy to know that an ambassador was to be treated as if he was the king or nation that he represented. Indeed, Pharaoh would have regularly sent out ambassadors of his own with the expectation that they would be treated as though they were Pharaoh himself.
Furthermore, remember that Pharaoh called himself a son of the gods, believing that he was their physical representation on earth. Since he viewed himself as divine, he spoke to people through messengers, most notably a servant who bore the title of the mouth of Pharaoh. Thus, the LORD was very purposely making his servant Moses into what Pharaoh viewed himself as being.
What is even more amazing is that God has placed us in a similar role. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” Through the indwelling Spirit, we are the body of Christ, His hands, feet, and mouth in the world. Therefore, as Paul prayed, we ought to speak the gospel boldly, for we are no less under the command and authority of God than Moses and Aaron were as they appeared before Pharaoh.
Second, in verses 3-4, God told Moses again that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart and that the king of Egypt would not listen to Moses. Recall from verse 12 of chapter 6 that this was precisely Moses’ fear, and now the LORD was confirming it. He was being sent to proclaim God’s Word, even though Pharaoh will not hear it.
Here again is a wonderful time to bring remind ourselves of a point that we have already noted several times before: God does not operate according to our wisdom. In fact, if we were consultants brought in to help Moses have a more effective ministry, we would certainly counsel him not to waste his time preaching to someone like Pharaoh who was never going to believe anyway. After all, there were surely better uses of Moses’ time and giftings, right? It turns out that God often called His prophets to declare His Word to those with deaf ears, blind eyes, and hard hearts, just look at Isaiah 6. Most significantly, most of those who heard Jesus throughout His ministry did not believe, and even after His resurrection, we are told that some who saw Him still doubted. How disheartening!
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Who Is the LORD? | Exodus 5

Although our justification before God was completed entirely, once for all, upon the cross of Christ, our final deliverance from sin is just as much of a process as Israel’s exodus. We are being sanctified in Christ each day, so we need the gospel just as much today as we did whenever we first believed. Indeed, we will often find that the deeper the gospel penetrates our hearts, the harder our sinful flesh fight back. Or we find that during times of pain and affliction how easy is it to return to the entrenched paths of sin for “comfort,” just as the Israelites first brought their complaint to Pharaoh. 

As last, here in the fifth chapter of Exodus, we find the first confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. Through all of his faults and fears, Moses returned to Egypt with his brother Aaron and told the elders of Israel all that God had spoken to him. In response, they believed what Moses had said and worshiped the LORD. Now, with the support of his people behind him, the prophet of God is ready to speak directly to the king of Egypt.
Thus Says the Lord // Verses 1-3
Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh… After receiving the support of the elders of Israel, Moses and Aaron were clearly not interested in wasting time. How exactly they were able to get a standing before the king of Egypt so quickly is not mentioned here, but I would assume that the gravitas of these two messengers of the Most High would have convinced Pharaoh’s servants that their message was an important matter to attend to.
In this initial dialogue with Pharaoh, which we should remember was happening between Aaron and the mouth of Pharaoh while Moses and Pharaoh watched the proceedings and perhaps whispered in the ear of their ‘prophet,’ Moses and Aaron speak twice. Their initial pronouncement is a direct demand, coming from the very mouth of the Great I Am: Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.” Then after Pharaoh dismisses the words of the Almighty, the prophets speak again: The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.
Many have noted the shift in tone between their first and second statements, for the first is an authoritative demand from God while the second appears to be a polite request from Moses and Aaron. We should remember, however, that God explicitly commanded Moses to speak the words of their second statement back in 3:18. Therefore, it is not as if Moses and Aaron were cowering down after meeting the initial opposition of Pharaoh. Indeed, as we noted before, the LORD is apparently giving Pharaoh this simple request merely to let the Israelites go a three-days’ journey in order to display the hardness of the king’s heart. It is to reveal that Pharaoh would not even let the Hebrews go temporarily. Thus, it is not as if things would have been any different if the LORD had offered a compromise to Pharaoh.
As dismissive as Pharaoh’s response is, let us draw this bit of encouragement: success in evangelism is not measured by the response of the receiver but by the faithfulness of the herald. Moses and Aaron were faithful in their mission to proclaim God’s Word, even though we have already been told that Pharaoh would not listen. Nevertheless, God intended to pile up His warnings to Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would be that much more worthy of judgment. Although we should pray mightily for the salvation of everyone around us, we would do well to remember that God’s mercy and judgment are the same today. Although we are to proclaim the gospel to everyone, only some will be believe, and the others will have heaped greater judgment upon themselves for having also rejected God’s mercy and grace.

The final phrase of their proclamation is an interesting one: lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword. I do not think that we should read this as Moses and Aaron speaking of God’s judgment solely upon the Israelites; instead, it seems that they were still speaking of themselves as belonging to the nation of Egypt, which goes right along with this initial request to sacrifice in the wilderness and then return. Again, let us stress that the LORD is giving Pharaoh the great mercy of warning him of the coming judgment. Thankfully, this is how God almost always operates. He gives opportunity after opportunity for repentance before finally bringing down the sword of His justice and wrath. This will become incredibly clear as each of the plagues reveals the stubbornness of Pharaoh to be more and more worthy of God’s judgment.

Before discussing Pharoah’s responses, Philip Ryken makes an excellent point on how Christians might learn from the statements of Moses and Aaron:
This dialogue is a model for bold Christian witness. Moses and Aaron began by telling Pharaoh exactly what he had to do. But they also took the time to explain who was making this demand and why and what would happen if it wasn’t met. The God of Israel was demanding freedom for his people. He was making this demand so that he could be glorified in their worship, and if his demand was not met, he would respond with swift and terrible justice.
Christians ought to adopt a similar strategy in presenting the good news about Jesus Christ. The gospel is first of all a demand in which God commands sinners to repent and believe in his Son. But that demand requires some explanation. To repent is to be sorry for sin and turn away from it. To believe in God’s Son is to trust in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as the full payment for one’s sin. Christians also need to be prepared to explain why God makes this demand. Very simply, it is because those who refuse to come to Christ will be lost in their sins and will suffer the eternal punishment of God’s wrath. If you are not a Christian, consider yourself warned! Like Pharaoh, you have heard what God demands, as well as the consequences of refusing him.[1]
Pharaoh’s initial response to Moses and Aaron declaring, “Thus says the LORD…” is a perfect insight into the heart of this prideful monarch: Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.

Let us take a moment, however, to walk in Pharaoh’s shoes. Imagine the audacity of these demands from the perspective of Pharaoh. He believed himself to be a son of the gods, a god-man, both human and divine. And before him were two representatives from a nation of slaves, speaking on behalf of their God, a God who had let them endure slavery for four hundred years. Pharaoh’s response is, therefore, cold and honest, and as a self-proclaimed deity, he directed his skepticism and hostility directly at the God who had sent Moses and Aaron.

We see that skepticism and hostility in Pharaoh’s first question: who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? Pharaoh’s ignorance of the LORD was willful. Like all sinners until God intervenes, his skepticism of the LORD was directly tied to his refusal to obey God’s commands. Indeed, notice that Pharaoh’s response is essentially to say that he does not recognize the LORD as God but even if he did, he would not obey him. Citing Ryken again, he points out that Pharaoh’s answer reveals a pattern of unbelief among unbelievers in general:
Unbelief is partly an intellectual problem: the unbeliever does not know the Lord’s name. It is partly a spiritual problem: the unbeliever refuses to obey the Lord’s will. But often it is also a social problem: the unbeliever does not care for the Lord’s people.[2]
This is an important point to make because too often we treat most unbelief as purely intellectual, as if there were no other factors to consider. Paul, however, teaches us that all people know God as the Creator and the Lawgiver, and those who claim otherwise “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). While intellectual problems certainly do factor into unbelief, they are very rarely the primary problem once the heart of the matter is reached.
We can also use Pharaoh’s skeptic response to the command of the LORD to push back against the commonly held modern notion of skepticism as virtuous. Of course, as secularism increasingly uncovers itself to be just as religious as any other religion, that notion is somewhat going out of fashion. Yet it continues to hang on, nonetheless. While a certain degree of skepticism is necessary for scientific inquiry,[3] skepticism as a worldview is path to nihilism. C. S. Lewis wrote of this danger, saying:
But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.[4]

Skepticism itself is not a virtue. Like the scoffer of Psalms and Proverbs, the perpetual skeptic sees through everything until he makes himself blind, unable to see at all.

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The Seat of Scoffers | Psalm 1:1

Before we pride ourselves in avoiding such scoffers in our lives, I would make the argument that too many Christians today gladly sit in scoffing seats as they consume various forms of entertainment. The sad reality is that much of the media that we consume is produced by those who very much openly scoff at God’s wisdom as found within His Word and who actively seek to promote values antithetical to those in Scripture.

nor sits in the seat of scoffers
Psalm 1:1 ESV

The first verse of Psalm 1 concludes with a third description of the blessed man by way of negation. Those who walk in the favor of the LORD do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor do they stand in the way of sinners. Finally, they do not sit in the seat of scoffers.
Scoffer is not a commonly word used today, but it is very common within the wisdom literature of the Bible. A scoffer is typically presented as a kind of fool, one who has rejected the wisdom of God entirely, with a particular emphasis upon his speech. Indeed, scoffer is sometimes used synonymously with mocker to describe a person who is so critical that they have soundly left wisdom behind.
If you have ever read The Last Battle (the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia), the dwarfs who scoff at risking their lives to defend Narnia and eventually scoff at the heavenly reality around them are great examples. Their self-imposed blindness is exactly how scoffers end up. “Claiming to be wise, they became fool” (Romans 1:22).
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