The Revelation of Jehovah

And Jehovah said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for by a strong hand shall he let them go, and by a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. 

And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, wherein they sojourned. And moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. 

Exodus 6:1-5

(RV)

In Egypt, the land of Pharaoh, on the river Nile, the scene was set for one of the great revelations of all times. God had determined to manifest His greatness and His power in such a way that it would be declared throughout all the earth. For this purpose the providence of God had been preparing the situation in Egypt for many years. 

First there was Pharaoh. A reprobate and therefore unregenerate man, he had been set upon the throne of the great and powerful nation of Egypt. Already he had revealed the wickedness of his heart. When first upon the throne he had followed the example of his predecessors in persecuting the children of Israel with hard labor and other grievous afflictions. It was more than a merely utilitarian move to gain the fruits of their labor; it arose out of a deep-set hatred for the people of God. Thus when Moses and Aaron had come to demand that Israel be allowed to go and worship its God, he had answered back in anger. He refused to recognize the very existence of Israel’s God. He refused to allow Israel to go and worship its God. As though to prove the superiority of his own authority and power, he commanded that Israel’s already unbearable burden should be made many times the greater. Pharaoh was a wicked man. When presented with the Word of God, he had only one desire, to prove that it was false. 

Then there were the children of Israel. Their fathers had been brought into the land of Egypt by Joseph four hundred years before. For many years they had lived peacefully in Egypt and had learned to love its prosperity. But in recent years this had been changed by the ever increasing burden of persecution. At last, groaning under their affliction, they had cried to their God for deliverance. With joy they had listened to the message of Moses and Aaron assuring them that God had heard their prayers and the time of deliverance was drawing near. With believing hearts they bowed and worshipped. But when instead of deliverance they found that the anger of Pharaoh was aroused and their burden of labor was increased, their faith faltered and was well nig gone. They disowned the leadership of Moses and refused to listen any more to his words. 

Finally there was Moses himself. Through forty years in the wilderness of Midian he had learned to know himself as a sinner, dependent completely upon his God. But with humility had come a calling and a command to go and lead the children of Israel out of bondage. He had not wanted to go, but because he feared God he had obeyed. His only confidence had been based on the power of the Word of God. Now he had spoken this word both to Israel and to Pharaoh. It had not wrought deliverance. It had only aroused the anger of Pharaoh and increased the burden of Israel. Moses found himself rejected by all. Discouraged he turned to God and complained, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? for since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.” 

This was the situation that God had prepared to show forth His glory. There was none who expected that deliverance for Israel was possible. Pharaoh was determined to use all of his power to prevent it. Israel in weakness of faith had faltered and desired only to appease the anger of Pharaoh. Even Moses had faltered when Israel was not immediately saved and he found himself rejected by all. For what was soon to happen no man would ever be able to take the credit. It would be a work founded solely upon the faithfulness of Jehovah to His covenant. 

Having heard the complaint of Moses, God came to him and spoke. “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.” In spite of all appearances God’s promise remained sure and true. He had promised to deliver His people, and regardless of how impossible it appeared to Moses and Israel, that he would do. Moreover, He went on to instruct Moses how and why this could be so. He said, “I am the LORD (Jehovah); and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord (Jehovah), and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: and I will take you to me for a people and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord (Jehovah) your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land concerning the which I did swear to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord (Jehovah).” 

Central in the whole work of God whereby He delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt was the name Jehovah. By giving this name pre-eminence in His revelation God was introducing a new phase of covenant dealings with His people. This name had been known by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but not as the principal name of God. In their day He had revealed Himself as God Almighty Who, because of His great power, was able to establish His covenant and take them to be His covenant friends. Now it was no longer necessary to stress the establishment of the covenant and the ability of God to do it. Now it was necessary to reveal His faithfulness to the covenant long before established with the fathers. This faithfulness was implied in the name Jehovah. It was equivalent to the name I AM THAT I AM with which God had first appeared to Moses in the burning bush. It implied that God would continue to perform the works promised to the fathers many years before. He had heard the groanings of Israel and would restore them to the land of Promise. It implied, as God said to Moses, “I have remembered my covenant.” 

Revived by this Word from God, Moses went again to speak to the children of Israel. But the people had tasted of the cruelty of Pharaoh and would not be encouraged to anything that might arouse his wrath the more. In anguish of spirit they rejected the word of Moses. 

Again God appeared unto Moses and said, “Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.” 

To Moses this appeared an impossible command. He felt as though he had come up against a wall past which he could not proceed. The people of his own nation, who had at first received him with joy, would no longer listen to him. For this he felt guilty and responsible. Was it not perhaps the crudeness and vileness of his own lips that had offended them and brought the matter to such an evil state? If he could not maintain his influence over the Israelites who were essentially sympathetic, how could he ever do anything with Pharaoh who hated him? He brought his objection to God, “Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?” 

Patiently the Lord explained to Moses. “See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” It was not the inability of Moses to speak well that had aroused the anger of Pharaoh; it was the normal reaction of a wicked heart to the Word of God. Moses stood as the representative of God, and it was that which anger of Pharaoh. This was, as God had ordained, the way in which He would reveal His own greatness as Jehovah. Not Moses but God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart. 

It was at that time also that God instructed Moses, saying, “When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.” 

Encouraged again by this revelation from God, Moses and Aaron went forth into the court of Pharaoh. Boldly they repeated the command of God that Israel should be released to serve God in the wilderness. As God had foretold, Pharaoh was ready to challenge them by demanding of them a sign of power, a miracle. At the command of Moses, Aaron cast down Moses’ rod and it became a serpent. 

This was a significant miracle. The rod was a symbol of the authority which had been entrusted to Moses at the burning bush, the office of shepherd to God’s chosen people and representative of God. The serpent, on the other hand, had been, since the fall of man, a symbol of Satan and the power of sin. Rather significantly, the Egyptians of that time had taken it also as the chief symbol of their gods. The act of Moses revealed symbolically that the powers of evil can only go forth as determined by the act and authority of Jehovah, the God of Israel. 

To Pharaoh, however, this miracle was not very impressive. His wise men were experienced in the works of sorcery which included the charming and manipulation of snakes. Summoned by Pharaoh, they with their enchantments soon put on the appearance of duplicating the act of Moses. 

It was then that the truly significant thing happened. The serpent which came forth from Moses’ rod swallowed those which the Egyptian magicians had cast down. This was a warning to which Pharaoh might well have taken heed. The evil deeds of Pharaoh and his magicians and his gods, represented in the serpents, would never be able to escape the determinate power of Israel’s God. The power represented by Moses’ rod would swallow them up and bring them to naught. Moses had but to catch the tail of the remaining serpent and it was restored again into his rod, destroying for ever the works of the wise men of Pharaoh. 

This was the first outward demonstration of the power of Jehovah in Egypt. All that was to follow would only serve to substantiate its truth. In faithfulness to His covenant, He was determined to deliver His people. All the powers of sin which sought to oppose Him could only do so in subjection to His determination and power. In doing so they would be swallowed up and destroyed. God was showing directly to Pharaoh what soon would happen to him. But this revelation only served to harden the heart of Pharaoh the more. In the stubbornness of his wicked pride he refused to hearken unto the Word of God, even as God had said. 

—B.W.