‘Out of the Brickyard, into God’s Best’ (Exodus 1.1-7)
It is clear that each Book of the Bible has its own particular theme. Genesis for instance majors on election to salvation, Exodus the method of saving, redemption. Then in Leviticus we have worship as the focus, and of course how to worship. But why study Exodus? Well Scripture itself answers the question for us, “such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. They give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises”. (Romans 15:4 NLT). We need both the Old Testament and the New, because it is all gospel from beginning to end. Paul elsewhere instructs us that, ”all scripture is….useful” (2Timothy 3:16 NLT).
The great need of human beings for redemption is clearly pictured in the condition of slavery, the bondage we see these people are in, under Egypt’s oppressive regime. We see the mighty power of the Redeemer in action as He strikes the enemy with plague after plague, and then in the final deliverance. The character of God’s redemption is seen in the purchase price, blood. And finally, the duty of the redeemed is exposed to our minds, that of evangelical obedience.
- The Primary Lessons of Exodus: (v1)
Of course the Book of Genesis is the foundation of all history. It is the Book that gives us the origin of man, it explains the fall into sin, and the consequent judgment of God upon that sin is seen with great clarity in the flood, when mans’ rebellion reaches a climax. But there too lies the foundation of God’s redemptive plan, promises made to His primitive people. The promise of a land of prosperity, and of conquest over their enemies. But it finishes with His people in Egypt, brought there in order to save them in the midst of economic disaster. But that’s not home, not the land of promise. So what will He do? How will He bring them back? Will He keep His promises? Yes, Exodus is an exciting story of deliverance.
(a) It’s about deliverance: v1 The book is essentially part of the over-all revelation of God, ”then Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the Scriptures said about himself”. (Luke 24:27 NLT). “then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me by Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must all come true” (Luke 24:44 NLT), all part of the unfolding mystery of the redemption found in God’s Son. We here read of things that actually took place, it is history. And furthermore God was in these historical events as they happened. The very heart of the story of Exodus is the story of God delivering His own people out from Egypt into a new land, a new life. And through the same Scriptures today, in their fullness, God still calls people to new life in his Son, “that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:15 NLT).
It was an historical event that Israel itself was commanded to recall to mind constantly, “so Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever – the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. For the Lord brought you out by his mighty power” (Exodus 13:3 NLT). “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 5:6 NLT). It was when they failed to remember that they owed their very existence and destiny to God’s gracious deliverance, that they began to fall away spiritually, and into catastrophic moral decline. One of human natures greatest weaknesses is its tendency to forget, and for that reason God in the New Testament as with the Old commands his people to recall to mind constantly God’s gracious deliverance through the work of his Son on the cross, ”Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival” (1Corinthians 5:7-8 NLT), “for you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1Peter 1:18-20 NLT). It is all of it, from beginning to end, the old, old story, of Jesus and his love, of God’s wonderful, loving, powerful, saving activity.
But note also, that the ethos and attitude of the world then, and now is clearly expressed in Pharaoh’s retort to Moses, “and who is the Lord that I should listen to him?” (Exodus 5:2 NLT).
(b) It’s about a new stage: v1 A significant stage in the redemptive work and purpose of God. The events recorded here follow on from, are the further development of where the Genesis narrative leaves off. The testimony of Joseph regarding the over-ruling providence of God in all that fell out to him, and prophesies that God ‘would’ bring his folk into the promised land, (Genesis 50:20-26). Of course the roots of that prediction go way back to Abraham. “Abram fell into a deep sleep. He saw a terrifying vision of darkness and horror. Then the Lord told Abram, “you can be sure your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, and they will be oppressed as slaves for four hundred years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth….”” (Genesis 15:12-16 NLT). God’s word is ever a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), for mingled with his saving purposes, you see that issues of judgement are dealt with too.
It is important that we understand that it is not just in the exciting times that God works, he is always working. God had been working all through these years in the lives of allsorts of different people, very ordinary people, in all their joys and sorrows, there afflictions, failures, and triumphs in order to prepare this situation. To bring his people to this point where he is going to work in great power to deliver them and glorify his name. Maybe even today, God is setting things in motion, things you know nothing of, preparing for future developments, to bring about some great deliverance in your life? Maybe bringing people into place who will mold and shape your life, or even the affliction you bear at the moment, how you wish he would take it away, but God’s using it, because he has a plan, a hope, and future for you that surpasses anything you could imagine? It takes the eye of faith to see God working in the slow watches of the night. It took faith for Joseph to see God in yon prison cell.
(c) It’s about prophecy: v1 “The new is in the old contained, the old is by the new explained”. The Bible is all about Jesus. The Old Testament is replete with predictions concerning the Son of God. And so is Exodus. You can’t help but notice the remarkable similarities surely, between Moses and Jesus? Sent by God to deliver his people from the clutches of the enemy. The burning bush, the pass-over lamb, the crossing of the Red Sea, the smitten rock, the tabernacle, and so on. Jesus Christ is in all the Scriptures, as you read your Bible, search for him, he’s there. These mentioned, all speak in clear symbolic unmistakable language of God’s promised Son. There are many aspects to the glories of Christ. In the book of Exodus a rich feast is laid before you. Pray, ask the Holy Spirit to open it up to you. Feed and nourish your soul and to enlarge your faith, “I rejoice in your word like one who finds a great treasure” (Psalm 119:162 NLT).
- The Posterity of Jacob: (vv1-5)
In the original Old Testament language of Hebrew I’m told the first word of the book is ‘and’, indicating a continuation from the previous book, Genesis. There are, I believe, other Old Testament books which begin exactly the same. But doesn’t this signify a majestic whole, that our Bibles aren’t just a variety of books stuck together. But supernaturally orchestrated by God’s Spirit to produce for us a revelation that all dovetails together, that is complete, and trust-worthy. Truly, “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2Timothy 3:16 NLT). The text begins with Jacob’s offspring.
(a) The Children of Israel: literally. The phrase here means Jacob and his sons. For the phrase ‘sons of Israel’ used in the Bible after this means of course the ‘Israelites’. This is the last time it is used to describe Jacob’s immediate family. Their arrival in Egypt has been described before (Genesis.46.8). You could say that they perhaps outstayed their welcome, it was certainly time to move on. They entered with a hearty welcome, were given a choice of land, the very best in fact (Genesis 47:6). Alas they didn’t enjoy the peace and the comfort for long. Perhaps their being shepherds had something to do with it (Genesis 46:34)? Or maybe it’s just that in every age, folk like the goodness, the blessing that God’s folk bring, but when it comes to what they actually believe, or the God that they trust in, i.e., the God of the Bible, well that’s just too much.
So there commenced, but again just as predicted, four hundred years of persecution. That’s just five minutes to God, but in human terms that’s a long, long time. How many gave up? How many clung to God’s promises, never having lived to see even the partial fulfilment of them? How many today are growing weary, disillusioned because the revival they have prayed for has never come? Maybe it’s a hundred years away? Maybe God will take us right down to a handful of Christians, then cause the root to flourish again, a couple of hundred years hence? God’s not at our command, he has his own agenda, he knows what he’s doing. Our place is to shine in the darkness, to demonstrate an unshakeable faith amidst the atheism. Our place is to be ready, equipped, available when God calls us to move his work forward. Meanwhile it’s in the school of hard knocks that he prepares his people, the brickyards of Egypt. There’s something else here too, oppression, it has a habit of stimulating desire, hunger, thirst for God, and for a taste of the promised land, heaven. This world is too much lived for by Christians, yes, I’m talking about my generation.
(b) The Children named: vv2-5 This resounding roll call of names, his sons. It’s like the list of the twelve apostles in the New Testament. A new work is about to begin, and it’s from these men, with all their sinful failures that a nation for God, Israel, is to be formed. There’s no mention of Joseph because he was already in Egypt (v5).
It is encouraging though is it not? That God can take twelve ordinary men, shot through with all kind of sin. We’ve seen some of their manipulating, scheming ways, but then how could they be any other? They were Jacob’s sons! Who says there’s no such thing as original sin? I mean how can God build anything on these, never mind a nation? But he can and he does. And he did again with the twelve apostles, not a university degree of cleverness about them, never been to a Bible College, but God takes them, uses them, builds his church on them. It ain’t no different today, God loves and uses very ordinary people. Aren’t you glad? For he made an awful lot of them. The question is are we trusting him, are we sanctifying ourselves, are ‘you’ open for what God wants to do in ‘your’ life and in the lives of others through you?
- The Prosperity of Israel: (vv6-7)
The generation of Joseph, himself included, died out. By this time the Israelites had grown to such proportions, they created envy and fear in the hearts of the Egyptians. They, under orders, were told to treat God’s people ruthlessly. It is vital here to understand this as part of the struggle between the seed of the woman and the serpent, “from now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies” (Genesis 3:15 NLT). Hell is ever arrayed against the Lord and his folk. It ‘was’ prophesied to Abram (Genesis 15:13). God is never taken by surprise. Pharaoh simply, like others after him, performed the will of God (Acts 4:27-28). The principle that the pathway to glory is through suffering, is unavoidable. That was a principle which affected the Messiah too! What is happening here to Israel is ultimately the attack of Satan on the Messiah of Israel, destroy the woman (Israel) and you destroy her seed (Messiah).
(a) Fruit of a godly life: v6 Jacob’s family survived the rigours of economic depression, because God brought them to Egypt. Over the years they often lapsed, spiritually, morally, in terms of obedience. They were influenced by alien cultures around them, therefore God had to discipline, refine them. Yet in it all, in safety he brought them to Egypt. He watched over them, planned, and prepared for them. But it goes back to the young dreamer. A young man God took through the mill, the crucible. Many, many times Joseph must have asked why? He suffered because he was a spiritual man, godly. In the midst of our deadness, a young person might ask the question, is it worth it, following Jesus, keeping clean, obeying the Lord? Well, take young Joseph, a young man God used to preserve his work and his folk. Joseph is gone, but now the fruit of his godly life is going to come through big time. The great God of wonders is about to arise and with power to deliver, to redeem his people. Joseph’s life laid the foundation for that.
(b) Fulfilment of God’s promise: v7 This multiplication of God’s people is what Abram was given, “I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others” (Gen.12.2 NLT). This is a comfort even for us, is it not? And simply because, the promises of God belong us, “for no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ”….(2Corinthians 1:20 TNIV). God does not lie. We can rest in implicit faith, complete trust in the sure word of God. We can have confidence in the gospel promise of salvation, we, or, “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 NLT). From sins dreadful penalty, it’s presence and it’s powerful hold upon us. So ‘come’ and find rest for your soul. Come and drink freely at the fountains of living water – glorious relief for your raging thirst.
(c) Fruit of supernatural growth: v7 This has got to be miraculous! They filled the land, gathering more and more strength, a young and vigorous nation, powerful through their sheer numbers. The land, it is said, favoured human fertility, according to tradition, that is. But there’s more to it than that, it is the Lord! He caused them to multiply greatly, but then that’s nothing new, “and God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind” Genesis 1:20 NLT). God is the living, the life producing God. But this here is far from normal – it’s supernatural. The result is the land is filled with Israelites, Goshen and the surrounding areas, they lived amongst the Egyptians. One imagines they’d be falling over Hebrews, but that was a phenomenon present already in Joseph’s day, “so the people of Israel settled in the land of Goshen in Egypt. And before long, they began to prosper there, and their population grew rapidly” Genesis 47:27 NLT). The land and the promise by the power of God work together. The supernatural using the ‘natural’.
But the growth of the Church is always supernatural. Each and every soul added to it, is born again, from on high. It’s a miracle of God’s grace. At times that grace growth is accelerated. We call it revival! It happened at Pentecost, God gives the increase. No, God’s people can never be called an ordinary people. And their God is no ordinary god, He’s the God Joseph trusted in, all through his life, in affliction, in temptation, in failure, in prosperity. He made it, he survived, no he triumphed through his God.
The same God, through his Son, and by his Holy Spirit, and with the same unction and power desires to work in your life today. Will you let him take you deeper into himself? Will you dare to believe this God. To trust him in all circumstances of life. Let him fill you full of his divine love, full of his Holy Spirit. Because that’s normal Christianity, or bible Christianity. Anything at all in your life today that resists his Spirit, his commands, put it aside, forsake it, cit it off, turn to him again. The entrance of his Word gives life to the soul. Fall down on your knees and cry out to him for mercy! Worship him! The work of God goes on in every generation, through the slow and the exciting, take care it doesn’t go on without you. Make sure you’re part of what he’s doing today.
“We believe that all things, both in heaven and in earth, and in all creatures, are sustained and governed by the providence of this wise, eternal, and omnipotent God” (Confession of Helvetia).
The new agenda, same time 1-2pm daily, different places:
Monday – Derby
Tuesday – Newcastle (Staffs)
Wednesday – Wolverhampton
Thursday – Hanley
Friday – Stafford
Saturday – Varies
Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is our change of address on the front of the letter. We’re now well on our way to being settled in our new home in Newcastle, Staffs. I’ve also managed to get a little job that requires me to work the least hours possible and still pay the bills. This of course frees me for the more important work, the street preaching. You will also notice the obvious change in the preaching itinery, places like Wolverhampton and Stafford, some of my old haunts, it feels strange to be back there preaching, but a joy too, ought never to have left them. What is great though is that we are now more involved in the Church at Hartshill, soon to be officially recognised as an Evangelist working with and from Hartshill Bible Church.
However, I must wind the tape back a bit first, it’s a while since I sent out a report.
No two days are the same. We were out in Newcastle (Staffs) with the crew when not very far from me I noticed this youth slapping his mate, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to rebuke him for his violence, as I did so I just turned away and carried on preaching. Rachel, who was with us, noticed all this going on, she told me afterwards that the youth who I rebuked (and not too severely to be honest), looked absolutely terrified. I mean that’s no ordinary thing these days, you normally just get a mouthful back. Who knows maybe it’ll come back to him some time and bring conviction ‘and’ conversion.
In the same place a couple of weeks on, a man worse for drinking when he heard me strike up came over and we conversed fairly amicably, then he went and sat down on one of the benches. About fives minutes into the preaching, I made mention of the Bible. Well, it was like a spark amongst the dry grass, he lit up, shouting, bawling, swearing and blaspheming. I told him I was fearful for him lest he be arrested by the police, at which Matthew slipped alongside him to try and engage him. He looked at Matthew, who as well as being dark and handsome, is very tall. “O no”, he said, “tell me your not a policeman”. Matt let him stew on that for a few minutes or so before telling him he was with me. It did the job tho’. Matt had a good conversation with him. I carried on preaching giving out afterwards some eight gospels.
Meanwhile still in Newcastle, I met Delrose, she was a believer, she came to encourage me, even gave me a gift toward the cost of our literature, bless her. I gave her one of my own testimony tapes, for her own encouragement. A couple of months later we had a call from a man in Leicester, Mike. He had listened he said to my testimony tape. Not having any contacts with anyone in that area I was eager to know how he’d come by it. Well, it’s a long story, but he was Delrose’s boyfriend, not a Christian, but she was working on him. She had passed the tape onto him, urging him to listen to it. Meanwhile, Delrose died. She had a brain haemorrhage, and was found dead in bed. Mike is absolutely devastated, shaken to his foundations. He’d never listened to the tape she’d given him while she was alive, but now with feelings of guilt I suppose, he did. That’s what led to the call. We’ve talked a couple of times since, I’ve urged him to carry on going to Church which he has done, but of course more importantly to seek the Lord. Pray for Mike please.
We met Maggie & Roy thro’ the Newcastle work, they were in a community Church for a while and were looking for a Church. They come to our Church now, and it’s a great joy to have them. Tony also was met in Newcastle and comes regularly on Sunday mornings. Isn’t God good?
Preaching a while ago in Manchester, I encountered a group of young men, claimed to be Satanists, New-agers, that kind of stuff, you know? One of them was particularly vile, but things he said gave him away, he knew too much. It turned out he was an Anglican ministers son. I suggested to him his parents were probably broken-hearted at the state he was in, it didn’t seem to bother him. Please pray for him.
Over the year a lot of gospels and tapes have been given out, please pray that God would use them to bring others to a knowledge of his Son.
On the way to Manchester, I was waiting for the train, and a man came running onto the platform, breathless. I told him the train had’nt gone. He was’nt in good shape. “It’s this Guiness”, he said. “And they tell you it’s good for you”, I said, “their liars”. We got talking, the train was late, praise the Lord! We sat together on the train. He was a real wide boy, on his way to the casino in Manchester, a right wheeler and dealer, anything for a fast buck. He wasn’t keen when he learned it was Jesus that made me tick, but I could tell he was totally fascinated by the testimony, O he listened well. Pray for him please.
I’ve spoken to lots of Muslims, young and old alike in Manchester, some really good conversations. Some of them take God’s word with them. It’s good.
Some days it’s amazing, you see folk listen, some days it might just be one person, but you know he or she’s hearing, and it’s very good. Other days it’s like you might as well be on another planet, you couldn’t penetrate a wet paper bag. But the good outweighs the bad. Just seeing one person listen about Jesus, that’s enough for me, that makes it worthwhile. I tell you there is no work like this work. I repent I ever let folk (good folk albeit) turn me away from it. God is so good!
I preached up in Ryedale in Yorkshire, my old friends up there, that was good. Good friends are scarce. And then over in Newark where Carl Meachem my chum from the Mission days, that was nice.
The week in Glasgow was brilliant. A friend put me in touch with Bill Cairns who was working in the Paisley area, doing street work. He’s since been called to Louth Evangelical Church. Perhaps you’d pray for him, he’s worthy of your prayers. Bill and I worked Glasgow, Paisley and Ayr that week, we had a really good time. One day in Buchanan Street a young girl came asking a question, why was I doing what I was doing. Bill tried to draw her to free me to preach but she wouldn’t have it. I talked briefly with her and gave her a gospel. A short while afterwards I saw her just down the road a bit, listening, looking very, very troubled. I don’t know, but it did look like, a look of conviction. Another man shortly out of jail, reading his Bible, overcame the drugs, but still things in his life that weren’t right. I suggested to him he consider how he might feel about those things in Hell. He thought very soberly for a while, then said he realised that those were in deed the stakes. A lot to gain, a lot to lose? We sowed a whole lot of seed there that week, it was brilliant to work with Bill, and it’s always a joy to preach my native Glasgow.
I’ve been out today in Hanley preaching. I could feel the wind in the sails, the Lord was there, people listened. They do when He’s there. But as we settle down in our new location to the same work but in different places, pray for us, pray for the people, the nation. The Church leaders are writing to all sorts of different folks to see if we can’t get some financial muscle to give me the freedom to spread myself around a bit more and engage more people with the good news about Jesus. God bless you and thank for praying. If you have a friend or a Church who would like some of my prayer letters, I‘d be only too happy to let you have some. I do like people praying for the work of the Lord.
Leaflets & Tapes
What do ‘YOU’ think about GOD?
What do ‘YOU’ think about CREATION?
What do ‘YOU’ think about SIN?
What do ‘YOU’ think about SALVATION?
What do ‘YOU’ think about BEING BORN AGAIN?
What do ‘YOU’ think about HELL?
What do ‘YOU’ think about EVOLUTION?
What do ‘YOU’ think about REPENTANCE?
What do ‘YOU’ think about CHURCH?
What do ‘YOU’ think about THE BIBLE?
There are other smaller format leaflets available and some evangelistic, ministry, and a testimony tape available
Jim is available for ministry!
(© James R Hamilton, written 2002)