Exodus 3:12 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
GOD’S PRESENCE WITH HIS PEOPLE
Exo 3:12. And he said, Certainly I will be with thee.
THERE is nothing more amiable in the character of a saint than true and genuine humility. Without that virtue, all graces are defective, and all attainments worthless in the sight of God. But it is no uncommon thing to see other dispositions assuming the garb of humility, and claiming an excellence which they do not possess. The Prophet Jeremiah, when called to the prophetic office, declined it under an idea that he was “a child, and unable to speak.” But God said to him, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I shall command thee thou shalt speak [Note: Jer 1:4-7.].” His pretended insufficiency for the work was, in reality, no other than a cover for his dread of the dangers to which it would expose him: and therefore God, in order to remove the impediment, replied, “Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee, to deliver thee [Note: Jer 1:8.].” Thus Moses, when God said to him, “Come now, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt;” replied, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt [Note: Exo 3:10-11.] ?” This was specious enough, and had the semblance of true humility; but it was only a pretext, and a cover to his fears and unbelief. He had, forty years before, exerted himself with great vigour in behalf of that people, and had even slain an Egyptian who was contending with them: but they had thrust him from them, saying, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?” and Pharaoh had sought his life, as forfeited to the laws of the land. Now, therefore, he was afraid that the people would shew the same disregard of his efforts, and that his slaughter of the Egyptian would be visited with the punishment which the laws of the land denounced against him. This indeed, did not at first sight appear to be his real motive: but his numerous refusals of the office delegated to him, repeated as they were under a variety of pretexts, clearly discovered at last what was in his heart, and justly excited the displeasure of God against him [Note: Exo 4:13-14; Exo 4:19.]. But the very first answer of God should have been quite sufficient to remove every apprehension. God said to him, “Certainly I will be with thee:” and, having that assurance, he should without hesitation have gone forth to his destined labours.
Let us consider,
The extent of the promise—
As relating to him, it comprehended all that he could wish—
[True, his work was arduous, and to unassisted man impracticable: but, if God was with him, what could he have to fear? He would be guided by a wisdom that could not err, and he aided by a power which could not be overcome. With such an assurance, what had he to do with discouragements? Could Pharaoh hurt him, whilst he was under such protection; or the Israelites withstand his solicitations, when enforced by such powerful energy on their minds? Every difficulty should have vanished from his mind; and he should have leaped for joy at the prospect of effecting so great and good a work.]
But it relates to us also, and pledges God to an equal extent in our behalf—
[A similar promise was given to Joshua, on an occasion precisely similar [Note: Jos 1:5.]: and that is quoted by the Apostle Paul as applicable to every true believer: “God hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee: so that WE may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me [Note: Heb 13:5-6.].” Here the very promise made to Moses, is renewed to Joshua, and declared to belong to us also. Whatever difficulties, therefore, we may have to encounter in the discharge of our duty to God, we need not fear: his promised presence shall be with us in our efforts, and his almighty power secure to us a successful issue.]
The more minute consideration of the subject will fall under the next head of my discourse, whilst I endeavour to shew,
The encouragement it affords to us—
We may properly view it, in the first place, as applicable to Ministers—
[Ministers have, if I may so speak, the very same office delegated to them as was assigned to Moses: they are sent to bring men out of spiritual thraldom, and to deliver them from a bondage far more terrible than that of Egypt. The power that opposes them is fax stronger than that of Pharaoh; and the unhappy captives are in love with their chains: they are themselves as averse to leave their hard taskmaster, as he is to lose their services. Were we to go in our own strength, we should soon desert our post; as Moses did, when, in reliance on his own arm, he prematurely proffered to the people his assistance. But with the promise of God’s presence, a promise specifically given to us by our Divine Master for our encouragement [Note: Mat 28:18.], we go forth with confidence; and to every obstacle that is in our way, we say, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain [Note: Zec 4:7.].” We know that the persons to whom we speak are as incapable of hearing our words, as dry bones scattered upon the face of the earth: yet do we not despond, or even doubt the efficacy of our ministrations for those to whom we are sent: and, in dependence on this word, we hope and believe, that the word which we speak shall prove “the power of God to the salvation” of those who hear it. We are not unmindful of the question put by the Apostle, “Who is sufficient for these things?” but, if the rod of Moses wrought effectually in his hand for the deliverance of Israel, we have no fear but that the word of God, by whomsoever administered, shall be alike effectual for all the ends for which it is sent. It is “the rod of God’s strength;” and not all the powers of darkness shall be able to withstand it.]
But it is also applicable to God’s people generally throughout the world—
[To this extent, as we have before observed, St. Paul applies it: and every believer needs it for his support. Every one is engaged in a great work, for which no finite power is sufficient: every one, therefore, needs to be encouraged with an assurance, that God will be with him in all his endeavours to perform it, and will secure to him the desired success. Believer, hast thou much to do for God, even so much as thou couldest have no hope of effecting without the arm of Omnipotence exerted in thy behalf? Hear what God has said for thine encouragement: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness [Note: Isa 41:10.].” See here, how God, in every successive part of these promises, accommodates himself to thy weakness and thy fears. When he says, “I am with thee,” a thought may perhaps arise, that he will be with thee only to witness thy defeat: he therefore adds, “I will be thy God.” Does a sense of thy weakness press upon thee? he further says, “I will strengthen thee.” Art thou still discouraged, because the work is left to thee? he adds, “I will help thee.” Art thou still dejected, through an apprehension of thy failure at last? he takes the whole responsibility on himself, and declares, for thy comfort, “I will altogether uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” This may serve to shew (what we forbore to specify under the former head) the extent to which this promise goes, in relation to every thing which our necessities may require.
Again; Hast thou also much to suffer for God in thy Christian course? Doubtless thou must have some cross to bear, else thou couldest not be conformed fully to thy Saviour’s image. But, whether thy trials be more or less severe, the promise in my text secures to thee an effectual help, and a sure deliverance. For thus saith the Lord: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour [Note: Isa 43:2-3.].” Here again the extent of the promise clearly appears, and its perfect sufficiency for every trial to which thou canst be exposed.
Is there yet a lurking apprehension that in the extremity of death thy heart will fail? At this season, also, shall the presence of thy God afford thee effectual support: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me [Note: Psa 23:4.].” Now, though the valley of this shadow of death may comprehend the whole of the present life as beset with snares and difficulties, yet it must include the closing scenes of life, as well as those that have preceded it; and, consequently, when our flesh and heart fail, we may be assured that “God will be the strength of our heart, and our portion for ever [Note: Psa 73:26.].”]
Learn from hence—
To undertake nothing but in dependence on God—
[When God vouchsafed his assistance to Israel, no man could stand before them: but when they went up against the Canaanites in dependence on an arm of flesh, they were put to flight and slain [Note: Num 14:43-45.]. So it will be with us, if we presume to engage in any thing without first asking counsel, and imploring help, from him. God is jealous of his own honour: and if we place our reliance on any thing but him, we must expect a curse, and not a blessing, on all our labours [Note: Jer 17:5-6.].]
To shrink from nothing to which he calls us—
[If Moses was forbidden to shrink from the duties imposed on him, what shall we not willingly and confidently undertake for God? We must not contemplate human means, when the path of duty is clear; but must expect him to “perfect his own strength in our weakness.” With him it is alike “easy to save by many or by few:” nor need we doubt a moment, but that “through Christ strengthening us we can do all things.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?”]
To despair of nothing which we undertake at his command—
[We may be in the path of duty, and yet find many difficulties, even such as may appear utterly insuperable. Moses himself was so discouraged by his want of success, that he complained of God as having disappointed and deceived him. But he succeeded at last: and the very difficulties which had discouraged him served but the more to illustrate the power and grace of God. So may we find it for a season: but we should bear in mind, that his word, which he has pledged to us, is immutable, and that his counsel shall stand, though earth and hell should combine to defeat it. Let us then “commit our every way to him;” and, with a holy confidence, advance, “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.