Chapter 5 began with the long-awaited meeting of Moses and Pharaoh; however, the splendid sparks that the exodus story is so known for scarcely flew. Rather than beginning Egypt’s ruin by the hand of God, the brief encounter ended with the king of Egypt tightening his tyrannical grip upon the Hebrews even further by forcing them to continue their making of bricks yet having to find their own straw. Here at the beginning of chapter 6, the LORD again answers the cries of His people by revealing Himself further to Moses.
THE SOVEREIGN GOD // VERSE 1
It can be a little frustrating that chapter 5 ended so abruptly with Moses’ lament of the treatment of his people to the LORD, especially whenever we continue reading here in chapter 6 and find God’s answer. Yet I wanted to preserve that division in our study of Exodus precisely because God does not often answer our lamentation to Him immediately. We have spent the last week leaving Moses’ lament hanging in the air because that is very much how our lamentations commonly feel.
Even so, we can rejoice in the opening words of this chapter: But the LORD said to Moses… As Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish so too could Moses pray, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice” (Jonah 2:2). Of course, one might object, “Why should I take comfort that God answered Moses and Jonah? He hasn’t spoken one word to me during my suffering.” But that simply is not true. The author of Hebrews, after commending the faith of Old Testament saints like Moses, then said:
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.Hebrews 11:39–40
Although God spoke to Moses as one speaks with his friend, the prophet did not have the LORD’s full revelation. Just as Moses only saw the Promise Land from wilderness mountain, so too did he see Christ and the new covenant from hazy distance. Because we hold the complete Word of God in our hands, God has spoken to us far more completely than He ever spoke to Moses.
Therefore, as we hear the promises that the LORD makes to Moses in answer to his lament, we must remember that these are for our benefit as we endure affliction as well. Let us not cry out that God will not answer us whenever we hold the riches of His promises within our hands and have had His love proved to us through the crucifixion of His Son.
The LORD’s answer begins, Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land. Recall that Moses’ complaint was that God had done evil to the people of Israel by allowing the evil of Pharaoh and by not delivering them at all. As with Job, we should note that God did not answer Moses’ why questions; He did, however, answer Moses’ complaint of God’s inaction, saying that Moses was about to see with his own eyes the great wrath that He was about to bring upon Pharaoh.
What effect would God’s judgment upon Pharaoh have? Pharaoh himself would drive the people of Israel out of Egypt. Indeed, notice that God emphasizes that point by repeating it: for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land. When reading the Bible, we should remember that repetition means pay attention. With only a finite about of space given to God’s inspired Word, we can know for certain that God did not include anything frivolous or unnecessary within the Scriptures.
Why, then, does God emphasize twice that Pharaoh will be the one to cast the Hebrews out of Egypt? Even though the LORD has always had the intention of bringing the Israelites out of Egypt entirely, He commanded Moses to only request their temporary journey into the wilderness to sacrifice and hold a feast to God. This will continue as Moses continues to speak with Pharaoh throughout the outpouring of the plagues. His message to Pharaoh is almost always: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me’” (Exodus 8:1). He never demands of Pharaoh the permanent exodus of Israel, even though that is exactly what God promised to do. The LORD purposely kept the demand for Pharaoh’s obedience low so that Israel’s exodus would be all the more glorious whenever God used the hard-hearted Pharaoh to accomplish it. In other words, the LORD did not want to merely rip the Israelites out of Pharaoh’s obstinate hands (although He certainly could have!); instead, He wanted to so thoroughly dismantle the king of Egypt that he would not only consent to God’s will but would accomplish God’s will.
Although Pharaoh claimed to be divine, the one true God was determined to show the king of Egypt just how limited his claim of sovereignty really was. Indeed, the LORD would magnify His own sovereignty by using Pharaoh as His instrument for accomplishing the exodus. Such a turn of events should readily bring to mind Joseph’s words to his brothers at conclusion of Genesis: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).
We should rightly take great comfort from this truth. Although God is by no means the author of evil, it can by no means escape His sovereign will. Recall that in Ephesians 3:11 Paul referred the gospel as God’s “eternal purpose,” which means that the creation, fall, and redemption of the cosmos was always God’s plan. Satan’s rebellion and humanity’s descent into sin did not catch the Creator by surprise. Rather, He permitted evil to darken His creation in order “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:9-10).
THE FAITHFUL GOD // VERSES 2-5
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.
Here the LORD continues to answer Moses, and he begins with the most important statement of this entire passage and one of the most important moments in the book of Exodus: I am the LORD. The LORD makes this self-declaration four times within verses 2-8, and crucially, He begins and ends with it. Of course, this is not only an answer to Moses but also an answer to Pharaoh’s question: “Who is the LORD?” Ignoring Pharaoh’s deaf ears and blind eyes, God now tells His servant Moses: “I Am.” As with His appearance to Moses in the burning bush at Horeb, the LORD continues to give Moses an even further revelation of Himself.
First, God reminded Moses again that He is the same God who revealed Himself to the patriarchs, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; however, He was not revealed even to them as the LORD but as God Almighty. This is a rather curious statement because God is referred to as the LORD throughout the book of Genesis. Some scholars claim that those references to the LORD in Genesis are anachronisms, that Moses wrote the uses of Yahweh into the narrative. More likely, however, we should understand this to mean that the LORD did explain the deep significance of His name (and His nature along with it) to the patriarchs. They knew that Yahweh was God Almighty, the one true God, but to Moses God first revealed Himself as the One who eternally and absolutely is.
Next, in verse 4, God reminded Moses of His covenant that He made with the patriarchs, a solemn oath to give them Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Although Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived in the Promise Land for most of their lives, they did so as foreigners, only owning a portion of land in Machpelah where Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob were buried as a kind of guarantee of the inheritance still to come. Nevertheless, the patriarchs believed in God’s promise, clinging to the covenant that God began with Abraham.
In verse 5, we read the beautiful words: Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. The LORD did not forget the covenant that He made with the patriarchs, and as their descendants, God would rescue the Israelites according to that covenant. Philip Ryken gives us a fitting reminder:
Remember that although Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew the living God, they never witnessed his mighty work of salvation; they only received it by promise. This is the difference between Genesis and Exodus. Abraham knew God as promise maker; Moses came to know him as a promise keeper. Whereas the patriarchs had to live by faith, therefore, the children of Israel also lived by sight. God was not simply making promises to them but was actually starting to keep them. In the exodus he was demonstrating the saving power behind his special name, revealing himself as the Lord of their salvation.
The LORD was, thus, displaying His faithfulness to the people of Israel. Although generations come and go without seeing them, God is always faithful to fulfill the promises that He makes. Furthermore, just as His faithfulness to the Hebrews was rooted in His covenant with their patriarchs, so too is our confidence in the faithfulness of God rooted in a covenant that He has made. Part of God’s covenant to Abraham was that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through the man of faith. The fulfillment of that promise came through Abraham’s descendant, Jesus, who inaugurated a new covenant with all of God’s people, a covenant established by His own blood. Yet Jesus’ covenant also fulfilled the Abrahamic Covenant by purposely being for all nations, grafting the Gentiles into the people of God as sons of Abraham.
THE GRACIOUS GOD // VERSES 6-8
Given His intent to deliver the people of Israel and to fulfill His covenant made to the patriarchs, the LORD gives the following message through Moses to them:
Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’”
We find in these verses seven I will declarations made by the LORD, and these promises were to be shortly fulfilled. Many have noted that the biblical pattern of salvation is displayed via these I will statements. And that is certainly true.
The first three I will’s describe the deliverance and redemption of God’s people, and they are three powerful images that the Bible frequently uses to describe the act of salvation.
First, we have the imagery of being brought up. He would bring up from the bondage that had brought them so low. Psalm 30:3 come to mind: “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.”
Second, we are given the imagery of liberation from slavery. He would deliver them from the harsh yoke of their slavery, breaking the shackles that bound them.
Third, we have the picture of redemption; He would redeem them with great acts of judgment. Redemption is often displayed in Scripture as the recovery or reclaiming of something that was lost by a redeemer. The story of Ruth is a clear example. She was redeemed back into the family and into security by Boaz, an extended relation of her deceased husband.
The fourth and fifth I will’s, in verse 7, describe Israel’s relationship with the LORD. He would take them as His people, and He would be their God, while the final two I will’s, in verse 8, promise to bring them to and give them possession of the land of Canaan.
Thus, we have presented three great movements of salvation: deliverance and redemption, communion with God, and blessedness for God’s people. Of course, we also find these three movements within our salvation in Christ, of which the exodus was merely a foretaste. Paul’s great run-on sentence at the opening of Ephesians presents each of these themes of our salvation clearly:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:3–14
Our redemption is recounted at the very center of Paul’s doxology. While God delivered the Israelites from physical slavery and bondage, Christ has delivered us from the slavery our own sinful flesh, from the greater Pharaoh as we discussed last week. The price of Israel’s redemption will come during the Passover, whenever they are redeemed from among the Egyptians through the blood of the lamb; Christ, however, has purchased our redemption at the price of His own blood.
Our communion with God is certainly present in Paul’s thought as well. Not only has Jesus reconciled us to the LORD as our God but He is now our Father, and we are His children. Before creation had ever been created, the Father “predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.” Communion with God is the very heart of the gospel.
Finally, our blessedness in Christ is the grand theme of the entire passage. In Christ, we have been blessed by the Blessed One with every spiritual blessing. In Christ, we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven. God’s blessed provision to the Israelites was the land of Canaan, and He has a similar Promise Land in store for us. We eagerly await Christ’s return as the Judge of all and to usher in the new heavens and new earth, where God will dwell with us forevermore. Yet until that day comes, we have the indwelling Spirit of God as our guarantee (or down payment) of those glories still to come.
Before we move on to our final verse, turn your attention to the latter half of verse 7. After speaking of Israel’s relationship with the LORD, He gives the very heart of why He has come down to deliver His people at all: and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
We will see this reasoning continue to appear as God pours out His signs and wonders upon the land of Egypt in the coming chapters but let us also note it here. God saves His people so that they may know Him. This is the great purpose behind our salvation. Indeed, as Paul said in Ephesians 3, He is also making Himself known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places through rescuing, adopting, and blessing us. We often shorten this thought as God saves for His own glory. But what is God’s glory? I believe that Piper is correct in calling it the radiance of God’s perfections. God’s glory is the visible display of all that He is! Thus, whenever we say that God saves us for His glory, we are saying that God saves us so that His nature and character might be seen more clearly and better known.
Of course, the knowledge of the LORD is not simply intellectual; it is not less than that, though it certainly is more. Knowing God is matter of personal connection, an experiential knowledge. He saves us not so that we can know Him in the same way that we know who Labron James is; instead, He wants us to know Him in the sense that we know one another or know our family. Stuart notes how this personal knowledge of the LORD is at the heart of what God intends “I am the LORD” to mean:
Thus “I am the LORD” is almost tantamount to saying, “I am Yahweh, your covenant God.” Second, “I am the LORD” is a statement of identity—not just theoretical identity but relational identity. It invites the hearer to say: “I have a connection to him. I know him personally. He is not just any god. He is mine.” This direct relationship, so crucial to our Christian sense of conversion and salvation from sin, is signaled in God’s identifying himself personally.
Or we might say, God is a person to be known, not merely an idea or concept to be theorized about. But of course, knowing someone begins and continues to be formed upon information. As our subtle replacement of the phrase “I think…” with “I feel…” indicates, many tend to only think of relationships in terms of an emotional connection, entirely disconnected from information. Yet does it matter how deeply I feel connected to my wife if I purposely avoid actually learn anything about her? Do we not grow to love others as we more deeply know them, knowing their likes and dislikes, their hopes and fears?
I make this point because there continues to be an anti-intellectual trend in the church. “I don’t need theology or doctrine; I just need Jesus.” “Don’t tell me more about the Trinity; teach me something practical.” These thoughts miss that knowing God, which is the aim of theology (the study of God), is the most practical endeavor that we can undertake. Scripture certainly has plenty to say about how we live this life, but it is most concerned with taking our gaze off this temporary life and onto eternity. Let us also remember the prayer of our Lord: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Our eternal life begins here and now as we come to know our gracious God more deeply.
THE UNCHANGING GOD // VERSE 9
Our passage concludes: Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. How different from when Moses first spoke to them, when they responded with belief and worship! Nevertheless, we will not be too hard on the Israelites here (there will be plenty more opportunities for that later in the book!); instead, let us observe from their response another source of unbelief besides the causes that we beheld in Pharaoh previously: despair. Charles Spurgeon, who frequently battled episodes of deep depression, gives the following thoughts on this verse:
Among all the reasons I ever heard, the one with which I have the most sympathy is that some cannot receive Christ because they are so full of anguish and are so crushed in spirit that they cannot find strength of mind enough to entertain a hope that by any possibility salvation can come to them. I have felt the same myself. I do remember when in my anguish I could not believe even Jesus himself. Therefore, as one who has worn the chains, I speak to those who are still in chains. I know the clanking of those chains. I know what it is to feel the damp of the stone walls and to fear that there is no coming out of prison. I know and have felt the despair that even when the emancipator turned the great key in the lock and set the door wide open, yet still my heart had made for itself a dire cage. Ah, there is no prison so awful as that which is built by despair and kept under the custody of a crushed spirit.
I do not doubt they muttered to themselves, “This Moses is a mad philosopher who has grand mouthfuls of words. But what are words to us? A bit of fish out of the Nile, or a cucumber from the irrigated fields would be much better than talking to us about a covenant.” And yet, in the covenant of grace lies the charter of the poor and needy. At any rate, it cannot be worse with us than it is now. One may seem now to be under a covenant of bondage and of sorrow, and any change will be for the better. If there be another covenant—a covenant of grace and love and peace and everlasting faithfulness—it would be worthwhile to hear about it and to seek it out until we discover whether we have a part in it. We must listen diligently to the voice of the gospel so that we may live.
Let us take great comfort in the fact that the Israelites inability to hear God through their crushed spirit did nothing to change God’s covenant with their ancestors nor His intention to deliver them. Indeed, is it not gloriously good news that the security of our salvation is not dependent upon our emotions at all? The LORD, our sovereign, faithful, gracious, and covenantal God, does not change. Our sins, our despair, and our fluctuations come as no surprise to Him who predestined us for adoption before the foundation of the world. Throughout eternity, it was always God’s plan to display the radiance of His glory by redeeming us upon the cross. Let us this gospel be for us “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrew 6:19), a hope that goes far deeper than any affliction, unbelief, or despair, a hope that is rooted in knowing our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 As you will notice, the section titles that I have given throughout the sermon refer to four attributes of God: His sovereignty, His faithfulness, His grace, and His immutability. I have done so because, while each section does not dive directly into a study of each attribute, the radiance of these perfections of God can certainly be seen as God further reveals Himself to Moses in this passage of Scripture.
 Philip Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, 148.
Here the apostle is referencing what we call the doctrine of election, the teaching that God has sovereignly chosen to save us. Given the multitude of debates regarding election both today and throughout church history, we by no means have the time for a detailed study of this doctrine. In fact, although the doctrine of election is found throughout the Scriptures, the two most explicit are often said to be Ephesians 1 and Romans 9, but even though both deal strongly with election, they are quite different in tone and intent. Within Romans 9, we find the “argument” for the doctrine, which Paul relatively presents as a bitter pill to swallow. Ephesians 1 is different. Here Paul is not presenting an argument for election; rather, he is plainly stating it as fact. Neither is he presenting election as a difficult doctrine to believe; instead, he joyously declares this to be how God has blessed us. Therefore, like the text itself, we will not now argue for election nor will we address some of the more somber matters of the doctrine.
 Douglas Stuart, Exodus, 173.
 Charles Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Study Bible, 79.