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Author:Rev. C. Bouwman
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Congregation:Smithville Canadian Reformed Church
 Smithville, ON
 www.smithvillecanrc.ca
 
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:In causing Moses to grow, God makes sport of Pharaoh
Text:Exodus 2:10a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Spiritual Warfare
 
Preached:2000-08-20
Added:2005-01-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Text: Ex 2:10a: "And the child grew."
Scripture Reading:
Exodus 1:1-2:10
Revelation 11:7-13

Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise" Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Psalm 33:3,4
Psalm 33:6
Psalm 37:5
Psalm 2:1,2,3,4
Hymn 35:2,4,5
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ!

So much of the life we're given to live is, in our judgment, no laughing matter. There are so many disappointments, so much hurt. In truth, not a laughing matter.

Yet the Lord our God is a God of humor. I read in Ps 2 that "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh." The cause of that heavenly laughter is -says the same psalm- that God has arrogant sinners in derision. As the Book of Praise has it: "He laughs them to scorn."

But, my brothers and sisters, if there is laughter in heaven, there must be laughter on earth as well. For as does the Father, so must the children do; after all, we were created and redeemed to image God. So, as God laughs in heaven, we may laugh on earth. That is, we on earth may share in heaven's humor, and delight in it too.

The first two chapters of Exodus echo the derisive laughter of God in heaven. The verses we read together reveal to us a God who makes sport of the godless mighty of the earth. The Holy Spirit caused these chapters of divine humor to be recorded for the advantage and salvation of the children of God who live in the last days; yes, this is recorded for the profitable entertainment of God's people as they themselves live under the oppression of an apostate society. With this entertainment, God encourages His people; for the eye of faith sees that the Lord has the godless mighty of the earth in derision, He is their superior. Be it Mr Putin or Michael Jackson, Mr Clinton or Steve Waugh, God makes sport of each of them. That's what God would have us to learn from His revelation in Exodus; despite Pharaoh's oppression, the child grew.

I summarize the sermon with this theme:

IN CAUSING MOSES TO GROW, GOD MAKES SPORT OF PHARAOH.

In developing this theme, I weave together two thoughts.

The Satanic folly of Pharaoh.
The derisive laughter of God.


The words of our text sound rather innocent and meaningless: "and the child grew." We don't expect a healthy child to do anything else.

Yet in the context of chapters 1 and 2, congregation, the words of our text reveal nothing less than a miracle. The edict of the Pharaoh had been that no Hebrew boy was to grow; all were to be cast into the Nile. Yet here a child grows, contrary to the will of the king.

Granted, we know some of the background details to the growth of the child. Because she couldn't hide the child anymore, his mother put him in a basket in the river. Pharaoh's daughter found the child, had compassion on him, claimed the baby as her own, and hired the child's mother to nurse the infant. So "the child grew." Simple enough.

Yet, brothers and sisters, we read God's revelation carelessly if that is all we glean from our text. Moses' mother saw need to hide the child. Why? Because Pharaoh breathed threats of murder. And why did Pharaoh wish to see blood? We're told in chapter 1; Pharaoh was of the opinion that "the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we" (1:9). A population explosion among the Hebrews prompted Pharaoh's anti-Semitism.

Yet if we leave the matter at that, we still state things too simply. Why did Israel grow to a large nation? The chapter began by telling us that Israel entered Egypt with a total of 70 souls. That's not a large nation, certainly no threat to any country. From sources elsewhere in the Bible, we know that we are now some 400 years later. After 400 years, Pharaoh looks at these Hebrews and says: they "are more and mightier than we." So: the 70 had become a multitude. As we read in vs 7: "the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty" so that "the land was filled with them." Hence Pharaoh's fear in vs 10: "in the event of war . they . [will] join our enemies and fight against us.."

In response Pharaoh determined to oppress the Hebrews. But, had Pharaoh but looked into history, he would have known that such an effort was doomed to failure. Egypt's official government records could and should have made clear to Pharaoh that this was a special people; behind these Hebrews was a very real and powerful God. His ancestors had experienced the power of this God in the seven years of plenty and the subsequent seven years of drought, as well as in the dreams that preceded the 14 years. And an earlier Pharaoh had come into conflict with the God of Abram when he took Abram's wife into his harem. All of this evidence pointed up the fact that Israel was no nation to be trifled with; with Israel was an Almighty God.

But the new Pharaoh in Egypt "did not know Joseph" (1:8). As such, he did not appreciate the works that God did through Joseph either. And that becomes the bottom line: this new Pharaoh had no regard for the God of Joseph. He had no regard for Him, even though Egyptian history textbooks recorded evidence that it was a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Why did the new Pharaoh have no respect for the Lord? It's because his eyes were darkened by sin. I read in Ps 105 of the Egyptians -and that includes Pharaoh- that

"[The Lord] turned their hearts to hate His people,
To deal craftily with His servants" (vs 25).

You see, God struck Pharaoh with blindness so that he could not see God's power and His deeds in the past. Pharaoh, blinded by sin, sided with Satan against God.

With that, congregation, we come to the deeper thought behind our text. Moses grew, and he did that in an environment in which a servant of Satan ruled. Pharaoh had murder in his eyes, and behind Pharaoh was none else than Satan! That's what gives the suspense to the first chapters of Exodus. And that's what makes the humor so sharp. While Satan was using Pharaoh as his instrument to destroy the people of God -O delightful heavenly humor!- "the child grew!"

Again, it's not just the people of God that Satan seeks to destroy. We understand that Satan is after the God of Israel Himself; Satan would take for Himself God's glory, God's honor. So we're faced here with the antithesis. Right after the fall into sin, God had placed enmity, friction, between the serpent and the woman, between the serpent's seed and the woman's seed. In other words, God had placed enmity between Satan and Christ. Satan would bruise Christ's heel, and Christ would crush Satan's head (Gen 3:15). Ex 1 & 2 describe an all out effort on Satan's part to bruise Christ's heel, yes, to devour the seed of the woman as soon as she brought it forth (Rev 12).

And then we are to recall that this desperate effort is made despite the promises that God had given to the seed of the woman. For to Abraham God had said that his offspring would be many. Said the Lord: "Look toward heaven, and number the stars.... So shall your descendants be" (Gen 15:5). And elsewhere: they shall be "as the sand which is on the seashore" (Gen 22:17). And so it was happening; "the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them" (1:7). God was fulfilling His promise spoken to Abraham. In so doing, God was busy fulfilling that other promise spoken to Abraham that Israel should be a blessing; said God: "by you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:3). And while God was busy fulfilling His Word as a blessing to many, Satan set out to wipe Israel off the earth. God verses Satan! That's what generates the suspense of Ex 1 & 2!

Here, then, beloved, is the gospel of Ex 1 & 2: all the plotting of Pharaoh, and Satan with him, against the Lord and His anointed, is vain! They plot, plot to overthrow God and His credibility. But as they plot, God in heaven laughs, He has them in derision. While they plot, the Lord shames them; He makes clear that all their scheming is but foolishness. Look carefully at Ex 1. The Lord tells us that Pharaoh determined to "deal shrewdly" with the Israelites (vs 10); he considered that subjecting them to harsh labor would surely break their spirit, break them as a people. Hence his despotic tactic; "they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens" (1:11). How clever.

But as Pharaoh begins his offensive against God, God begins to make sport with him. For the subjection of the people results not in brokenness and infertility; no, "the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew" (1:12). Pharaoh thinks to kill, Satan thinks to devour the child before He is brought forth. But while hell is doing that, heaven so blesses that Israel's population explodes faster than ever before! Here is spelled out what the history of the Church also demonstrates: the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Pharaoh plots, he deals O so shrewdly. But God shames Pharaoh, He exposes Pharaoh's efforts as folly. And while Pharaoh deliberates with his wise men, God laughs him to scorn.

But Pharaoh is a hard learner. Although his shrewdness served only to make the Israelites more numerous and more mighty than ever, his blindness and hatred prompts him to try again. His new plan is to instruct the midwives to kill every son born to the Hebrews at birth, while daughters should be spared (1:16); they could later on interbreed with the Egyptians. The plan appears to be well conceived; who shall ever be able to tell if the midwives are not quite quick enough at the birth?!

But once again, beloved, behold how the King of heaven shames the king of Egypt. As the mighty rage and the heathen plot, He who sits in the heavens holds them in derision. For the midwives that Pharaoh takes into his confidence turn out to revere not Pharaoh (and so obey him), but they fear God! And so they choose to disobey Pharaoh. What happens then, is that Pharaoh in all his shrewdness ends up hiring not the ungodly to assist him, but the Godly! That's the product of the scheming of the ungodly! And while Pharaoh chafes in irritation that his plan doesn't produce results, God in heaven laughs.

Yet, because Pharaoh refuses to be ashamed, God shames him further still. For when Pharaoh calls the two midwives on the carpet to explain their failure in carrying out his orders, they come up with an excuse that rattles. Say the midwives: "the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women," rather, "they are lively and give birth before the midwife comes to them" (vs 19). It may be true that the Hebrew women are stronger in childbirth than the Egyptian women, but the fact of the matter is that the king of Egypt had given a command. And because a command has been given, those instructed to carry out the command are responsible; these midwives had then better make sure that they get there faster. But Pharaoh does not hold the midwives responsible and execute them for negligence; he instead accepts their excuse. So the two women get the better of the king. Or to say it more properly: the Lord God blinds Pharaoh so that he does not see through the excuse of the midwives. And to our eyes the shrewdness of the ruler of Egypt is again shown to be foolishness.

But even now God is not yet finished making sport with Pharaoh and so with Satan. In a desperate move to maintain Egyptian superiority over the Israelites, Pharaoh mobilized his entire nation against Israel. He issued a decree to all his people: "Every son who is born [to the Hebrews] you shall cast into the Nile river" (1:22). Hear well: this command meant not just that the Israelites themselves had to throw their newborn sons into the River; it meant also that the Egyptians were to look around for Hebrew boys whom the parents had spared and cast them into the Nile.

In the face of that command, God caused a son to be born to a Godly Levite couple. This couple feared God more than Pharaoh, and so determined to obey God instead of Pharaoh. But when the child could be hidden no longer, they carried out the king's command; they put their child into the Nile, afloat in a small ark. And the Lord God led things in such a way that the child was found by the daughter of Pharaoh, who in turn "had compassion"on him, protected him. Whereas Pharaoh had decreed death for the Hebrew boys, it is his own daughter who saves this Hebrew boy from death. Whereas Pharaoh had chosen to make the Nile the instrument of death, it is the Nile that becomes for this infant the instrument for life. Pharaoh's decree to kill the infants had implied that state finances would be used to ensure this infanticide. But now an Israelite woman is hired to raise this child, and that's all done at the expense of the royal treasury!

Here, beloved, is the humor of God displayed for us to enjoy! Here is vividly illustrated the folly of hell; Pharaoh, as Satan's tool, seeks to devour the covenant boys as soon as they are brought forth. But God uses the instrument of death (the Nile), God uses the house of death (the royal palace), God uses the treasury supporting death, to preserve alive the chosen deliverer for His people. "And the child grew": here sounds so clearly the laugh of God in the face of Pharaoh's foolishness. Pharaoh may plot and scheme to destroy the Lord and His anointed, but God uses the plots and schemes of the heathen for His own glory. Right under Pharaoh's nose, in Pharaoh's own palace, God preserves and raises and trains a savior for His chosen people. And Pharaoh can do nothing about it!

"And the child grew." Your God, beloved, is a God of delightful humor! In truth, here is entertainment so stimulating in the face of life's gloom.

That's why we need to understand also, congregation of Jesus Christ, that this heavenly entertainment is not told to us simply for the sake of entertainment. Nor is this a sadistic delighting in the hurt that can be directed to another. God laughed Pharaoh to scorn, shamed him, in the presence of His people. And this people was afflicted; their lives were so bitter with hard service that they cried out under their bondage for deliverance. Now, before the eyes of such oppressed children of His, the Lord demonstrates the folly of the ungodly. And in demonstrating this folly, God gives encouragement to His oppressed children. The crack of the Egyptian whip over the Israelite back was no laughing matter. And yet the oppressed Hebrews received from God all the evidence needed to learn that all this persecution got the Egyptians nowhere; hell could not devour the children of God as soon as they were brought forth. The efforts of the ungodly are vain. In fact, the very fact that God
in heaven can make sport of the henchmen of hell points up the reality that heaven is more than hell, that God is superior to Satan, the Israelites greater than the Egyptians. That's encouragement in the face of oppression.

But if during their sojourn in Egypt the people of God may hear the Lord's laughter in the face of Satan's folly, then the safe future of Israel is also guaranteed. The book of Exodus tells us how God delivered His people from Egypt, but it begins with a lesson of encouragement, a lesson to the effect that all the raging of hell is invariably vain! If Satan's hellish plotting is now made a laughing stock by God, surely no hellish effort will ever succeed once God has gone so far as to deliver His chosen people!

So a day must come when the Savior of the world will be born. But the heavenly laughter of Ex 1 & 2 ensures that the efforts of Satan to devour the Child as soon as He is brought forth will also be vain. And lo, so it happened. The Egypt that now set itself up against the Lord and His anointed eventually becomes -O wonderful irony- the haven of refuge for the infant Jesus! And that servant of Satan, King Herod, is bettered by the wisemen from the east; they depart by another way so that Herod can do nothing more than kill the boys of Bethlehem - while the Child grew in Egypt.

But the hosts of darkness do not learn. Though the foolishness of hell was demonstrated so often by the Lord of heaven, Satan tries again on Calvary. In a desperate attempt to destroy the Son of God, Satan stirred up the Sanhedrin to have Christ crucified. And Satan got His way; on that pole on Calvary hung naked and destitute the Son of God. How hell laughed in evil delight at the rejection of the Son by the Father..

But the last laugh was not for Satan. On Calvary, God made sport of the devil, shamed him. For just when Satan thought to have defeated the Son of God, God made that suffering and death of Christ to be the satisfaction for the sins of all His own. Satan thought to kill Jesus and so defeat God. But the very death of Jesus and His subsequent resurrection implied the defeat of Satan! When hell laughed its evil delight and considered Satan to be triumphant, the seed of the woman dealt the seed of the serpent a deathly blow; Satan's head was crushed. Here once more the folly of the ungodly is held up for all to see. And to scorn. While Satan raged and plotted, God continually had him in derision. For the resistance of Satan against the Almighty always has been and always will be inherently ridiculous.

Who is it, then, that laughs today? O yes, there is laughter in hell when a child of God stumbles, sins. But there is rejoicing in heaven when the Spirit of God works repentance and renewal in the heart of that sinner. And the evil laughter of hell is replaced by frustrated gnashing of teeth. Satan must admit it again that he cannot pluck from the Savior's hands a single one of those whom the Father has given to Him.

Satan refuses to learn. The children of God give continual testimony on earth of the triumph of Jesus Christ. But the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit opposes them; that beast plots, makes war, conquers and kills the saints of God. The bodies of the saints are cast into the streets of Egypt, that place of ungodliness where also Christ was crucified. When the saints are killed and the testimony of Christ silenced, those who dwell on the earth rejoice and make merry and exchange gifts; the ungodly on the earth echo the evil laughter of hell.

But always, beloved, the child grows. The prophet John may assure the church of the last days that Satan will not be the last to laugh. The rejoicing and merriment of the evil on earth is replaced by great fear when the saints of God receive again the breath of life. Hell thought that the testimony of God was silenced. But they partied too early, and while they celebrated God shamed them, showed them up to be the fools they were. For triumph belongs to Christ, not to Satan. So the prophets of God were taken up to heaven and the evil on earth who were not killed in the earthquake could do nothing else than give glory to the God of heaven..

Think on that, beloved! The very people who would rejoice and make merry because saints of God had been silenced, these very -whether they want to or not- give glory to God! Indeed, how the God of all the earth enjoys humor..

We read the papers, we hear the news. What we hear is not encouraging; regard for God and His law there is not in our society. There's so much evidence that Satan tries hard to choke the future of the church. He undermines the family, he encourages his preachers to advocate alternative styles of living together. So we have ample divorce legislation in our land, we have support for mothers to join the work force. And now efforts to make IVF available to lesbian couples.. No, it's not a pleasant world in which to live, or to bring up our children. But beloved, do you see that even in the face of this attack God holds in derision Satan and those with him? Observe how the efforts made to break down the family backfire on the forces of darkness. In the rise of juvenile delinquency, the erosion of morals, the spread of venereal disease, God shows this effort to be the foolishness it is. You see, God shames those who scheme against Him; those who hate God self destruct: in blindness
they keep shooting themselves in the foot! That is because heaven has them in derision; God makes of the godless a laughing stock.

That means in turn that we are to do more than shake our heads in dismay at the evil recorded in the paper; sad though that evil is, there is a lighter side to it. For that evil is at bottom foolishness. Day by day Satan is being publicly shamed before the eyes of the world.

Then the world may laugh at us because they perceive us to be so narrow-minded in going to church, in spending precious dollars to send our children to private school. And they may laugh all the more when they learn that on principle grounds we do not want to work on Sunday. And they may scratch their heads in derision when they learn that on principle grounds we do not want to join with others in evangelization because we want to stand on the Word of God as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity. But let it not dismay you, beloved. Your God has them all in derision; He laughs them to scorn. For foolishness is not with us but with them! For we have on our side the God who caused Moses to grow, even at Pharaoh's expense. And we have on our side the God who crushed Satan's head precisely when Satan thought he had defeated once and for all the Almighty on Calvary.

Yes, there is humor in the Bible, a special, divine humor. It's a humor seen and understood only by the eye of faith. And the faithful who hear that laughter are so encouraged in the face of life's disappointments.

Do you, beloved, hear the laughter of God? And do you laugh with Him on account of the shame of hell? Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. C. Bouwman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://members.iinet.net.au/~jvd/Sermons/Ex2,10a.htm

(c) Copyright 2000, Rev. C. Bouwman

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