[Here we continue a study that deals with affliction faced by Godís people. It was written by Thomas Watson, and is taken from the introduction of his work on the Ten Commandments.]óEd.

 

Out of the House of Bondage

by Thomas Watson (1620 Ė1686)

1And God spake all these words, saying, 2"I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Ex. 20:1-2, AV).

We may consider these words, "Which brought thee out of the house of bondage," either, [1] Literally; or [2] Spiritually and Mystically. Literally, "I brought thee out of the house of bondage"; that is, I delivered you out of the misery and servitude you sustained in Egypt, where you were in the iron furnace. Spiritually and mystically, by which "I brought thee out of the house of bondage", is a type of our deliverance by Christ from sin and hell.

[1] Literally, "I brought thee out of the house of bondage", out of great misery and slavery in the iron furnace. The thing I note here is that, though God brings His people sometimes into trouble, yet He will bring them out again. Israel was in the house of bondage, but at last was brought out. We shall endeavour to show: 1. That God does deliver out of trouble; 2. In what manner; 3. At what seasons; 4. Why He delivers; 5. How the deliverances of the godly and wicked out of trouble differ.

God does deliver His children out of troubles. "Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them" (Psa. 22:4). Paul said, "And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion," namely, from Nero (II Tim 4:17). "Thou laidst affliction upon our loins, but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place" (Psa. 67:11,12). "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psa. 30:5). God brought Daniel out of the lionsí den, Zion out of Babylon. In His due time, He gives an issue out of trouble (see Psa. 68:20). The tree which in the winter seems dead, revives in the spring. The sun emerges after the storms. Affliction may leap on us as the viper did on Paul, but at last it shall be shaken off. It is called a cup of affliction (see Isa. 51:17). The wicked drink a sea of wrath, the godly drink only a cup of affliction, and God will say shortly, "Let this cup pass away." God will give His people a gaol-delivery.

In what manner does God deliver His people out of trouble?

He does it like a God, in wisdom. (1) He does it sometimes suddenly. As the angel was caused to fly swiftly (Dan. 9:21), so God sometimes makes a deliverance fly swiftly, and on a sudden, turns the shadow of death into the light of the morning. As He gives us mercies above what we can think (see Eph. 3:20), so sometimes before we can think of them. "When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream"; i.e., it came suddenly upon us as a dream (Ps. 126:1). Joseph could not have thought of such a sudden alteration, to be the same day freed out of prison, and made the chief ruler in the kingdom. Mercy sometimes does not stick long in the birth, but comes forth on a sudden. (2) God sometimes delivers His people strangely. Thus the whale which swallowed up Jonah was the means of bringing him safe to land. He sometimes delivers His people in the very way in which they think will destroy them. In bringing Israel out of Egypt, He stirred up the heart of the Egyptians to hate them (Psa. 105:25), and that was the means of their deliverance. He brought Paul to shore by a contrary wind, and upon the broken pieces of the ship (Acts 27:44).

When are the times and seasons that God usually delivers His people out of the bondage of affliction?

(1) When they are in the greatest extremity. Though Jonah was in the belly of hell, he says, "Thou hast brought up my life from corruption" (Jonah 2:6). When there is but a hairís breadth between the godly and death, God ushers in deliverance. When the ship was almost covered with waves Christ awoke and rebuked the wind. When Isaac was upon the altar, and the knife about to be put to his throat, the angel comes and says, "Lay not thy hand upon the child." When Peter began to sink, Christ took him by the hand. When the tale of brick was doubled, then Moses the temporal saviour comes. When the people of God are in the greatest danger the morning star of deliverance appears. When the patient is ready to faint, the cordial is given.

(2) The second season is, when affliction has done its work upon them; when it has effected that which God sent it for. As, [1] When it has humbled them. "Remembering my affliction, the wormwood and gall, my soul is humbled in me" (Lam. 3:19,20). Then Godís corrosive has eaten out the proud flesh. [2] When it has tamed their impatience. Before, they were proud and impatient, like froward children that struggle with their parents; but when their cursed hearts are tamed, they say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him" (Micah 7:9); and as Eli, "It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good: Let Him hedge me with thorns, if He will plant me with grace" (I Sam. 3:18).

(3) When they are partakers of more holiness, and are more full of heavenly-mindedness (see Heb 12:10). When the sharp frost of affliction has brought forth the spring-flowers of grace, the cross is sanctified, and God will bring them out of the house of bondage. Sorrow will turn to joy, ashes to garlands. When the metal is refined it is taken out of the furnace. When affliction has healed us, God takes off the smarting plaister.

Why does God bring His people out of the house of bondage?

Hereby He makes way for His own glory. His glory is dearer to Him than anything besides; it is a crown jewel. By raising His people He raises the trophies of His own honour; He glorifies His own attributes; His power, truth, and goodness are triumphant.

(1) His power. If God did not sometimes bring His people into trouble, how could His power be seen in bringing them out? He brought Israel out of the house of bondage, with miracle upon miracle; He saved them with an outstretched arm. "What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?" &c. (Psa. 114:5). Of Israelís march out of Egypt it is said, when the sea fled, and the waters were parted each from other. Here was the power of God set forth. "Is there anything too hard for me?" (Jer. 32:27). God loves to help when things seem past hope. He creates deliverance (see Psa. 124:8). He brought Isaac out of a dead womb, and the Messiah out of a virginís womb. Oh! How does His power shine forth when He overcomes seeming impossibilities, and works a cure when things look desperate!

(2) His truth. God has made promises to His people, when they are under great pressures, to deliver them; and His truth is engaged in His promise. "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee" (Psa. 50:15). "He shall deliver thee in six troubles, yea in seven" (Job 5:19). How is the Scripture bespangled with these promises as the firmament is with stars! Either God will deliver them from death, or by death; He will make a way of escape (see I Cor 10:13). When promises are verified, Godís truth is magnified.

(3) His goodness. God is full of compassion to such as are in misery. The Hebrew word, Racham, for mercy, signifies bowels. God has "sounding of bowels" (Isa. 63:15). And this sympathy stirs up God to deliver. "In His love and pity He redeemed them" (Isa. 63:9). This makes way for the triumph of His goodness. He is tender-hearted, He will not over afflict; He cuts asunder the bars of iron, He breaks the yoke of the oppressor. Thus all His attributes ride in triumph in saving His people out of trouble.

How do the deliverance of the godly and wicked out of trouble differ?

(1) The deliverances of the godly are preservations; of the wicked reservations. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly, and to reserve the unjust to be punished" (II Pet 2:9). A sinner may be delivered from dangerous sickness, and out of prison; but all this is but a reservation for some greater evil.

(2) God delivers the wicked, or rather spares them in anger. Deliverances to the wicked are not given as pledges of His love, but symptoms of displeasure; as quails were given to Israel in anger. But deliverances of the godly are in love. "He delivered me because He delighted in me" (II Sam 22: 20). "Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption"; or, as in the Hebrew, Chashiaqta Naphshi (see Isa 38:17). Thou hast loved me from the pit of corruption. A wicked man may say, "Lord, thou hast delivered me out of the pit of corruption"; but a godly man may say, "Lord, thou hast loved me out of the pit of corruption." It is one thing to have Godís power deliver us, and another thing to have His love deliver us. "O," said Hezekiah, "Thou hast in love to my soul, delivered me from the pit of corruption."

How may it be known that a deliverance comes in love?

(1) When it makes our heart boil over in love to God. "I love the Lord because He hath heard my voice" (Psa. 116:1). It is one thing to love our mercies, another thing to love the Lord. Deliverance is in love when it causes love.

(2) Deliverance is in love when we have hearts to improve it for Godís glory. The wicked, instead of improving their deliverance for Godís glory, increase their corruption; they grow worse, as the metal when taken out of the fire grows harder; but our deliverance is in love when we improve it for Godís glory. God raises us out of a low condition, and we lift Him up in our praises, and honour Him with our substance (Prov. 3:9). He recovers us from sickness, and we spend ourselves in His service. Mercy is not as the sun to the fire, to dull it and put it out, but as oil to the wheel, to make it move faster.

(3) Deliverance comes in love when it makes us more exemplary in holiness; and our lives are walking Bibles. A thousand praises and doxologies do not honour God so much as the mortifying of one lust. "Upon mount Zion there shall be deliverance and holiness" (Obad. 17). When these two go together, deliverance and holiness; when, being made monuments of mercy, we are patterns of piety; then a deliverance comes in love, and we may say as Hezekiah, "Thou best in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption."

Use one. If God brings His people out of bondage, let none despond in trouble. Say not "I shall sink under this burden;" or as David, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul." God can make the text good, personally and nationally, to bring His people out of the house of bondage. When He sees a fit season, He will put forth His arm and save them; and He can do it with ease. "Lord, it is nothing with Thee to help" (II Chron 14:11). He that can turn tides, can turn the times; He that raised Lazarus when he was dead, can raise thee when thou art sick. "I looked, and there was none to help; therefore mine own arm brought salvation" (Isa. 63:5). Do not despond; believe in Godís power: faith sets God to work to deliver us.

Use two. Labour, if you are in trouble, to be fitted for deliverance. Many would have deliverance, but are not fitted for it.

When are we fitted for deliverance?

When, by our afflictions, we are conformed to Christ; when we have learned obedience. "He learned obedience by the things which He suffered"; that is, He learned sweet submission to His Fatherís will (Heb 5:8). "Not my will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). When we have thus learned obedience by our sufferings, we are willing to do what God would have us do, and be what God would have us be. We are conformed to Christ, and are fitted for deliverance.

Use three. If God has brought you at any time out of the house of bondage, out of great and eminent troubles, be much in praise. Deliverance calls for praise. "Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee" (Psa 30:11,12). My glory, that is, my tongue, which is the instrument of glorifying Thee. The saints are temples of the Holy Ghost (II Cor 3:16). Where should Godís praises be sounded but in His temple? Beneficium postulat officium [Gratitude should follow a favour]. The deepest springs yield the sweetest water; and hearts deeply sensible of Godís deliverances yield the sweetest praises. Moses tells Pharaoh, when he was going out of Egypt, "We will go with our flocks and our herds" (Exod. 10:9). Why so? Because he might have sacrifices of thanksgiving ready to offer to God for their deliverance. To have a thankful heart for deliverance is a greater blessing than the deliverance itself. One of the lepers, "when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God" (Luke 17:15). The leperís thankful heart was a greater blessing than to be healed of his leprosy. Have any of you been brought out of the house of bondageóout of prison, sickness, or any death-threatening danger? Do not forget to be thankful. Be not graves, but temples. That you may be the more thankful, observe every emphasis and circumstance in your deliverance; such as to be brought out of trouble when you were in articulo mortis [at the brink of death], when there was but a hairís breadth between you and death; or, to be brought out of affliction, without sin, you did not purchase your deliverance by the ensnaring of your consciences; or, to be brought out of trouble upon the wings of prayer; or, that those who were the occasions of bringing you into trouble, should be the instruments of bringing you out. These circumstances, being well weighed, heighten a deliverance, and should heighten our thankfulness. The cutting of a stone may be of more value than the stone itself; and the circumstancing of a deliverance may be greater than the deliverance itself.

But how shall we praise God in a right manner for deliverance?

(1) Be holy persons. In the sacrifice of thanksgiving, whosoever did eat thereof with his uncleanness upon him, was to be cut off (Lev 7:20), to typify how unpleasing their praises and thank-offerings are who live in sin.

(2) Praise God with humble hearts, acknowledge how unworthy you were of deliverance. Godís mercies are not debts, but legacies; and that you should have them by legacy should make you humble. "The elders fell upon their faces (an expression of humility) and worshipped God" (Rev 11:16).

(3) Praise God for deliverances cordially. "I will praise the Lord with my whole heart" (Psa. 111:1). In religion there is no music but in concert, when heart and tongue join.

(4) Praise God for deliverances constantly. "While I live will I praise the Lord" (Psa 146:2). Some will be thankful while the memory of a deliverance is fresh, and then leave off: The Carthaginians used, at first, to send the tenth of their yearly revenue to Hercules; but by degrees they grew weary, and left off sending; but we must be constant in our Eucharistic sacrifice, or thank-offering. The motion of our praise must be like the motion of our pulse, which beats as long as life lasts. "I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being" (Psa 146:2).

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