A Study of Exodus 21:5-6

Preached at Troy, New York, U.S.A., 1895 – By Thomas Bradbury

“And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free. Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.”
(Exodus 21:5-6)

THE Old Testament Scriptures are full of Christ. “The Lamb is the light thereof.” (Rev. 21:23) Take away Christ and all is darkness and obscurity. Let Christ appear by the enlightening grace of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and every type, sacrifice, prophecy, and promise is full of Him. He declares that Moses wrote of Him. (John 5:46) Moses never appears so glorious as when Christ is revealed in his writings. Every portion of his five-one-book is radiant with the glory of Christ. Each part has its peculiar truth to unfold and lesson to impart. GENESIS begins with creation, but Christ is the Creator. The burden of its strains is election, but it is election in Christ Jesus. EXODUS abounds with redemption, but Christ is its only Redeemer. LEVITICUS reveals a worshipping people, with Christ their Priest, Sacrifice, Altar, and All in all. NUMBERS reminds us that we are still in the wilderness wandering and warring, but Christ is the Captain and Guide of Israel’s elect and redeemed host. DEUTERONOMY is full of gracious teaching. It may be well styled the Gospel according to Moses. It abounds with sovereign grace and discriminating truth. The meaning of its title is, Second Law. Moses broke the two tables first given to him, but God gave to him two tables more to be deposited in the ark of the covenant and covered by the mercy seat. Satan might chuckle at the breaking of the first tables, but he would rage with disappointment at the treasuring up of the second. We know to our sorrow that lessons received are frequently soon forgotten, but not irretrievably so. The Covenant Remembrancer will see to it that our memories are again refreshed with truth which cannot be broken. That is a sweet word in Mark 10:1, “and, as He was wont, He taught them again.” Deuteronomy is a recapitulation of Israel’s sins and follies, and of the forbearing grace of Israel’s Covenant God. Thus we learn from Moses that God’s elect are redeemed by Christ, brought to worship God in spirit and in truth, guided by Him continually, and efficiently taught in the verities of the covenant and the truths of the everlasting Gospel.

Our text reveals Christ amid the simple realities of social life. Christ enjoyed in the family is a good thing for the family. Here He is seen with the servants, the slaves, the menials of the household. Those of low estate are never forgotten by Him. From amongst these He selected His companions upon earth, and those who should go forth as the first heralds of redeeming love and the messengers of sovereign mercy. Daily toilers were ever near and dear to Him, and such He lovingly remembered when He dealt out His righteous laws to ancient Israel. The extortioner and oppressor of the poor, He reprobates, while “the poor of this world rich in faith” have a permanent place in His eternal affections. It can never be said to Him at the wrong time, “Thou, O God, hast prepared of Thy goodness for the poor.” (Ps. 68:10) To the hearts of His spiritually poor He preaches His own precious Gospel, (Matt. 11:5) and with loving care counsels His people concerning the needy around them, “For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good.” (Mark 14:7) The Book of God recommends itself to me because of the spirit of intense reality pervading every part thereof. In it men and things are described just as they are, free from all overcolouring or undertoning. Jesus is revealed just as He appeared to His Father’s allseeing eyes. Here He is seen in His kingly glory. There He appears in lowly servitude. But here or there, exalted or humbled, beauty and grace ever characterize Him.

In the narrative before us our blessed Lord and Saviour is set forth in lowly, honest service, “And if the Servant shall plainly say.” “The Servant.” How blessedly He is seen and known in this relationship by the eye of faith and fond affection. God-wrought faith fixes on Him alone. Spirit-wrought affection delights itself in His matchless beauty. With Paul we see Him equal with the Father as touching His Godhead, but inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. See Phil. 2:6,8; “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a Servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Heretics have hinted that Christ is here said to be only “in the form of God,” therefore not really God. To this I answer, that it also says, “He took on Him the form of a Servant,” therefore according to their reasoning He was not really a Servant. But He was truly God a real Mana servant indeed. The service of Christ was no forced work. “HE gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14) “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25) That is a sweet word of His in John 10:15, “As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” There was a perfect understanding between the Father and the Son from the days of eternity. Neither has done, nor can do, anything to forfeit the confidence of the other.

God has been pleased to set forth the faithfulness and the varied excellencies of Jesus by the pen of His prophet Isaiah. Let us look at a few of them. Turn to chap. 42:1, “Behold My Servant, Whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in Whom My soul delighteth: I have put My Spirit upon Him; He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” This reveals a full salvation to those distant from God, and to the most degraded. See how the unfeigned and unaffected love of the Servant of the covenant is graphically described in Isa. 42:19,21, “Who is blind, but My Servant? or deaf, as My Messenger that I sent? Who is blind as He that is perfect, and blind as the LORD’S Servant? seeing many things, but Thou observest not; opening the ears, but He heareth not. The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake. He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” See how glorious He appears in chap. 49:5-9, “And now saith the Lord that formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob again to Him. Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My Strength. And He said, It is a light thing that Thou shouldst be My Servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give Thee for a Light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My Salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, to Him Whom man despiseth, to Him Whom the nation abhorreth, to a Servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose Thee. Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee, and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a Covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that Thou mayst say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” And then notice His care over His benighted ones in chap. 50:10, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of His Servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” Mark well the Father’s good opinion of Him in chap. 52:13, “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” We will close our quotations from the evangelical prophet with that one so full of Gospel truth, in chap. 53:11, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My Righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.”

He is not only faithful and successful in His service, but clear and plain in His utterances to His Father and to His people. He says to them, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His Life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:27,28) It is as clear as light that Jesus gave His whole life from Bethlehem to Calvary to glorify His Father and to save His people from their sins. He covenanted to obey His Father’s law in every part, and to satisfy it perfectly by the penal sufferings He should endure. Listen to His own declaration to His disciples at the well of Samaria, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish the work.” (John 4:34) Listen to this Servant plainly saying, “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father Which hath sent Me.” (John 5:30) The Father’s will was the salvation of His own elect. The Son’s work was the glorification of His Father. These two are so united that where one is the other must be. See John 6:38-40, “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the Father’s will Which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Now let us seek a little instruction from the servant’s declaration, “I love my master.” In these words we hear the voice, and learn the will, of Incarnate Love. There is something inexpressibly precious to the heart of a true believer in the spirit of intense devotion which ever told itself forth in the sorrowing life of the Father’s Christ. Were I to ask the question, “Why did Jesus Christ come into this world of sin and sorrow? selfish Christianity would answer, To save sinners. But the answer under the anointing would be, To glorify God. The first Adam failed on this ground. The Last Adam gloriously succeeded. He was fully competent for His work. “In Him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5) “He knew no sin.” (2 Cor. 5:21) “He did no sin.” (1 Peter 2:22) His heart’s desire was His Father’s will. His Father’s will was His unceasing work. When a Lad He corrected His mother on this subject, saying, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) He loved His Father too well to be led astray by the fleshly sorrows of His loving mother. When He was a man, He could say with infallible certainty, “I do always those things that please Him.” (John 8:29) When the Righteous Servant’s labour was ended when the Honest Workman’s toil had ceased when the Faithful Steward’s account was rendered, He said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” (John 17:4) In the Covenant Surety’s glorification of the Father, elect sinners are saved in Him with an everlasting salvation, and saved sinners are eternally justified. Love is the spring and source of all this. Let us pursue this precious narrative.

“I love my wife.” A heart in love with Jesus Christ fails not in finding Him here. We are led in these words to contemplate the marvellous love of Jesus to His church and people. We can say from the heart in David’s words concerning Jonathan, “Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (2 Sam. 1:26) Paul’s heart seemed to overflow with this delightful theme, as he prayed for the saints at Ephesus that they might know the unknowable! Nothing short of this would satisfy either him or them. Look at it “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19) The loving apostle councelled his friends to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” (Eph. 5:2) In the same chapter he counsels husbands to practical godliness in their conduct toward their wives, simply because of Christ’s great love to His bride the church, saying, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)

The love of the Willing Servant to His bride the church is largely illustrated in the pages of divine inspiration. “Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.” (Hosea 12:12) Jacob’s intense love and service for Rachel are beautifully set forth in Gen. 29:18-20, “And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” Jacob’s servitude was rewarded with deceit, but this damped not his love. Jesus’ service was attended with shame and suffering heretofore unknown, but the greater the indignities heaped upon Him, the greater the manifestation of His love to the bride of His heart. His love stronger than death more stable than the ancient mountains firm as the throne of God, lasting as His life.

“I love my wife.” Nowhere do we see the love of Christ to His church set forth so fully as in the case of Adam’s love to Eve. He was the figure of the Coming One the Last Adam. Eve did nothing of the kind. Satan beguiled her by throwing the dust of fleshly expectancy in her eyes, and allured her into transgression against, and distance from, God. The Holy Ghost tells us plainly that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Tim. 2:14) Adam was in no wise deceived, neither by the devil, nor by his wife. He knew what he was doing and sinned with his eyes wide open. He saw her in the depths of her guilt and shame, and out of pure love to her, before he would be parted from her he would be damned with her. He cleaved to his wife for they were one flesh, and into ruin he plunged himself for her sake. In all this he was the figure of Him that was to come, yet very much unlike Him. Adam loved the creature more than the Creator. Christ loved the Father with the same love that He bore to His bride the church. He is ever the Unchangeable in saying with the affectionate servant, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.” “Whom once He loves He never leaves, but loves them to the end.” Loving responsibility hangs upon Him with the perfection of gracefullness. Shifted responsibility from the loved wife to the Loving Husband is her salvation, succour, safety and security.

“I love my children; I will not go out free.” Here we see the predestinated children of the Father blessed in eternal relationship to the Eternal Son of God. He calls attention to Himself and to them as the Father’s gift to Him in Isa. 8:18, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given Me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of Hosts, Which dwelleth in Mount Zion.” That this refers to Christ and His people we are not left in doubt when we read the quotation in Heb. 2:13, “Behold I and the children which God hath given Me.” He is thus set forth as the Son Who continues His Father’s Name for ever. (Ps. 72:17) Through the perfection of His righteousness the preciousness of His blood the power of His resurrection and the prevalency of His intercession He brings forth the progeny of grace from the womb of the eternal purpose, to serve, praise and adore the Eternal Three in One to all generations. In them He sees the fruit of His soul travail with deep delight and ineffable satisfaction. In Him they are begotten again to a living hope by His resurrection. (1 Peter 1:3) In Him they are quickened into spiritual life. (Eph. 2:5) In Him they are born again nevermore to die. (1 Peter 1:23) By Him they are cared for with no small care carried in His bosom of everlasting love washed from every stain of sin in His own heart’s bloodjustified in His spotless righteousness and presented to His Father faultless and eternally fair.

How blessed it is to see the willingness of our Lord and Saviour in bowing to the yoke of servitude for the loved ones of His heart. Coercion influences Him not. Out of pure love and voluntary affection the servant of our text said, “I will not go out free.” So the Righteous Servant of the Righteous Father, said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17,18) Freedom from voluntary and cherished responsibility had no attractions for Him. The labour of His life the sorrows of His soul the burdens of His spirit His agony and bloody sweat His cruel cross and passion all were borne without extraneous constraint. His service and sufferings were His own pure choice. In the act of the master boring the servant’s ear with an awl, faith sees the consenting will of the Covenant Surety the life service and unceasing devotion of Incarnate Love. Here I would ask you to come along with me to that blessed fortieth Psalm. In it the secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him, while He shows them His covenant to make them know it. The voice of Love is heard in the eternal counsels, saying, “Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast Thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O, My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart.” Do notice those words, “Mine ears hast Thou opened” (margin, digged). In all this we discover the mutual engagements between the Father and the Son the self devotion of the Servant of the covenant. Of the truth of this we are not left to doubt, for the Blessed Spirit explains the whole transaction in Heb. 10:5-10, “Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure; then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God. Above, when He said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein, which are offered by the law; then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Oh what a glorious sight for the faith of God’s elect! A body prepared for the Eternal Son of God. A real human heart free from human deceit to experience a fellow-feeling in all the sorrows and sufferings of His loved ones here upon earth. Real human eyes to watch over His weary members, to weep with those who weep, and to weep for those who cannot weep for themselves. Real human ears ever attentive to the sighs of the sorrowful and the cries of the oppressed. Real human lips filled with grace, and words of life for the objects of His love. Real human hands ever ministering to the necessities of the saints. Real human feet frequently weary in errands of mercy to His loved members. A real human soul which was troubled and sorrowful even unto death, that His sorrowing members might be joyful in Him to all eternity. See how the human soul of Christ, God-Man, is kept before our view in the last three verses of Isaiah’s most evangelical chapter: “When Thou shall make HIS SOUL AN OFFERING FOR SIN, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of THE travail OF HIS SOUL and shall be satisfied….He hath POURED OUT HIS SOUL UNTO DEATH.” (Isa. 53:10-12) His soul was sorrowful, His soul was not left in hell. Yonder He is in heaven’s highest glory “a real Man,” and really humane.

But look at His ear. In the counsels of eternity when He was His Father’s delight, His Father was His joy, and His delight were with the elect sons of men, then He said to the Father, “Mine ears hast thou opened.” (Ps. 40:6, digged) In this we see the Father’s Righteous Servant, the Servant of servants, reaching forth in all the love of His heart, to embrace all the election of grace with His willing servitude. Neither time nor clime exempts from His loving service and care. This is a scene which fills all heaven with wonder and delight. The Man, God’s Fellow, binding Himself in honourable bonds to be God’s Slave for ever. While God exists, His Servant will serve Him. While the Lamb’s wife lives He will nourish and cherish her. Wherever the children of the covenant are found He is there to wait upon them. “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:4-6) In the Father’s act of sending His Son we see the Son humbling Himself, making Himself of no reputation, taking upon Him the form of a Servant, the labour of men, and bending to an obedience unto death, even the death of the cross.

In the service of the willing slave neither time nor toil were his own. All through the life of the Servant of the covenant, faith sees Him executing the will of Him who sent Him. The Father’s will is the salvation of His people, and for its accomplishment, the strength of God and the weakness of man are combined in heaven’s Shiloh. Earth and hell array themselves against Him. Men and devils determine to thwart Him. Law and justice seem against Him. Not one of His loved ones can in the least assist Him. All seem to hinder. None are inclined to help. What a mercy to see help laid in covenant upon One that is mighty. Down to the depths of our degradation, doom and death He descended, and such were His zeal and love that all obstacles flew before Him, Heaven’s requirements He met and answered. Hell’s opposition He rendered null and void. The Law’s loud thunder He silenced for ever. The new and living way to God, grace, and glory, was fully opened up in the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. The Servant’s heart was in the glorification of His Master. The Father’s delight is in His Son and in the faithful service rendered by the Son to Him. Where are our hearts? What is our chief delight? Here we would answer in adoring desire:

“More of Thy presence , Lord, impart,
More of Thine image let me bear:
Erect Thy throne within my heart,
And reign without a rival there.”

Our delight has been in beholding His loving service while He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. To law He rendered all its due in perfect obedience and patience endurance. He finished the work His Father gave Him to do. (John 17:4) He finished all the penal suffering His Father called Him to endure. (John 19:30) He glorified His Father, and He will have His wife and children glorified with Him. See how Peter puts it, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that HE MIGHT BRING US TO GOD.” (1 Peter 3:18) His service is not according to His mind “till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more.” He says Himself, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) Why shall they come? Because He will not be in rest until He brings them. But mighty barriers are in the way of a redeemed sinner’s approach to God. An innumerable host of eternally loved ones are in the vile embrace of sin each one is led willingly in Satan’s captive chains all possess a carnal mind at enmity with God, a mind that cannot receive the things of God but looks upon them as rank folly they are as filthy as filthy sin can make them their best name is, enemy to God, their best state, alienated from God their best hope, hell.

But in this state they cannot be left. The Faithful Servant forgets not His self-imposed responsibility. “He will ever be mindful of His covenant” with the Father on the behalf of his wife and children. (Ps. 111:5) As their Kinsman-Redeemer He remembers the labours and toils of His hands from Nazareth to Olivet, the load of sin and guilt He patiently bore the weight of wrath He meekly endured the bloody sweat of Gethsemane the dark desertion of Calvary the bitter cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” The shout of triumph, “It is finished.” On the ground of accomplished redemption, “He ever lives to carry on His people’s cause above,” and to pay unfailing attention to their every state and condition here below. He sees them lying in the most out of the way places, dead in trespasses and sins, and, as His own eternally loved ones, He quickens them into spiritual life in oneness with Himself. By His all powerful word and Spirit, He brings them from the regions of the dead, and blesses them with life and immortality through His gospel. Blessed with His life they mourn their filthiness and vileness, and from the stricken heart the cry goes forth, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps. 51:2) With the cry, the Loving Servant, the Faithful Husband is there to reveal the open fountain in His wounded side and bleeding heart, and to cleanse the sin-burdened from all sin. (1 John 1:7) Not from some, but from all sin. The blessed knowledge and enjoyment of this causes the blood-washed worshippers to sing exultingly, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen.” (Rev. 1:5,6)

Whatever may be the need of the bride the church, the same is supplied from the unfailing stores of her Heavenly Bridegroom. See how clearly and fully this is set forth in Ezek. 16:1,14. The time of her destitution and helplessness is the opportunity for the exercise of His love and care. Is she naked? He clothes her with His garments of salvation, robe of righteousness, mantle of humility, and broidered work of His Spirit, while her adoring heart and joyful lips sound forth His praises, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isa. 61:10) Is she hungry? He feeds her. Is she fainting? He restores her. Is she helpless? He upholds her. Does she pine for glory? He will bring her in. Look at those two last words, “for ever.” Time will not terminate His service of love. In the ages to come our Covenant God and Father will show the exceeding riches of His grace toward us through Christ Jesus, and when time shall be no more the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed us, and lead us to living fountains of waters, and bless us in His eternal joy.


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