“The name of the one was Gershom… And the name of the other was Eliezer,” by Louis A. Dole

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“And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:
“And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” – Exodus 18:3, 4

Readings

Exodus 18:1-12 · Matthew 12:1-21 · Psalm 39

Sermon

Moses had spent the second forty years of his life in the land of Midian, and there had married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, a priest or prince of Midian, who bore him two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. The names of these two sons of Moses are themselves suggestive of events in their father’s history. Forced to flee from the pomp and regal splendor of Egypt, he had found refuge in the land of Midian, where he was to all intents and purposes an alien. And so he called his first son Gershom, which means “a stranger there” or an exile.

But through all this experience he did not lose his trust in the Lord. Through his call at the burning bush he was shown that he was being prepared for a great and momentous work. It is often the fact that in cases of this kind there are hints and inward indications and premonitions of coming distinction and use. Thus, we may believe, it was with Moses; and to mark his faith he called his second son Eliezer, a word which means “God is my help.”

Though Moses was brought up in the splendor of Pharaoh’s court, his mother, who had been called to be his nurse, had kept alive in his mind his Hebrew origin and inheritance. So he was enabled to become an instrument of the Lord. Through him the Lord gave the Divine Law, which summarizes the Divine love and wisdom. So Moses and the Law have come to be equivalent terms.

The law of God is both for time and for eternity. With supreme authority its mission is to lead us to the Lord and to crown our lives with blessings.

In the material universe the Divine laws give form and stability to all created objects. The ordinances of day and night and the seasons keep their appointed times and place. But there are higher and more far-reaching laws of wider scope and application, containing all the possibilities of the development of the soul. These laws of the spirit give us an efficient guide for all our duties, however lowly they may be, and through obedience to them all our occupations are rendered noble, all faithful workers honorable, and the dust of the world is turned into gold. Whether negative or positive, whether in prohibitions or encouraging injunctions, the Law is our Heavenly Father’s love adapted to our varying states. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple… Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.”

People vary as to their states. And individuals pass through different states. There may be a cordial and grateful reception of the Lord’s blessings, a thoughtless acceptance of them, or a rejection of them. In the world today there are many who obviously take no interest in religion, whose attitude is one of sheer indifference to it and complete disregard of its appeals. And there are others who in some external way pay deference to it and yet, unlike the Psalmist, do not find their supreme delight in the law of the Lord. Such are more numerous than they ought to be. Just as it is possible for a man to be nominally a gentleman but actually quite the opposite, so it is quite possible to have a nominal faith which is destitute of any reality. One may have adequate and correct knowledge without the love for its observance which alone can give it reality and life. In such a case the will is dumb and torpid. The desire for goodness is lacking, and if such a desire sometimes awakens, it is a feeble glimmer easily put out by the garish lights of the world.

The law of God is foreign to such people. It is alien to their hopes and desires, unable to convert the soul – an exile from Divine power and glory. It is like the state described by the prophet Hosea where, speaking as the mouthpiece of the Most High, he declared of Israel: “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” Israel could not admit the relevancy and force of the Law. Just as there are those today who deny its validity, shirk its obligations, and turn a deaf ear to its call, so it was then.

There is beauty in the Divine Law. Through it power is given to contend with and to overcome worldliness and evil. But when men seeing see not, and look rather to that which in the end will bring them only barrenness and discouragement, clearly to them the Divine Law is Gershom, a stranger. In this state all of us are to begin with. Our own inclinations seem to be those which have promise.

On the other hand there are those of whom these words in the writings are true: “For a man to be a man of the church these two (the will and the understanding) must make a one, and this they do when the man forms his understanding from genuine truths, which to all appearance is done as by himself; and when his will is infilled with the good of love, which is done by the Lord.” This is the familiar teaching that the will and the understanding, the heart and the mind, must make a one. For what does not agree will eventually be cast off. Jeremiah writes: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Doing the Lord’s will one is gifted with a vision to see the eternal things of righteousness that belong to his peace, and that are invisible to the eye of mere speculation, and hidden from the eye of mere curiosity. There is no halting, no falling short, no fear or uncertainty in such a faith. It will both triumph and endure.

Nor is there in this the slightest suspicion of self-merit. There is no Pharisaic pride in its possession. True religion is as remarkable for its humility as for its lofty sentiments. It does good simply because it is good. A man of great and true character is too much absorbed in learning and doing the Lord’s will to demand acclamation or to inflate himself with self-importance. He does not go about seeking credit for his good deeds. If one is able to do good, it is not from himself. As we advance in regeneration, we should grow more and more in the realization that God is our help. That is what the word Eliezer means. The Lord is our leader and guide. There is no human state of life which He cannot enlighten and sanctify, if we will let Him. He leads us gently by our affections and, while never breaking the bruised reed of our thoughts or even quenching the dimly burning fire of our affections, He bends our life gently, tenderly in the way of enduring use and power.

It is a glorious promise that, in spite of our weakness and our folly, we can be led to do what the Lord would have us do. That is the purpose of His Law. So should we reverence the Law of the Lord, regarding it not as a stranger, but making our obedience to it the evidence of our trust in the Lord and in His helpfulness, that our names may be written in the Lord’s book of life.

Amen

Read the original sermon in PDF format

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