Sunday, 13 March 2016
Exodus 5:1-6:1 Let My People Go!
Have you ever tried to do what God has told you to do only to run into opposition? If you have, you’re not alone. Some of the greatest heroes in the Bible ran into opposition when they did God’s work, and we heard a good example of this a few minutes ago in the reading from Exodus 5:1-6:1.
Pharaoh’s response to Moses’ and Aaron’s request to let the Hebrew slaves go should be seen as contempt for God and not ignorance. In response to Pharaoh’s ignorance, God sent plagues and death on the Egyptians so that there would be no doubt about the ultimate answer.
Pharaoh’s response was a decree that the Hebrews would have to gather their own straw to make bricks during the early morning and late evening while still putting in a full day’s work. To say that these conditions were oppressing was an understatement. In ancient times, straw was added to the clay-and-mud mixture to give greater strength and cohesion to the brick once it dried. Straw was not readily available, so the Hebrews had to gather small pieces of straw. Consequently, their production of bricks slowed while their production quota remained unchanged. It was no surprise therefore that the people accused Moses of making their situation worse.
When God works on our behalf, sometimes the situation gets worse before it gets better. That setback can allow us to take our greatest leap forward in faith. Pharaoh’s refusal to let the Israelites go is a good example. The situation for the Israelites got worse before it got better, God uses roadblocks in our lives to make us doubt our own plans and rely on him. God did this for the Israelites by hardening Pharaoh’s heart.
It isn’t surprising that Moses was discouraged, and in his discouragement he asked God why he allowed this situation to happen. We are sometimes like Moses and the Hebrews when bad things happen to us. We often ask God why he allowed it to happen, but sometimes we fail to realize that God can take something bad and make something good out of it. God told Moses that he would deal harshly with Pharaoh and force him to allow the Hebrews to go free.
The time God used to make the Egyptians suffer from the plagues served two purposes. First, God wanted the Egyptians to know that it is the Lord who acts. Second, God wanted the Israelites to learn to trust him while he was working on their behalf. God promised the Israelites that he would bring them out of Egypt with a strong hand.
The situation between Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh was similar to the situations between Jesus and the Pharisees. Pharaohs were considered to be gods, and the Pharisees showed “god-like” behaviour. Moses challenged Pharaoh like Jesus challenged the Pharisees. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened just like the Pharisees’ hearts were hardened. Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses for a long time just like the Pharisees refused to listen to Jesus. Pharaoh ruled over the Israelites with an iron fist just like the Pharisees used Old Testament laws along with their own rules to rule over the Jews with an “iron fist”
Both Pharaoh and the Pharisees had hard hearts and refused to listen to God. When God speaks, we must listen. Pharaoh learned that lesson the hard way when his army drowned in the Red Sea. God wants us learn the same lesson, but he doesn’t want us to have to learn it the hard way.
1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013, pp. 81-82)
2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
3. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 2: Exodus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 81-88)
4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NKJV (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)