We left the people of Israel so happy that God had remembered their affliction. They saw the signs and wonders that God gave Moses to show them, and although Moses was sure they were going to ask who gave Moses these orders, they never did ask God’s name. We left the Israelites worshipping God. In fact, I suspect that they worshipped so much that they began to neglect their duties as slaves. Word came to Pharaoh about their neglect of duty.
Pastor Don always tells us that right before we break free of anything the fire is heated up under the situation and things often look worse before they look better. That is a plan of satan to distract us from holding onto our confession of faith. We can get lost, start speaking negativity into the situation and end up stuck in our situation. The Israelites will, during their trek to freedom murmur against God, and the start of that murmuring is in this chapter. I need to remember that when things get really tough to start praising God.
Exodus 5:1-3 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ And Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.’ So they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
God’s plan was not for just a three day journey into the wilderness for a sacrifice, but after hundred’s of years of slavery, to ask for three days is not a large request. This shows just how unreasonable Pharaoh was, to not allow the people a chance to worship God. And Moses even suggested that if there was no worship pestilence or the sword would fall on the people. I am certain that that would not move Pharaoh to pity for he was bent on reducing the numbers of Israelites anyway, so what harm would a little pestilence do?
With elections around the corner this got me to thinking about leaders. While Pharaoh hardened His heart, God in His sovereignty knew that this was how Pharaoh would react. No matter what ruler, king, president, congressman, senator, local official is in power they are still under God’s sovereignty, and whatever they do (good or bad in our sight) will be used by God for His purposes and Glory.
The Pharaoh in Egypt claimed to be divine, to be god on earth. The Pharaoh believed that he did not have to submit to anybody, that he was divine. He had no intention of submitting to the God of the Hebrews or any god for that matter. But we will see that the God of the Hebrews, our beloved God, will show Pharaoh just how powerless the gods of the Egyptians are – for many of the plagues relate to the gods of the Egyptians, and they are under God’s control.
Exodus 5:4-9 Then the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.” And Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor!” So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers saying, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words.”
Pharaoh, you may call the words of God false words, but we will soon see that God’s word is truth. Pharaoh tried to discredit Moses and Aaron in the eyes of the people by increasing their workload in response to their listening to Moses and Aaron. Instead of having straw supplied to make bricks, now the people will have to work extra hours to gather stubble to make bricks.
Brick was the material that the tower of Babel was built out of – the work and product of man’s hands and pride. Pharaoh’s mentality is the same mentality as that of the world today – remember Egypt is a type of the world – the mentality states that it is a waste of time to worship God. It is never a waste of time to worship.
Exodus 5:10-15 And the taskmasters of he people and their officers went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh: I will not give you straw. Go, get yourselves straw where you can find it; yet none of your work will be reduced. So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters forced them to hurry, saying, “Fulfill your work, your daily quota, as when there was straw. Also the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as before? Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why are you dealing thus with your servants?”
The people should not have been crying out to Pharaoh, they should have been crying out to God. They went to get direction from Pharaoh, when they should have listened to God. Don’t we do that in our lives when we are faced with difficulty. I know that so often I seek a person to help me with a situation, when I should take it to God first. At times God will direct me to a person, but I should have gone to God first. We can end up running around in circles unless we focus on the ultimate source of everything – God. God can order our steps and help us to get out of the situation better than we can in our own efforts.
I was also thinking about what will remain in our lives – not the work done by hands, not the hay and straw that will be burnt away – only the pure Gold of God will remain.
Exodus 5:16-19 “There is no straw given to your servants, and they say to us, “Make brick!” And indeed your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” But he said, “You are idle! Idle! Therefore you say, “Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.” Therefore go now and work, for no straw shall be given you, yet you shall deliver the quota of bricks. And the officers of the children of Israel saw that they were in trouble after it was said, “You shall not reduce any bricks from your daily quota.”
What is brought to my mind is that these people were forced to make idols (of brick) for the Pharaoh while he called them idle. It is not idle to worship God. I was brought to mind Rehoboam who was a King of Israel who put an undo burden on the people, increasing the yoke of their taxation, and the people rebelled. Here Pharaoh is trying to increase their burden. The way I see it they had two choices – side with God and defeat Pharaoh, or turn against God’s messengers and there would be consequences. They will murmur to Moses and Aaron, choosing the status quo and the unfair burden, complaining while doing so. The wandering in the wilderness will increase the people’s dependence on God, causing them to rely on God. Now they are not doing so, preferring instead to seek Pharaoh’s guidance in this. The other thought that came to mind is a time when the Israelites tired of manna and thought longingly about the wonderful food that they had in Egypt. Their memories were faulty because their time in Egypt was beset with hardship and intense work. The Egyptians were not so concerned about the health and well-being of the slaves. Yet our minds will play tricks on us and we will remember things that didn’t really happen.
Exodus 5:20-21 Then as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, “Let the LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.
Isn’t that just like us, when our pastor tells us something to do and it seems that circumstances become more difficult, we want to blame the pastor, take out our frustrations on the pastor? What the people are doing is selective memory – just a few chapters ago the Israelites were having to kill their sons, drown them in the river – this desire of Pharaoh is not different – he was already bent on killing them. God would have judged the Israelite leaders and found them wanting – because Moses and Aaron were doing God’s will. Just because we obey God in a situation does not necessarily mean that the obedience will be well received by others, or that it will make our circumstances easier. We should not seek to please man (or fear to appear abhorrent to man) but rather to please God.
Exodus 5:22 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.”
I won’t keep you in suspense too long – believe it or not, God has an answer for Moses. I am so impressed that, instead of answering the people from the top of his head, Moses went to God first and asked God. He was not struck down for asking God a question – God does not mind questions. He asks a question many of us ask ourselves, why me? And from Moses’ perspective the situation certainly seems worse, but God does not deal in our realm of circumstances – His picture is far greater than what we can perceive. Not always does God give an answer to our why questions – perhaps a far better question is how can I…. or what should I…..How may not elicit a response from God, for we may not understand all the ramifications of what God is doing, and with us, I think God operates on a need to know basis.
Moses felt the same way that we sometimes do when God gives us a revelation or tells us to do something. We want to see instant results, forgetting that what we put in motion now has repercussions further down the road. We may not see results immediately, we may never see results, but that is not our concern – our concern is to obey God.
I have to be honest with you, as I am writing these words, God is convicting me because I too look at situations as Moses did, as the Israelites did, and at times as Pharaoh did. God is helping me to see that I need to look at Him, trust Him, and obey Him.
Hoping you have a blessed day!
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