Failed First Attempt
Father, I thank You for struggles overcome and blessings received. May today be filled with gratitude and hope.
Read EXODUS 5:1–21
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.”
4 But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” 5 Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.”
6 That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”
10 Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you any more straw. 11 Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’” 12 So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. 13 The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.” 14 And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?”
15 Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? 16 Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.”
17 Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”
19 The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” 20 When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, 21 and they said, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psa. 23:4).
With the elders’ backing, Moses and Aaron went and made their request. As they had told the elders “everything the Lord had said to Moses” (Exod. 4:30), everyone must have realized they would be turned down the first time. What they didn’t realize was that Pharaoh would not just turn it down but make the Israelite laborers’ situation many times worse. They were certainly not expecting that! Having to supply their own straw for the brick-making without any lessening of the quota of bricks expected was an impossible task—and not helped by the accompanying increase in the violent treatment to which they were subjected. One can empathize with their position. “You told us God would deliver us, you went and upset Pharaoh; the dreadful position we are in now is all your fault.”
It is easy to assume that if we act in good faith and do what we are convinced is God’s will then the problem situation will automatically work out in a timely way that we can clearly see as beneficial. One thing that these events teaches us is that God does not always act in the way we want or expect.
Of course, the situation had been dreadful and was now even worse. It is very clear that treating any employees justly and kindly is an important principle and the Egyptians’ behavior here was completely unacceptable, not only from a human point of view but also to God. So why was this happening? Moses must have gotten it wrong. One wonders, however, whether the Israelites, as much as Pharaoh, needed to be persuaded that leaving Egypt really was the right thing for them. Maybe the worsening of their situation was the only way that the people as a whole would be persuaded to move on.
Has your obedience to God ever resulted in frustration and difficulty for others? What did you learn from the experience?
Lord, challenge me when I have faltered, encourage me where I have despaired, strengthen me when I am weak.
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