We recently began an extended Bible study called “The Wandering Church”. We are diving deep into the exodus of Israel and considering its application and relevance to the church today. As I have considered the entirety of the content that we will cover over the course of the next few months, I have discovered that it breaks neatly into 4 major sections. The first of these, which is where we are right now, is about the “deliverance” of God’s people.
This morning we pick up their story of deliverance in Exodus chapter 5. We have already discussed how the children of Israel came to be in Egypt, how they became enslaved there for many years, the birth and preparation of Moses, and how God finally called him to bring the Hebrews out from their bondage. At the conclusion of our previous message, Moses had left his family and Midian and joined up with his brother Aaron. The two of them had returned to Egypt and met with the elders of Israel. They had shared God’s message of deliverance with their brethren and everyone rejoiced greatly.
Now it was time for the hard part - to actually confront Pharaoh and demand that he let the people go. You see, it is one thing to talk about what God’s plans are among other believers, but another entirely to actually put them into practice in the world. Anyone can talk about the will of God for their lives and/or for their church, but how many of us have the courage to actually do it? Moses and Aaron were called to risk their lives by going before the king and commanding him to do something that he didn’t want to do.
In today’s sermon we are going to look at a common experience that many of us share with Moses. He had made the decision, despite great personal sacrifice, to obey and follow the direction of God for his life. But as he began to live it out, he immediately ran it several huge obstacles which blocked his pathway. It was a rocky start to say the least. Would these difficulties cause him to give up on God’s calling, or would he persevere?
I. DENIED - Exodus 5:1-5
Moses and Aaron requested to speak with the Pharaoh, and he agreed - perhaps because he remembered Moses from years ago. When they met, Moses and Aaron told the Pharaoh that God had instructed him to let the children of Israel go to celebrate a feast in the wilderness. Pharaoh asked, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?” He did not respect or revere the God of Israel, and saw himself as a god more powerful than any other. His answer: “I will not let the people go.”
I would imagine that Moses and Aaron were expecting a different answer. After all, hadn’t God sent them to deliver his people? So, they asked again. “Please Pharaoh… will you let the people go?” Can you hear the desperation in their voice? It is almost like they were begging him to oblige. It makes me wonder - why do we as Christians seek the world's permission to do God’s will? Why do we want their approval so badly, when the LORD has already told us what He’d have us to do?
Pharaoh, probably angry that he has to repeat himself, again tells them no. He indicates that the labor of the Hebrew slaves is vital to his nation’s economy and well-being and that he will not allow them to stop working, even temporarily, to worship their (in his eyes) weak and pathetic god. And with that Moses and Aaron’s audience with the Pharaoh abruptly ends and they are escorted out of the palace no doubt stunned and dismayed by what has transpired.
II. DISTRESSED - Exodus 5:6-21
As if this wasn’t bad enough, things were about to get even worse. Pharaoh was furious with the children of Israel and ordered that their labor be increased even more. He instructed their taskmasters to no longer provide them with the straw necessary to make bricks, but did not reduce the quota of bricks that they were to produce each day. As such, the slaves had to find and gather their own straw in addition to making the bricks.
When the task proved to be too difficult, the Hebrews were beaten mercilessly and accused of being lazy. The foremen realized that without straw they could not possibly make the daily quota. They cried out to Pharaoh, but he would not relent. The treatment of the slaves had become so awful that many began losing the hope of deliverance that they’d so recently celebrated.
As Moses and Aaron watched this happening, I am certain that they felt responsible in some way for the tragic turn of events. What if they had just kept their mouth shut and never spoken with Pharaoh? Sure things were bad back then, but at least they were better than it was now! I have found that often times when someone commits their life to serving God things get harder and more difficult - not easier. It as if the Devil himself pulls out all the stops in an effort to prevent us from walking with the LORD.
Even the people who they had been sent to deliver blamed them for the increased burden. Israel had originally embraced these 2 strangers - Moses and Aaron - and believed in their message. But now they despised the brothers and considered them the cause of their great distress. Moses and Aaron had been rejected by both Pharaoh and the Hebrew slaves.
III. DISCOURAGED - Exodus 5:22-6:12
Rejected by everyone, Moses approaches God and asks Him why this has all happened. If the LORD knew that the harsh treatment of the Hebrews would intensify, and that the rigorous demands of the slaves would increase as a result of Moses’ interaction with the Pharaoh, why would He send him in the first place? I suspect that Moses was quite upset at God for leading him into such a miserable situation - I probably would have been.
The LORD lovingly reassures Moses that He will yet deliver Israel, but not before performing several miraculous acts of judgment against Pharaoh. He had told this to Moses previously, but apparently Moses missed it. Sometimes we don’t hear the parts of messages that we don’t want to hear. These 10 plagues will show everyone that the God of Jacob is without question mighty and sovereign over all. Though he probably wasn’t very welcomed among them, Moses again speaks to the Hebrew elders concerning God’s promise. Unlike before, this time they didn’t believe him.
Finally, God instructs Moses to return to Pharaoh a second time and demand that he let the people go. Like he had done before, Moses reminds the LORD that he is a poor speaker and will not be convincing. By this point it is pretty obvious by this point that Moses feels extremely deflated and defeated. Wouldn’t you?
In the later parts of chapter 6, the family record of Moses and Aaron is given. Though not a part of the narrative per se, this is still an important insert into the story. We will not study these passages in this series, but I wanted to at least make mention of them rather than just skipping over them entirely. The names listed in this registry help us to better understand the ancestral origin of the Levites, the descendants of Levi.
In regard to Moses, he has left his home and family in Midian to pursue the calling of God. He has believed that God would use him to deliver the children of Israel from the yoke of Egyptian bondage. Having walked in the presence and power of the LORD almighty, he has expected success in his endeavors. He has convinced a whole nation of people to trust him to be their deliver. He has, in short, put everything on the line. And, at least so far, it has been a complete disaster.
Perhaps there is someone here today that can relate to this message. Maybe your commitment to Christ came with a great personal cost, but you were willing to make that sacrifice because you expected God to do something spectacular. But as you listen to my voice today there is only bitterness and disappointment in your life because you feel that God has not come through on His promises. Perhaps you too feel denied, distressed, and discouraged...
I want to challenge you today to not give up on God’s plan for your life. Press on. Keep going. Maybe things have not turned out exactly like you expected them to, but that doesn’t mean that you failed or that God somehow misled you. You have been called for a purpose, but you will have to persevere through many trials and tribulations in order to accomplish it. The road will not be an easy one, but you must remain steadfast in your commitment to Christ. God will keep His word… it’s just a matter of time.