I am in the midst of Exodus, and some strange parts of the story struck me in the fifth chapter:
5 And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”
I think we all know the part of the story where Moses goes through the very strange, very weird burning bush scenario. It turns out that Moses doesn’t do a very good job right from the get-go. In fact, God tells him he will fail, and I guess Moses is supposed to be ok with this?
3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” 4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you [a]draw the people away from their [b]work? Get back to your [c]labors!” 5 Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!”
So, Moses and Aaron basically tick Pharaoh off, and make him incredibly angry. I wonder if it’s partly because Moses was raised by Pharaoh? We don’t get context for why he blows off the handle so fast, other than God hardening his heart, but that sort of speculation seems intriguing to me. Moses does not even ask for Pharaoh to release all the Israelites from slavery – just merely the opportunity to worship. Pharaoh flies off the handle fast!
6 So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, 7 “You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, ‘[d]Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.”
Unsurprisingly, the Israelites aren’t exactly fans of this new policy.
15 Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you deal this way with your servants? 16 There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are lazy, very lazy; therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 So go now and work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.”
Think about how weird and insane this is. Some guy who murdered a guy, and lived out as a fugitive in the desert for who knows how many years, claims to be God’s servant and also claims to speak as a leader of Israel, get them into trouble once again. And this isn’t the kind of trouble you just walk away from – they must reach those quotas or face punishment. Obviously, they’re not happy with this. Yeah, sure, they met with him beforehand, but they could not predict that negative consequences could arise first from their presence. Without the big picture, their response appears perfectly reasonable:
19 The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble [i]because they were told, “You must not reduce [j]your daily amount of bricks.” 20 When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were [k]waiting for them. 21 They said to them, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made [l]us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
Although he met with them in advance, apparently they didn’t appreciate the new shift in their circumstances. And I think, at least from the ground level, it’s a perfectly reasonable response. God did not free them from slavery just yet. And why not? I imagine you would think yourself perfectly impatient in that circumstance. And when the very man who claims to get you out of that situation makes it worse…well, I’m not sure you would hold back either!
22 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”
Heck, even Moses joins in on the doubt train. Then again, he sorta started there, and hasn’t let up since he was introduced as a character in the Pentateuch. It would seem that the very people God wants to save and turn into His people don’t exactly understand Him all that well. They want immediate results, but God is patient – He takes his time. He works over a long period on people, to get them to the place they need to be, rather than where they think they should be. Patience is a fruit of the spirit after all.
And if God can’t teach you this directly, he’ll literally beat it into you.