Pastor Joe Valenti
In chapter 5 we finally get the showdown with Pharaoh that we’ve been waiting for. Look back at Exodus 3 to see the instructions given by God.
…you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’Exodus 3:18
Here are some specifics that are important:
- God of the Hebrews → this makes sense, something Pharaoh understands and would be willing to accept.
- Please let us go → a polite request
- Please let US go → no demand of ownership
- 3-days’ journey
Now look at what Moses and Aaron say when they approach Pharoah.
Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold ta feast to me in the wilderness.’” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” 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, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.Exodus 5:1-3
Notice the details:
- The God of Israel (this is the first time this phrase is used – they were known as Hebrew people to Pharaoh).
- Let my people go → this probably really fired Pharaoh up as he saw them as HIS people.
- Aaron adds this little piece on the back end about pestilence and sword. ‘You had better let us go or its going to go bad for all of us!’
400 years of waiting. A deliverer promised. A plan in place. But nothing seems to be going as planned. Instead of things getting better – things go from bad to worse. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The stage is being set to see to whom the Hebrew people belong – Pharaoh or Yahweh.
You’ll notice in the English that the word shifts from straw to stubble. The narrator is careful not to simply use the words interchangeably, but says – gather stubble for straw. Straw was the chopped up stalks from some type of grain. They would take the entire stalk and chop it up. Stubble, however, seems to refer to what remained out in the fields after the harvest. So, the Egyptians did not stop the process of growing, drying, cutting, and utilizing straw. They just didn’t give it to the Hebrews anymore.
When you look at it from this point of view, it gets even more diabolical. Imagine the scale of the agriculture to keep that many people making bricks all day every day. They don’t seem to have stopped the process – they just keep the straw in storage and force the Hebrews to scavenge in the fields for the leftovers.
Morale is at an all-time low. They cannot do what they are asked and Pharaoh is being completely unreasonable. We don’t know why Moses and Aaron are waiting for them when they come out, but they are. And the conversation does not go well.
Pharaoh isn’t willing to budge an inch – no mercy – more bricks, no straw! And even Moses’ own people have turned on him in a matter of days. And not only have they turned on Moses, but on God as well. Moses and Aaron meet with the elders and the people and tell them everything that God commanded Moses. And they believe. We’re finally at the end – the 400 years of slavery are over – God is going to DO SOMETHING! But it doesn’t work as they had thought – in their timeline. And we’re not told exactly why – and neither is Moses.
Put yourself in Moses’ shoes. He didn’t want to come. He explained over and over again in chapters 3 and 4 why God should send someone else.
If you fast forward in the story a bit, you’ll learn that Israel struggles with their faith for generations. Most of their leaders and kings fail miserably. But the prophets who speak for God to Israel begin to tell of a person who will come to their rescue once and for all. The Old Testament often calls him the Anointed One – Messiah.
2 Samuel 7:10-13
To make quite a long story, short, the Israelites spend very little time ruling themselves – and even when they do, most of their kings are not God-fearing and lead them astray. They end up being ruled by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Medes, Greeks, and Syrians. Things get so bad under Syrian rule that a revolt is led by Judas Maccabeus that lands the Jewish people in a place of self rule for a short time until Rome runs roughshod over the known world and, again, brings the Jewish people under the rule of a harsh regime.
At the end of the Old Testament, the people are waiting for the Messiah – the anointed one – the deliverer. And, guess how long the period between the old and new testaments is 400 years.
And then a man comes on the scene that some say is the Messiah. A man named Jesus who was born in the town that the prophets said the Messiah would be born he teaches like no one has ever taught. He has the power to heal, he proves power over demons. He HAS TO BE THE ONE.
And this Jesus made his way to the capital city – Jerusalem. And the people were so excited that their deliverer had finally come that they crowded the streets…
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”Matthew 21:6-11
But things didn’t go the way that anyone thought they would go. The Jewish people – even Jesus closest friends and disciples thought that he was going to come and overthrow Roman rule. But he didn’t do that. In fact, he started to challenge the people who were in charge – both Jewish and Roman. And gets everyone so fired up that its not too long before they’re not fans of him anymore – in fact – they want to kill him.
400 years of waiting. A deliverer promised. A plan in place. But nothing seems to be going as planned. Instead of things getting better – things go from bad to worse.
The Religious leaders aren’t willing to budge – crucify him! And even Jesus’ own people turned on him – one of his closest friends betrays him and another denies even knowing him. It seems like there is no relief in sight. No rescue in sight. It seems like God is not going to show up.
Sometimes this is where we find ourselves in life – when things go from bad to worse. But just when we think there is no hope…just when we think it can’t possibly get any worse…just when we feel like God has not delivered his people at all – he shows up. And it is often not in our timing or in the way we might expect.
May we continue to press on through patience and faith.