GOD SENDS MOSES TO PHARAOH
Exodus 5:1-7:7, Key Verse, 6:7
“I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”
From last passage, Chapters 3-4, we learned how God called Moses for him to deliver the people of Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land. It was in God’s right time. 40 years in the wilderness was God’s holy ground and time for his humbleness training for Moses. Moses constantly made excuses in order not to take God’s calling, but human limitation is no limitation to God. It will be done by God’s mighty power and through his compassion, keeping his covenant promise. May God help us to see our lives from God’s perspective and accept God’s calling. Amen!
In today’s passage, God sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, but they faced a few obstacles. We may learn from God who helped Moses and from Moses who obeyed in spite of himself, of people and of the situation. There are two parts.
I. Face a Few Challenges (5:1-23)
Look at verse 1. “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.’” After Moses and Aaron told the elders of the Israelites everything God had said to Moses and performed miracles to them, they bowed down and worshiped God. Now it is the time for Moses and Aaron to go to Pharaoh and tell him God’s message, “Let my people go.”
What was Pharaoh’s response? Look at verse 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.” Pharaoh’s response was very hostile. In his answers, all the subjects are ‘I’. It is all about himself. It is like a response of a proud student on campus when we invite them to Bible study. But when we observe Pharaoh’s response, it seems reasonable because Pharaoh did not know who the Lord is. Moreover, Egyptians worshiped Pharaoh as one of gods who deserved to be worshiped. To Pharaoh, he has no reason to listen to Moses and obey the Lord.
Yet, Moses and Aaron did not give up but tried again, saying, “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.” But the king’s response was getting worse, saying, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work! Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.” Simply speaking, Pharaoh does not want to stop them working for it is losing his business and losing his money and labor. All his objectives are for him and for his business.
Moreover, he ordered the slave drivers to oppress the Israelites harder by giving them no straw so that they would have no time to think about worshiping God. Here we learn that people cannot obey God when they are the subject of their lives. They cannot worship God when their objectives are only for themselves. A self-centered person has no heart to obey God and no time to worship God. Since a human is born self-centered, each one of us has a Pharaoh inside, who will not acknowledge God. Therefore, it is my struggle to make God to be the center of my life everyday through meditating spiritual daily bread.
Consequently, there was a ripple effect on the people of Israel. According to the order to the king Pharaoh, the slave drivers oppressed the Israelites. The Israelites had to meet their quota though the straw was not given to them. When they did not meet the quota, they were beaten. Finally, the Israelites could not take it anymore. The Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh about their mistreatment. But Pharaoh told them that he did so that they do not pay attention to Moses’ words. He said that Moses was lying and giving them a false hope to worship God. It was the time for them to hold onto God’s promise and overcome the hardships. But that is now how they responded.
Instead of listening to Moses, they listened to Pharaoh and looked at their current situation. They felt that their lives were in danger. As slaves, that was how they felt. When they felt that they were in trouble due to Moses and Aaron, they blamed them for their hardships. People are easily discouraged, blaming servants of God, when they are in trouble due to God’s word or God’s vision. Now Moses was in trouble. Moses challenged Pharaoh with God’s message in obedience to God, but the situation did not get better but worse. He is facing not only the rejection of the king Pharaoh but also people’s blame for their trouble because of God’s word and vision for them.
The reaction of Israelites reminds me of the parable of the sower, especially the second kind of heart soil in Mark 4:16, which says, “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” The elders of Israel received God’s word with great joy and worshiped God when Moses gave them God’s word and vision. But when hardships and troubles came because of God’s word, they quickly fell away. Yet, Jesus compared trouble and persecution to the sunshine for a plant, which mean trouble and persecution are necessary for a person’s faith to grow. How? Let’s see how God helped Moses to grow in him.
Let’s put on Moses’ shoes for a moment. How would you respond to people like the Israelites if you were Moses? You gave God’s word, and people blamed you that they got in trouble because of God’s word you spoke. A lot of times people fall into the blame game, accusing each other for troubles just like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. How did Moses respond? Look at verses 22-23, “Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Moses did not argue with people but came to God. He complained that Pharaoh brought trouble on the people but God did not rescue them. When he saw the current situation: Pharaoh’s rejection, trouble and discouragement of the people, he could not but complain to God. This reminds me of many godly servants who complained to God because of evil people or injustice. David did such complaining many times. In Psalm 10, he said, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” and he continued, “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand.” Through complaining to God, David had built a personal relationship with God. He was sometimes comforted, and sometimes encouraged. In the same way, Moses was building a personal relationship with God as he came to God and complained to him honestly. We can see the reason why Jesus said that trouble and persecution are like sunshine, a necessary element for a plant to grow and bear fruit. At the time of trouble or hardship or persecution, instead of complaining to people, may God help each of us to come to God and pour our hearts out so that we can start building a personal relationship with God.
II. God’s answer to Moses and to the Israelites (6:1-7:7)
What is God’s response? How did God help Moses? In God’s answers, we find that there two kind of messages: one for Moses (6:1-5, 7:1-5) and another for the Israelites (6-8). And there are three messages to both and two personal messages to Moses. Let’s talk about three messages to both. First, God’s mighty hand. Look at verses 1 and 6, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” 6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” God will rescue them with his mighty hand of judgment. Here is the reason why the trouble came to the Israelites. If Pharaoh said that he would let the Israelites go just as Moses requested, God would not need to display his mighty hand in order to rescue them. By witnessing God’s mighty hand, they will be able to believe in God and the name of the Lord is revealed. God let Pharaoh play evil to reveal his glory. Therefore, in God, the time of trouble is the time to see God’s mighty hand.
Secondly, God is reminding them of his faithfulness, keeping his covenant promise to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob in verses 2-4 and 8. Even though Moses and the Israelites heard God’s promise, they need to hear it again until it is engraved in their hearts. Our faith does not depend on our faithfulness or feelings but God’s faithfulness. We cannot trust in ourselves or good situation or nice people but in God who will keep his covenant promise. This is the foundation of our faith. We are saved because we believe in God’s covenant promise that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life. Therefore, the time of trouble is the time to hold onto God’s covenant and to trust in God’s faithfulness.
I would like to share one good example. There is one missionary family, who had many troubles, but during those time, they held on to the promise of God in Acts 14:37, saying, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” When they held on to the word of God, they could overcome and experience God’s faithfulness in their lives, using them to shine the light of Jesus to many American students.
Thirdly, a personal relationship with God. God said to Moses in verse 4a, “I also establish my covenant with them,” and to the Israelites in verse 7, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”
Now God wants to make a covenant with the Israelites just as he made with Abraham so that they can call God “my God”. God should be not only the God of Abraham but also the God of Moses and the God of Caleb and of Joshua. Are you going through the time of trouble? It may be the time to experience God’s deliverance and have a personal relationship with God. It is God’s ultimate desire to have a relationship with each of us, so that each can call his or her personal God, the God of Jason and the God of Rob…. Amen!
For Moses, God gave two more messages. First, God’s compassion. Look at verse 5a. “Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving.” God previously said this to Moses in 3:7 before and now he is repeating it again to Moses. As God’s chosen leader, Moses needed to know the reason why God is doing this, in addition to God’s fulfillment of his promise. God is rescuing the Israelites because of his compassionate heart and people’s prayer. God also wanted Moses to participate in his compassion. But the situation made him have a hard time feeling compassion toward others. He was in trouble due to Pharaoh’s rejection and oppression. Moreover, people were not trusting in God but complaining to him. But that is the time Moses should take care of the Israelites with God’s compassion. This reminds me of Jesus who told his disciples, “You give them something to eat,” when they were tired after serving the crowd all day and told Jesus to send them away. May God raise many spiritual leaders who have God’s compassionate heart. May God help me to grow in understanding the heart of God more and deeper.
When Moses heard God’s counseling, he wasted no time to report to the people of Israel, but their reaction was not positive. They did not listen to Moses and believe in God’s promise because of their hard labor. In spite of their negative response, God told Moses to go to Pharaoh. But Moses fell into another problem. Look at verse 12. The people would not listen, so why would Pharaoh listen to him? Now he looked at himself, his faltering lips. When he looked at himself, he could not but doubt himself. This issue was repeated again even after God called out the names of Israelites leaders clan by clan. When Moses fell into his personal weakness, it was more serious and harder to overcome.
Secondly, God’s grandiose plan even for the Egyptians. Look at chapter 7:1-4. God told Moses that he has made him like God to Pharaoh, and his brother will be his prophet, who will speak on behalf of him. But the fact that Pharaoh was not listening to Moses was in God’s grand plan. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to multiply his signs and wonders. He is going to lay his hand on Egypt.
He will bring mighty acts of judgment on Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it, so that the Egyptians will know that God is the Lord. It is truly God’s mercy on the Egyptians because they will have a chance to know who God is. Our God is great, beyond Moses’ imagination, revealing himself to the ends of the earth. His glory shines to every corner of the earth and of the heavens. Amen!
After listening to God’s grandiose plan, what was the response of Moses and Aaron? Look at verse 6, “Moses and Aaron did just as Lord commanded them.” Here we learn their obedience, especially Moses’. He had to overcome rejection from Pharaoh, discouragement from his own people and his own doubt due to his faltering lips. He could do so when he heard God’s word, especially God’s grandiose plan. May God help us to see our situation beyond our limitations in God’s grandiose plan.
33 years ago, I met a young campus evangelist, who believed that his small act of faith may impact in God’s world salvation work. After 3 decades, when I met him again, he became the president of one of largest world mission organizations. Each one of our 1:1 Bible studies may look so small compared to a mass evangelical church that has a worship service with thousands of attendants. But to God one person Moses, who obeyed him, is worth more than 600,000 people. May God bless each one of us to obey God overcoming our weakness, people’s rejection and adverse situations in God’s grandiose vision.
Through today’s passage, we learned that we may face obstacles when we serve God’s mission. Yet, those obstacles are given for us to experience God’s mighty hand and his faithfulness, keeping his promise. It is an opportunity for each one of us to build a personal relationship with God. May God bless us to obey God, overcoming obstacles inside and outside with God’s grandiose vision in mind. May God raise many spiritual and even political leaders who have God’s compassionate heart for the people. Amen!