Chapter 3: When Hope Turns into Hurt...
Let My People Go...
Let My People Go…
When hope turns to hurt…
In the first two chapters we studied the predicament before the children of Israel. A land that was once considered a sanctuary had become a land of slavery. Though the king of Egypt did everything in his power to discourage them from inhabiting his kingdom, the children of Israel refused to respond. That is, they remained in Egypt rather than moving and migrating to a country that was more inviting to them. Furthermore, I believe that we can safely speculate that they—the children of Israel—adopted and accepted some of the customs and cultures of Egypt. This belief is substantiated by the fact that the new king of Egypt did not know about Joseph: that it was not until Moses returned to the land that once rejected him that Israel began to speak about the things of God; and that it was after Moses was spared from Pharaoh’s daughter that the children of Israel showed any signs of discontentment or dissatisfaction. It was at that point where and when we are made aware that God heard the cries of His children, and saw their afflictions.
Moses, having spent some forty years in the desert as a shepherd, is summoned to return to the land that he once ruled only to face the most powerful person that that world had ever known. His mission, if he chose to accept, was to go before Pharaoh and demand that he—Pharaoh—free God’s chosen people from the bonds that held them captive. There are some things for us to remember.
First, before Moses was called to lead a nation of slaves, he had to first learn to lead a flock of sheep. That I find very interesting in that it goes to show that is was God’s desire to prepare Moses for the plans that He had already planned. It is a lesson for all of us. Before God can use us, He must first prepare us. All too often we become all too impatient in permitting God to discipline us for what He has preordained. That is exactly what Moses did—he slew the Egyptian and found himself in the desert for forty years, all the while delaying Israel’s deliverance. If I were to sum it up in a simple sentence, it would be this: You must learn to crawl before you walk; and walk before you run. By all means, accept the little things that God has placed before you because those little things are the rungs of the ladder that will eventually lead you to the top.
Secondly, God will use whatever means, modes, and methods to capture our attention. For Moses, it was a bush that burned but was not consumed. Notice the words whatever means, modes, and methods. For Moses it was a burning bush; for us, it may very well be some thing that causes us pain or pleasure. Regardless, we need to be in touch and in tune with what God is trying to tell us and teach us.
There are six points we can see working as we study this scene upon entering Egypt.
God’s Assignment: To deliver the children of Israel from their captivity. In chapter 3, you would find that God was the One who was going to deliver the children of Israel; not Moses. However, Moses takes it upon himself to do God’s part. He argues with God about his age, his lack of ability and awareness as to who God is, his achievements or lack thereof (remember, he killed an Egyptian), and his ailments (speech impediment). In other words, Moses places the burden that is not for him to carry—God had already told Moses that He was coming to free His people. Let me ask, how many times, do we find ourselves seeking to do that which belongs to God? Is it any wonder so many of God’s children find themselves burned out and burned up.
God’s Assurance (Chapter 3:12;4:19): God further assures Moses that those who once sought his life are now deceased and that He will direct Moses’ as to what he should say, when he should say it, and where it should be said. God gives Moses His word that he need not walk this road alone. Though there is no proof of this, I believe Moses’ middle name was “reluctance.” Even after God has given Moses all the assurances in the world, Moses responds with reluctance. Standing before a burning bush that was not consumed (as if that were not miraculous in and of itself) and having God perform three miracles before his very eyes, Moses pleads for God to find another person. Isn’t that something? You have to give Moses credit in one thing—his bravery is made clear through his fear. For Moses to stand before the Creator of the Universe and argue that the God who put everything in existence has made an error takes guts. But even that excuse proved less effective. God knew Moses’ heart and hesitations well before Moses did. We know this because He had already called upon Aaron to assist Moses in those areas Moses struggled.
Years ago, my mother use to tell me: “Paul if you would spend more time working on your assignment as you do being anxious about it, you would already have it done.” I love those words. There is so much truth is such a simple statement. If we were to apply it to our faith, it would go something like this: If you would spend more time in abiding in God rather than arguing with Him, think how much more would be accomplished for His Kingdom.” Sometimes I believe we have as what has become known as “little brain farts.” That is, we forget whom we serve—it is God! The God! The Man Upstairs! If He is able to orchestrate the universe to work in perfect harmony, then what makes us believe that He cannot do the miraculous through us?
God’s Attentiveness (Chapter 4:21): From the time God calls out to Moses to the time the camels are carrying the suitcases out of Egypt, God’s attentiveness is clearly displayed on demonstrated. God forewarns Moses that this was no easy task—in fact, it was a task that was going to take time. In chapter 4:21, we know that Pharaoh’s heart is going to become hardened toward God. In other words, Pharaoh must accept the fact that there is One more powerful than him—it just happens to be the children of Israel’s God, that’s all. God brings this to Moses’ attention so that Moses is not caught off guard—he should not expect anything less from Pharaoh. The man who once stood fearing the children of Israel’s numbers will ultimately stand toe to toe fighting with their God. You would have thought that he (Pharaoh) would have been more than happy to let this group of multiplying people go, but he doesn’t. He lets his pride for power stand in his way. In the end, he will end up losing everything—his child, his kingdom, and his life.
I wonder how many times we allow the actions or lack thereof of people bother us—especially when we know how that person is. An example of this is one of my older brothers. He is notorious for not returning phone calls. Yet, when I speak with my other siblings, they often comment that our one brother has not bothered to return a call. I often think to myself: “tell me something new” or “tell me something that I already did not know.” He has been that way for as long as I can remember—that is just who he is. I see the same things in marriages. Football season is soon to begin. Should it surprise most that that their husbands, in my case, my wife, will be glued in front of the television watching collegiate football, profession football, and if they just happen to miss a game, they are glued to ESPN to see what they missed. It happens every year, but it comes as a shock to us once it starts.
Furthermore, how many are like Pharaoh. We have to be in control. Though it causes us stress, we want the power and the prestige that accompanies certain positions. In other words, we just do not want to let go of those things that drive us bonkers. Sure we may complain about them for a while, but heaven forbid if we should lose it. Think with me for a moment of the people who struggle with certain addictions. Sure they know it’s not good for them; sure they say they wish they could quit; but when push comes to shove, forget it buddy: “Hit the road jack! Don’t come around no more, no more…Hit the road jack!” In the end, they lose everything.
Let’s face it. When God calls us to do something, do not be shocked or surprised if you are met with some resistance or things do not necessarily go the way you thought they should. Instead, reflect upon what happened; remember that God is in control; and rejoice for what He is about to do. There is no better place in Scripture that portrays this principle. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane. There we find Jesus praying for and to His Father to find some other way—but there was none. So great was Jesus’ agony that His sweat was as great drops of blood. In the end, Jesus remembered His purpose and the promise that awaited Him. Sure, He knew everything that was to transpire in the next 24 hours, but He also knew what was to take place three days thereafter—The Resurrection.
God’s Assistance (Chapter 4:27): Knowing of Moses’ hesitation to return to the land that once rejected him, God sends Aaron to aid and assist Moses in the manner of speech. No one should ever think that he/she has to endure the hardship alone. In fact, that belief runs contrary to what Scripture teaches.
Here are a few examples to prove this thought. When the children of Israel were warring with the Midianites (I believe) Moses was commanded to stretch out his arms. In as long as his arms were held high in the air, the Israelites prevailed. When his arms became weak and wearisome, the children of Israel suffered loss. Upon witnessing as to what was taking place, both Aaron and Hur stood on Moses’ side to prevent his arms from plummeting.
Jesus, when He went to the garden of Gethsemane, requested that Peter, James, and John stay awake to pray with Him during His time of angst. And finally, Paul tells the church in Galatia to carry one another’s burdens so as to fulfill the law of Christ. Speaking of which, did you ever consider that even Christ needed someone to help Him carry His cross…HMMMN?
If you are struggling, God has someone there for you—to hold up your arms; to pray with you; and to help you carry your cross. Be mindful though, we are to help carry the cross, and not necessarily remove it.
God’s Announcement (5:1): Can you picture this scene as Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh announcing that God not only desires, but also demands that His people are freed from slavery so that they may serve Him and Him only. I am almost confident that Pharaoh did not welcome such words—who were these two men to come marching into Pharaoh’s palace making such demands. He must have looked upon Moses and Aaron with the mindset that most people have when they see a bug on the wall or floor. They were nothing more than a nuisance easy to be squashed. How wrong he was—these were two men on a mission from God and for God. They should have been respected rather than rejected. But pride does something to a person—it blinds them to the truth as to who they and what they are compared to a Holy God.
Listen, the same God that created you is the same God that created the other person. The Bible tells us, if God is for us, then who can be against us.
Pharaoh’s Attitude (5:2): Pharaoh immediately begins to resist God’s request. He cannot believe that there is a Being more powerful than he. He asks: Who is this Lord that I should obey Him? Pharaoh’s attitude shifts from once fearing the children of Israel’s numbers to fighting with their God. As we will see, this will end up being a fight that Pharaoh wished he never initiated.