Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 14 2019 - Exodus 5:1-23 – Israel's burdens increased

At God's command, Moses returned to Egypt along with his brother Aaron. There they summoned all the elders of the Israelites and Aaron, speaking for Moses, told them all that the Lord had said. Moses then performed the signs God had given him to prove that he, the living God, was with Moses and would perform all that he had promised. Faced with such proofs, the Israelite leaders believed what Aaron was telling them: "When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped" (Exodus 4:31).

Thus far, all seemed to be going well. But now Moses and Aaron had to confront Pharaoh demanding he let the Israelites go. Initially they asked that the Israelites be allowed to travel a three-day journey into the desert to hold a festival to their God Yahweh.

Pharaoh will have none of it. He knows nothing of the Israelites strange God, the God of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He has no intention of letting his slave labour go off on holiday. Who knows what rebellion they might plot against Egypt while they are out of his sight.

Pharaoh decides to nip this rebellion in the bud. He orders that from now on the Israelites will not be provided with the straw they need for the making of bricks. They will be required to find their own straw but will still be required to produce the same daily quota of bricks. A proportion of the Israelite workforce would no longer be making bricks but would be scouring the surrounding countryside to find and gather straw. The brick makers would be reduced in number but still required to make the same quantity of bricks. The burden of their slavery which had already prompted cries for relief is now increased – all because of Moses.

Nor was Pharaoh ready to hear the complaint of the Israelite foremen. They were harried out of his court with the accusation ringing in their ears that their people are just plain lazy!

The Israelite foremen complain to Moses saying, "May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us" (5:21). Moses then complained to the Lord, "Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 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" (vv. 22-23).

Have you ever had the experience of seeking to be faithful to what you believed God had called you to do only to find that it brought trouble on you and upon others rather than blessing? Have you ever felt like complaining (or perhaps actually complained) to God at such a time – complaining that the trouble is all his fault?

Take heart that God in infinitely patient with us and unfailingly compassionate towards us. He does not respond with anger to Moses' complaint. He does not even point out that he had told Moses in advance that Pharaoh would harden his heart. As we shall see tomorrow, God responds by repeating his promises and assuring Moses that he knows what he is doing. He is at work in this very situation to demonstrate that his power is greater than that of Pharaoh and of all the gods of Egypt. He will rescue his people from their slavery as he has promised.

God can be trusted even when it seems that evil has the upper hand and is increasing.

Father God, teach me to trust you in the dark times when everything seems to be going wrong and all my best efforts for you seem only to make things worse. You have shown us your faithfulness and saving power in raising the Lord Jesus from the dead. Help us to remember that your Spirit at work in and through us is greater than all the powers of this world and that you, our God, always have the last word.

Peter Misselbrook