Chip Stapleton Highland Presbyterian Church March 31st, 2020 Hunkered Down Devotions
Exodus 5:1-6 The Voice (VOICE)
5 Not long after, Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh.
Moses and Aaron: The Eternal, Israel’s God, has a message for you: “Release My people, so that they may go and celebrate a feast in My honor in the desert.”
Pharaoh: 2 And who is this god you call “the Eternal One” that I should heed His message and release His people Israel? I do not know any god by that name, and furthermore I do not intend to release Israel.
Moses and Aaron: 3 The God of the Hebrews has visited us. We ask that you allow us to travel three days’ distance into the desert to sacrifice to the Eternal our God. Otherwise, He may become angry and come after us with disease or sword.
Pharaoh: 4 Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting people from their work? Stop wasting time, and get back to your labor!
5 Look, there are vast numbers of people in this land who should be working; instead they are all idle because of you.
6 That same day, Pharaoh gave instructions to the slave drivers who were over the people and their supervisors.
Pharaoh: 7 Don’t supply the people with any more straw to make bricks as you have been doing. Let them go out and find their own straw. 8 But I still want you to expect the same number of bricks from them as before. Even though the task will be harder, do not lessen their load! They are lazy and are asking for time off, saying, “Release us so that we can go sacrifice to our God in the desert and feast in His honor.” 9 Therefore, make the work so heavy that the men don’t have the energy to do anything but work; perhaps then they won’t be distracted by these lies!
Today we continue with the story of God using Moses to free his people from Egypt. The details of this part of the story are pretty simple: Directed by God, Moses and Aaron go to the Pharaoh and ask for the Israelites to be allowed to go out into the desert to worship God.
Unsurprisingly, the Pharaoh is not inclined to let the Israelites go. After all, they are his slave workforce, and as such an incredibly valuable resource to him. So, instead of granting their request, the Pharaoh decides to punish them for even asking for such a thing: he ups their required work each day, but stops giving them the supplies to do that work.
We know how this story eventually works out, so we know that the Pharaoh’s resistance and the extra work and hardship the Israelites go through are only temporary, they are setbacks and challenges on the way to the literal promised land.
But there is an important lesson here for us, long before the Israelites get to the promised land, before Moses even leads them out of Egypt. There can be no doubt that Moses and Aaron were sent by God. There is no doubt that God’s plan was for the Israelites to be freed from their Egyptian captors and make their home in the promised land.
We often get in our heads that when things are going well, it means that we are doing things right and maybe even that we are ‘blessed’ by God. Conversely, we often think that when we run into roadblocks and trouble, that we must be on the wrong path and that maybe God isn’t with us.
This story is a great reminder for us that trouble, hardship and setbacks are not necessarily a sign that we aren’t following God’s will – in fact, the biblical narrative is full of stories about all the problems that come when we follow the will of God. Often, the surest sign that you are following the will of God is strong opposition – just look at Jesus.
The key is to listen closely for God’s will (through prayer, reading and studying scripture, etc.) and then faithfully and steadfastly follow God’s call on your life. Easier said than done, of course, but in all of it remember, that when we face trouble or setbacks – if we are following Jesus, the ultimate victory has already been won. So, take heart, trust in Jesus and persevere.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Jesus, give us wisdom and discernment to know and understand your will. Give us strength and courage to follow your will and give us the faith, Lord, to trust in you, even when trouble comes. Amen.