[Exodus 5] Pharaoh Refuses to Let the People Go. Moses and Aaron petition Pharaoh to take the people Israel into the wilderness to hold a feast unto the Lord. Pharaoh responds that the people are idle in asking such a thing and refuses to comply. What about your life? I the Pharaoh in your life refusing to let you go? When Moses and Aaron met with the king’s refusal the plan of God hung in the balance. When you face initial setbacks what you do next makes all the distance between defeat and victory.
[Exo 5:1-23 KJV] 1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. 2 And Pharaoh said, Who [is] the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go. 3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. 4 And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. 5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now [are] many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. 6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, 7 Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish [ought] thereof: for they [be] idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go [and] sacrifice to our God. 9 Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words. 10 And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw. 11 Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished. 12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. 13 And the taskmasters hasted [them], saying, Fulfil your works, [your] daily tasks, as when there was straw. 14 And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, [and] demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore? 15 Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? 16 There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants [are] beaten; but the fault [is] in thine own people. 17 But he said, Ye [are] idle, [ye are] idle: therefore ye say, Let us go [and] do sacrifice to the LORD. 18 Go therefore now, [and] work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. 19 And the officers of the children of Israel did see [that] they [were] in evil [case], after it was said, Ye shall not minish [ought] from your bricks of your daily task. 20 And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: 21 And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us. 22 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou [so] evil entreated this people? why [is] it [that] thou hast sent me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.
In verse 1, Moses with Aaron in tow goes before Pharaoh demanding that the people be allowed to go to the wilderness to hold a feast to the Lord. Is that what God had in mind? Was the plan revealed to Moses at the burning bush only to return to Egypt to host a religious event? In this initial request to Pharaoh, Moses by God’s instruction deceptively implies that the people intended to return from the wilderness to serve again at the brick kilns of Egypt. Is Moses lying? Is God using Moses’ words to deceive Pharaoh? Either way, Pharaoh asks in retort who is the Lord that he should obey him and refuses to let the people go. This is not the outcome Moses was hoping for. What would you do in this situation? To question the king is to invite instant death. If you were Moses, would you just shrug your shoulders and go back to herding your father-in-law’s flocks? Moses is undoubtedly taken back by Pharaoh’s harsh tone. Still, he persists in asking, this time, giving more details as to only being gone three days and that it is necessary for the people to go and conduct the feast lest they displease God and consequently die by the sword or by pestilence. Pharaoh makes continual refusal to let the people go but Moses doesn’t give up. He then challenges Moses asking who permitted him to release the people from their daily tasks to accompany him to the king’s court in the first place? Thus he orders the people to return to their burdens and for Moses to begone and to cease causing trouble.
As a result of this tense exchange between Moses and Pharaoh the workload is increased upon the people dramatically. Have you ever stepped out in God thinking something extraordinary would happen, only to wind up in a worse position than before? Then you know how Moses and the people must have felt. Moses was ashamed and confused. Undoubtedly, the people were angry with Moses and mad at themselves that they listened to Moses in the first place. Even more frustrating is the fact that Moses performed significant miracles to win over the confidence of the elders of Israel. Despite these miracles, this is not the result they were looking for. They thought no doubt on the strength of Moses’ supernatural signs that Pharaoh would simply capitulate, but that was not the case. What would you surmise were you in the same situation? Would you think Moses’ miracles were false signs? Would you conclude that Moses missed God and that you were foolish to think things would ever be any different? These people had been enslaved for 430 years. That’s twice as long as this country has been a nation. Slavery was all they had ever known. Without a doubt, they were deeply disappointed and ready to point fingers of accusation in every direction.
After Pharaoh refuses to give the people necessary supplies to produce the daily tally of bricks, the elders assemble a meeting with Moses. In v. 21, they call on God to judge Moses and Aaron and accuse them of putting a sword in Pharaoh’s hand, giving him the pretext to destroy them with their false promises of coming from God to set them free from Egypt’s bondage? How do Moses and Aaron respond? How would you respond were you in their place? In v. 22 Moses goes before the Lord, demanding to know why He hasn’t come through for them. Thus, we see that Pharaoh blamed Moses, the people blamed Moses, and now Moses is blaming God for sending him on what now appears to be a fool’s errand to set the people free. Moses asks of the Father why did He send him to Egypt in the first place? He is questioning everything that has happened from the day of the burning bush up till now because while Moses has done his part in obeying, God has not come through for him or the people, and things are only made worse.
Now, we know the outcome of the story, but at this point in Moses’ view and the people’s perspective, things look bleak. Pharaoh is angry, their burdens are doubly difficult upon them, and it seems there is no way out. Moses looks like a charlatan now. Aaron is made a fool of. The people are afraid of what Pharaoh might do next. How would you respond if a religious leader convinced you to take a particular action, only to end up being put in jeopardy even with your entire family? Would you point fingers and accuse? Would you demand Moses put things back like they were? Would you get mad at God for letting you get into such a mess? All of these feelings and more have thrown all the people involved into great turmoil, but that is not the end of the story. You may be facing some serious situations in your life right now. You might have tried to “faith” your way out of the difficulty, but things are only getting worse. Don’t blame God. Don’t blame the preacher or minister the Father might have used to encourage your steps of faith. Stand fast and believe because often, the first steps of faith are met with great resistance. Pharaoh, in this situation, will give in. Things that look impossible are going to shift. A miracle is about to happen, so don’t give up!
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