Before you read: Moses and Aaron visit Pharaoh. They tell him God wants the Israelites to make a three-day journey out of Egypt to offer Him sacrifices. What God? asks Pharaoh, I don’t know this God. Why should I listen to Him?
Read Exodus 5:4-6:1
4 But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” 5 Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.”
6 That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”
10 Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you any more straw. 11 Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’” 12 So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. 13 The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.” 14 And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?”
15 Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? 16 Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.”
17 Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”
19 The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” 20 When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, 21 and they said, “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.”
22 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.”
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.”
“Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh.”
Sure hope so.
It’s one of the great, frustrating mysteries of God, that He so often lets things get worse before making them better. Bricks without straw – now the Israelites are being whipped because they can’t do the impossible, and it’s all Moses’ fault.
They are quick to turn on him and who can blame them? They were promised freedom and a land of their own – everything wonderful. But instead they have more trouble than ever. “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh.”
Moses does the only thing he can – he runs to God. I can just hear him, I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! This is his worst nightmare. It absolutely confirms all the fears that kept him from wanting to do this job in the first place. Now he’s made a fool of himself, Pharaoh is laughing at him, his own people hate him – again – and rightly so because their suffering is horrible, and God does nothing.
Ever asked that? Why is this so hard? Why aren’t you doing anything? Moses has been obedient. He did exactly what God told him to, and it only made things worse.
“Now you will see.”
I love God’s answer. He’s so marvellously unflappable. He doesn’t seem the least bit taken aback by all this trouble. Why, it almost seems as though He planned it. “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh.”
He’s like a strong man getting ready to display his power. To make it truly impressive he must gather enough weights to wow the crowd. It has to look impossible. Otherwise it would just be ordinary. What’s the good of a God who can free people from someone who’s weak, or easily persuaded? No, Pharaoh needs to be fanatically committed to keeping the Israelites enslaved.
Pharaoh needs to be strong, so God can be stronger.