January 29, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.’
Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.’
But the king of Egypt said, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!’ Then Pharaoh said, ‘Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.’
That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: ‘You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 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.” Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.’
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. Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’” So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, ‘Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.’ 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?’
Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: ‘Why have you treated your servants this way? 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.’
Pharaoh said, ‘Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.” Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.’”—Exodus 5:1–18 (NIV)
“Excuse me?” Have you ever said something to someone—perhaps your parents—that elicited this response? Or maybe someone said something disrespectful and upsetting and caused you to utter these two little words? As a dad in his 30s, I can tell you I’ve been on both sides of the excuse me game. And I’ve found that more often than not, what causes this reaction in me is feeling disrespected. And if I’m being honest, the majority of these offenses are in some form born out of pride. And the same is true here in this conversation between Moses and Pharaoh.
In today’s passage, Moses has returned to Egypt and confronts Pharaoh with a demand: “Let my people go.” But it’s what came before it that’s key. “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says.”
As David Guzik explained, “To appreciate how audacious Moses’ request was, we must understand the power and authority the Pharaohs claimed. Each Pharaoh was said to be the child of the sun; he was a friend to the greatest gods of Egypt. . . . His power and authority were supreme.”
You see, pharaohs believed themselves to be more than a man; they believed themselves gods. Consider this inscription by a Pharaoh found on an ancient Egyptian temple: “I am that which was, and is, and shall be, and no man has lifted my veil.” Sound familiar? It should! These words are strikingly similar to the words used by the Lord to identify Himself to Moses earlier in Exodus.
So, it’s no surprise that he recoiled at Moses’ demand, asking, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
Now, I will say this . . . While Pharaoh’s heart was all wrong, he did ask the right question. Whereas Moses asked, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NIV), the important question wasn’t who Moses or Pharaoh were, but who God is!
This was true for Pharaoh, for Moses, and for the Israelites who were now in a much worse place than they were before Moses returned as they were given much harder, unfair, unjust labor. Who we are or our circumstances doesn’t matter because God is who He says He is! And if He is who He says He is, then challenges and hardships should not drive us to despair, hopelessness, or to seek refuge and help from anything or anyone else (as the Israelites did in pleading their case to Pharaoh). Instead, these things should cause us to press in more into the true I AM!
May we be a people that run to the Lord for relief and not to the world and its prince. The enemy will only provide us with more bondage and pain, but the Lord has victory awaiting us on the other side of our trouble!
Pause: What can we learn from this exchange between Moses and Pharaoh?
Practice: Who do you look to when things get hard? A vice of some sort? To someone else? To the governing authorities? To yourself? Make it a habit to put it all in the hands of the Lord and press into Him.
Pray: Heavenly Father, the great I AM, King of the universe, I thank and praise You for who You are and for what You’ve done. I pray that You would purify me of any pride and self-reliance. I pray that You would soften my heart to Your will. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.