1And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ ”
2But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”
The attitude of Pharaoh is based on his own decision. He does not want to have a boss above him. He ignores God willingly and defies him. God then gives him to his own decisions in order to come to a climax of the power encounter intended for salvation to both Israelites and Egyptians, including Pharaoh. The display of God’s power would become an opportunity to witness to Yahwe’s sovereignty and encourage placing one’s trust in him and be restored to a peace relationship with him. Pharaoh and the Egyptians will not learn it the soft way. Then, they must learn it the hard way. Thus, God says to Pharaoh in other words, “Well, then my dear friend, go ahead in your pride and rebellion against me. We’ll meet on the other side of the river. Load your gun for your little duel.” It’s like Jesus in John 2 when talking to the Sadducees. He challenges them: “Destroy this temple, but in three days I will rebuild it.” Or like Paul in Eph 4:26, “Go ahead and tear down your sister and your brother in the church by your anger, but watch it because if you do, God will destroy you and treat you as he treated Absalom who persecuted the anointed one, David, his father.” Indeed, Absalom died because he refused to listen and continued to make war on his father due to his anger.
3Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
4But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!”
5Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!”
Pharaoh does not allow the people to take a time out, three holy days to worship their God. His purpose was the pagan temples for his own religion, the worship centre for his own person, pretending to be a god. How much of our own do we give to worship God, how much of your time, our money, our relationships? What is the real purpose in our life? Making money? Becoming rich? Becoming famous? becoming our own god? Or to live in a peace relationship with God? Becoming true worshippers with all that we are and have, with all that we say or desist from saying?
6So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying,
7“You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves.
8“But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’
9“Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.”
10So the taskmasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I am not going to give you any straw.
11‘You go and get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it, but none of your labor will be reduced.’ ”
Pharaoh is angry at their request to worship Yahwe because it would cost his money and because it was not in line with his purposes to be worshipped himself as god. In fact, Pharaoh was jealous of this Yahwe. Have you ever been jealous of Yahwe because people give to him what you want for yourself? Has anyone ever been angry with you because you give to Yahwe what they want from you for themselves? That’s the constant power and money game in daily life. Resources are limited, to whom do we give what? and from whom do we take what? and what for? We cannot be at peace with God and with Pharaoh at the same time. It just does not work. We must make a decision.
Pharaoh is defying God. “Look, this is your son, Yahwe? Watch what I’m doing to your son.” Pharaoh had a sadistic pleasure to torture God’s son and to gain this wonderful feeling of power from it. He believed himself more powerful than Yahwe and he enjoyed that feeling. It became like a drug to him.
Why do people fight over power in politics, in economics, at your work place, at church, at home? It’s because of this drug, the feeling of power over the other one and avoiding the frustration of not having it. How do you cope with this daily temptation? Or have you already found peace with God and be saved and delivered from this part of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit? Have you already overcome that desire by a new desire that the Holy Spirit has placed in your heart? A desire to be in peace with God and your neighbour? Then, how do you cope when other people want to have power over you? May the Holy Spirit give us wisdom to find the right balance between not opposing the evil one and yet not giving room to the evil one. The good news is: If God is for us, who can be against us?
12So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw.
13The taskmasters pressed them, saying, “Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.”
14Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not completed your required amount either yesterday or today in making brick as previously?”
15Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you deal this way with your servants?
16“There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your own people.”
17But he said, “You are lazy, very lazy; therefore you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’
18“So go now and work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.”
Has ever anyone required of you what you were unable to do? And then has beaten you with words or other kinds of punishment because you did not do what they required from you? Then you are blessed if you have not reacted violently but softly (Rom 12:19). When we live according to God’s mishpat, his character with those that do not, we are indeed blessed (cf. Jesus’ sermon on the mound in Mat 5). When we endure injustice repaying with peace, we are blessed. Pharaoh will pay for what he did, in a short time. Israel will be richly rewarded, in a short time, provided they persevere in doing what is righteous. God’s solution for them was not zealotism, a bloody slave revolt, but his divine intervention by signs and wonders. Thus he plans in your life.
19The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble because they were told, “You must not reduce your daily amount of bricks.”
20When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were waiting for them.
21They said to them, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
22Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me?
23“Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”
There is a difference between short and long term. The vision of the foremen was short term and the sight of Moses was no longer. Lack of trust is the reason. God has a purpose and will fulfil it. We do not only need to collaborate in action but also in attitude. We may get excited about God’s promises but this excitement easily turns into anger when we accept God’s plan but want to decide about the methodology and who and what we will encounter on the way. The way may be stony and this is good because it trains us to focus on God’s purpose and to become more dependent on him on the way. Trust is a muscle that needs to be trained – daily. Peace with God means to agree with his goals. However, it also means to agree with his means. It means to accept the unacceptable. It means to become humble before him and to abandon all pride, selfrighteousness and requirements. God does not owe us anything and it is not advantageous to start demanding things from God because of what our flesh wants. Patience and long-suffering produced by the Spirit is the answer when times get tough and the tough keeps going. Do not listen to the flesh, listen to the Spirit.