A Greater Burden
We often think in our life if we are doing what God wants in our life then we will not see any pain or suffering. We think that pain and suffering are ways God corrects and disciplines. Our life might be filled with cries to God asking the question, “why does this happen to me?” You look our at the world and people that surround you and it seems everything just goes right in their life and not yours. This is a similar question that arises in the bible, “why do the wicked prosper?” You see them living opposed to God and his revealed will and yet things get better and better for them. Or to think about it in a church setting, the church that faithfully preaches God’s word seems to have a slow incline, where the church down the road who seemly preach from movie scripts and not the Bible or deny the fundamental truths of the Bible seem to be growing. We have a mindset that if we are doing what God wants us to then God will do what we want. Today’s passage sees the reality of this emotion but also helps shift our perspective towards God’s plan and not ours.
Moses and Pharaoh have stood before Pharaoh and told him the Lord has commanded him to let god’s people Go. He has declared his ignorance of his knowledge of the Lord, but also has stated his opposition to do what God has commanded him to do. Moses and Aaron explain more to Pharaoh of the Lord command. They explain who the Lord is, as the God of the Hebrews, that the feast would be three days journey into the wilderness and include a sacrifice, and lastly that they are doing this so that sickness and death would not fall upon them. Pestilence and the sword are dangers in the wilderness; however, Moses and Aaron explain this is what might befall them if they do not make sacrifices to the Lord. When we understand more about what the request of Moses and Aaron is to Pharaoh we see what a small and simple thing it is, that they are asking for a week off to be able to go and make sacrifices to their God. However, Pharaoh’s response that should not be able to be relieved of their burdens for even seven days. His statement is quite clear, that they would be taking the people of Israel from their work. He priorities work over worship. He sees them as a disposable equipment to build his own storehouses. Pharaoh also highlights the people are too many in the land, which was the concern of the Pharaoh who was before him (Ex 1:8). He accuses Moses and Aaron from taking them from their burdens. Up to this point we must point out two clear things, first Moses and Aaron did exactly what the Lord told them to do, to tell Pharaoh to let his people go. We are not surprised about Pharaoh’s response of saying no because God had told Moses that this would happen (Ex 3:19-20, 4:21).
However, the second aspect is that because Moses and Aaron did what they were commanded from the Lord now Pharaoh responds by making their task more difficult. Pharaoh instructs the taskmasters and the foremen that the people of Israel have to go and collect their own straw to make bricks. They already had a heavy burden upon them and pharaoh makes their task more difficult. Instead of the Egyptians providing the straw the people of Israel have not only to move it but also to find it (Ex 5:11). Not only that but they must make the same quota as they have done previously. The people had to go all across the land to find straw to make bricks (Ex 5:12). This is even compounded with the taskmasters, who already beat the people of Israel (Ex 2:11). They not merely stated that you must produce the same number of bricks but they enforced it with great power and brute force. To intensify the injustice done to the people of God they seek to appeal the decision and have their case heard, they go directly to Pharaoh. But he is unsympathetic, he commands them to Go and work. Mocking them that they are idle. It is hard for us to be able to fathom such injustice and difficulty placed upon the people. Here they are enslaved with an already large burden upon their backs to work. They are given more jobs, within the same amount of time to make the exact same number of bricks. They have no course of appeal. It is not that they were taking it easy before hand. All because they asked for seven days rest. The people of God are suffering because Moses and Aaron did what God had commanded them to do.
Now we must pause here and understand the reality of the situation it is not that we theologically undo evil and say this is a good thing. Moses says rightly when he tells the Lord that Pharaoh has done evil to God’s people (Ex 5:22). It is not that we explain that pain does not matter, the body is not important. This is gruesome work that made the people of God have to walk many more steps carry the straw back to the brick making place and still make bricks. This is not the daily grind of work we have in our lives but driven with a whip and deadlines, life and death. The truth is today we do not theologically alter our pain or suffering, but it is real pain and suffering. Persecution is real.
The people after meeting with Pharaoh speak to Moses and Aaron. They after worshipping God earlier knowing that God has visited them and seen their affliction (Ex 4:31) now call upon God to judge Moses and Aaron. A great aspect of theology that is understood by God’s people is that God is the judge of all things (Gen 16:5, 18:25). They people seek that God would judge Moses and Aaron for their part in all of this. We know that they are doing what God has commanded. They see Moses and Aaron went to pharaoh and now they have an additional burden upon them. They see God is the one who judges people and their actions, now God will judge Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Ex 6:6), however at this point it is hard for them to see that.
But we also see the situation from the eyes of the people they see this as punishment for them, that after what Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh, Pharaoh thinks they are idle and lazy. The Israelites put it this way saying, “[we] stink in the sight of Pharaoh.” Because of this they see this a great punishment that will lead to death. The people state that now the taskmasters have a sword in their hand. Weather this is a literal sword that now every task master carries around or a figurative sword that with the additional work it will lead to death. This is the generation that Pharaoh has already tried to exterminate through the midwives and throwing other young boys into the Nile and now they feel like they are back to where they begun, Pharaoh is seeking to destroy the sons of Israel again. Why? Because Moses and Aaron did what the Lord told them.
Finally, Moses complains to the Lord. Now this is a very important first that we see and will continue to see not only through the story of Exodus but the whole Bible. Moses stands as a mediator between God and the people of Israel. Moses stands as the mediator before God for the people of God. Moses turns to the Lord and cries out he asks two questions and then why he asked God these questions. Moses asked two questions, the first he questions God’s sovereignty and then why God has sent him to this do this task. Moses understood the chain of events in all of this. He knows that God’s people have a heavy burden because of Aaron and him were sent by God to speak to Pharaoh. Thus, his question is “why did you send me?” Moses was reluctant and begged for God to send someone else (Ex 4:13). Moses believes that God has done evil to his people through Pharaoh. As he explains all this came about because God had sent Moses to Pharaoh.
Moses’ ultimate complaint is that God has not delivered his people at that point. God had promised that he would deliver his people from the bondage to Pharaoh (Ex 3:8). Yet that had not happened. Now we will see God’s gracious response next time, as the Lord does not get angry with Moses for his complaint, but he reveals his plan to him. Moses understands that Pharaoh is the one doing evil acts against his people, and he understands God is sovereign over all things.
We know what is coming, we know what is going to happen. However, we need to stop and place ourselves in the Israelite’s sandals. Everything looked like it was going to change. They would be delivered from this slavery, but instead everything got worse. All because Moses and Aaron were obedient to God’s command to go to Pharaoh. They were to sufferer real pain and difficult days because of obedience to God’s revealed will. Pharaoh on the other hand prospered, he did not suffer but he benefited from their suffering. From the perspective of the people of Israel, God has not heard their prayer, has not done what they were told he would do.
We do not know the exact feeling of pain and suffering that the Israelites did, but I am sure we have asked that question or seen the wicked prosper, while God’s people suffer. The truth is that sufferings are a part of a believer’s life. That God has not promised peace and serenity now, but in the life to come. The Bible promises that those who live a godly life will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12). Peter says that we should not be surprised when suffering enters our life (1 Pet 4:12). James points out that we should have joy in trials because we are having our faith tested (Jam 1:2-3). Paul writes in Romans that suffering leads to hope which does not put us to shame (Rom 5:1-5). Paul tells the church in Corinth that he is content in his weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities (2 Cor 12:10).
The author of Hebrews explains the truth of suffering to believers,
“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:32–36)
He explains that suffering happened after they were enlightened. That once they became a believer, they then had hard struggles to face. These including sufferings and afflictions, publicly. They had their property plundered. That believers need endurance so that we can do the will of God. Following God’s revealed will is not easy we have internal conflict of sin telling us to rebel and also outward conflict which is found in external pressure and persecution. However, we suffer, but not without hope. We suffer but not without promise. We have a confidence that God’s word is truth, that his way is life.
The reality is that believers live in the time of now, but not yet. We have not reached the final destination. We are still aliens in this world. Pilgrims in a barren land. We live in the world which has the effects of the fall upon her, we have not reached the new heavens and the new earth. Satan goes around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). We do not know why our prayers have not been answered, but it doesn’t mean they have not been heard. We do not know the reason for our suffering, nor when it will end. Suffering does not equal sin. Suffering comes when others sin, and when we walk in obedience. The Psalmist writes of how he sees the wickedness in the world prospering while he is seeking to be obedient to the Lord and he has one thing that changes his thinking. Psalm 73:16-17 says, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” For us to try and wrap our heads around the righteous and obedient suffering is a wearisome task, while the wicked prosper. However, once we see that God is the righteous judge the one with the plan and the promise and the power then we see there is an end. That chapter six shows God answer Moses that Pharaoh will not get away with this. That he will show his power, plan and fulfil his promise. Same to with us today that God will show his power through his Son’s judgement, he will show his plan as he comes back to judge the quick and the dead and he will fulfill his promise that. there will be no more sickness, Satan, sorrow and sin.