Exodus 5:20-6:5 ~ 20100919 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
9/19 Exodus 5:20-6:9 Accusations Fly; Avoiding the Cross
Moses is God's chosen instrument to deliver his people out of Egypt and into the glad service of their true King. Moses has reluctantly gone to his people. They responded by hearing, believing, and worshiping God. After this positive reception, Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh and demanded release. They were met with a less than favorable response. Rather than belief and worship, the king of Egypt disrespected God by discounting his power and authority.
'Your so-called God has no right to tell me what to do with my slaves.'
Then this shrewd pharaoh institutes a plan that will discredit Moses and Aaron and dishearten his Hebrew slaves. And his plan works. He demands the impossible: gather stubble wherever you can find it in place of the previously provided cut straw, but still meet the same quota of finished product each day.
The Hebrew foremen are beaten because their work crews have failed to meet the impossible demands. In desperation the foremen cry out to the Pharaoh, acknowledging repeatedly that they are his servants, and appeal for relief. But the Pharaoh is a cruel taskmaster and will not listen to their cry for help. He accuses them of laziness and demands them to accomplish the impossible.
After their appeal to the Pharaoh fails miserably, they turn on Moses and Aaron.
The Accusation of Moses and Aaron by the Foremen
This is a stinging rebuke. Their wording is the typical wording used in the Psalms as a prayer to God for justice. Someone who is being unjustly treated by a superior would cry out 'The LORD look on you and judge'. 'I am not in a position to defend my own rights, but may God bring down on your head everything you deserve for treating us so badly'. They assume that Moses and Aaron are guilty because the outcome was not what they had hoped it would be. Their false assumption is that a good God would never allow bad things to happen to his people. They use graphic colorful language – 'you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us'. They are in a hopeless situation and they only see it escalating to the point where their very lives are at stake.
The irony of this is that in chapter 7, God will make the revered river Nile stink in the sight of the Egyptians, and ultimately, the hands of the Egyptians holding the swords will be washed up on the shores of the Red Sea. But for now, the people who were believing and worshiping have now lost hope and faith and are slandering the leader God has sent to help them.
So what is a leader to do when the people he is called to lead attack him for doing what is right? Things got hard for the people and they turned to Pharaoh for help. Moses steps out in obedience to God and now the people hate him. Look where Moses turns when things get hard.
The Accusation of God by Moses
Moses says some hard things here. He accuses God of doing evil. He accuses God of not knowing what he is doing. He basically says 'I told you so – I knew this was a bad idea'. And he accuses God of laziness - doing nothing when something must be done. These are serious accusations. But take note, in spite of all these accusations that he brings to God, he does bring them to God. He doesn't run, like the Hebrew foremen ran, back to their old taskmaster. He turns to the Lord and brings his complaint before the Lord. Moses turns to the right place. He has some very hard things to say, but he goes to the right place. And notice, God doesn't strike him dead for asking hard questions. God is not threatened by hard questions. In fact, God honors him by responding to his questions. God could have gotten his feelings hurt and given Moses the silent treatment. He could have gotten angry and started throwing thunderbolts. Instead he responds. But before we look at God's response to his questions, let's look at the questions.
Moses asks 'why have you done evil to this people?' Before we get down on Moses for asking such a question, let's try to get into his sandals. Moses has done what God asked him to do. The result is that the foremen have been beaten. That's evil. The Pharaoh has responded ruthlessly to reasonable requests. That's evil. The people are now required to do the impossible. They're sent chasing after stubble blown by the wind in a fruitless effort that is bound to result in failure. That's evil. The foremen quite possibly might resort to beating their fellow Israelites in an effort to meet the quota and avoid a beating themselves. That's evil. The people's spirit has been crushed and they are losing faith and without hope. That's evil. They are driven to the point of cursing their God given leader. That's evil. So Moses is looking at the situation, feeling the pain of the situation, and he knows that all this is a direct result of God's command. So he says – 'why have you done evil to this people?' Moses feels that he is more compassionate toward the Hebrew people than God is. He is saying 'if I were God, I would do things differently'. God, I know how to handle this whole exodus thing. This is amazing in light of the fact that just a few chapters earlier, Moses is coming up with every excuse imaginable to weasel his way out of the call that God is giving him. Now he suddenly feels that he cares about the people more than God does.
Then he says 'Why did you ever send me?' His same old argument is still in his mind. I'm not qualified. I'm not the right man for the job. I told you so. Remember, I said 'who am I that I should go to Pharaoh' (Ex.3:11). Remember, I told you they wouldn't believe me or listen to my voice (Ex.4:1). Remember, I told you I am not eloquent, but slow of speech and of tongue (Ex.4:10) Remember, I said 'please send someone else' (Ex.4:13). God, your plan isn't working because you chose the wrong guy. Now I'm taking the heat from the disgruntled people. Why me?!
Then he says 'since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all'. God, I'm being obedient. I'm doing my part of the deal. I spoke in your name to Pharaoh. But he's done evil to the people and you have not delivered your people at all. God, you're not holding up your end of the bargain. You promised deliverance for your people but instead they are experiencing evil at the had of the Pharaoh. It would have been better for them if we had just kept quiet. God, you're making me look bad. You have not delivered your people at all. Not even a little bit of deliverance. God, I've done my part, but you have done nothing at all.
Moses has vented. He's laid it all on the table and told God how he feels. Now the Lord responds.
The Apology of God
God responds to Moses' accusations. He says 'Now you shall see what I will do.' Now is the time. Now, because now nobody is on my side. The Pharaoh is decisively and publicly against setting his slaves free. The people responded with initial excitement and worship, but when adversity came, they gave up hope. They want things back the way they were – a more comfortable slavery. And Moses, my chosen instrument, you are accusing me of evil and laziness and a lack of compassion. Now that nobody is on board with my program, now I can act in such a way that no one will try to steal my glory. God is the hero of this story. Not Moses, not the people, not the Pharaoh. Pharaoh didn't believe God was capable of setting the people free. The people had given up hope and cursed the man God had sent to help them. Moses accused God of evil and questioned his motivation, wisdom and compassion. Now that no one is on my side, I can act alone. He says 'Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh.' I will act. After I am done with Pharaoh, he will use all his power to drive you out, to be rid of you, to expel you from his land.
God does not take Moses' list of questions and answer them one by one. In fact, he doesn't directly answer them at all. God doesn't defend himself against Moses' accusation that he has brought evil on the people. He doesn't defend himself against the charge that he picked the wrong man for the job. He doesn't defend himself against the charge that he has done nothing to deliver his people at all. Instead, he communicates to Moses who he is. Moses' main problem is that he needs to know God better. So God responds to Moses' challenges by revealing who he is and what he is going to do. “God spoke to Moses and said to him, 'I am YHWH'”. Moses, you need to know who I am. I am the I AM. The self-existent one. The independent one. The uncaused cause of all that is. I am the active one. The one who is being and doing. I am the God who makes promises and keeps them.
God connects himself with history. This is not a new god on the scene. This is the God who has been active in history. This is the same God who appeared to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai – God All-Powerful. He is the God who made covenant with his people. He made promises to them. But Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had not experienced the fulfillment of those promises. The author of Hebrews tells us:
The people of the exodus generation would experience God in a new way. They would get to see how God keeps his promises. God made staggering promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Now God is going to display himself in power and fulfill these promises to this generation. God reiterates that he hears – even the accusations of the people toward Moses, he knows, he remembers, and he cares.
We will all face hard things in life. Our tendency is to run back to our old taskmaster. Our false assumption is that because I am a King's kid, I should be exempt from suffering. We tend to shrink from the cross. The good news of redemption and rescue sounds good until we hear Jesus say:
We want to enjoy the crown without enduring the cross. The cross is strong medicine. We would rather die a slow death under the anesthetizing effects of sin than feel the piercing pain of God's remedy for our desperate and sick condition.
What we need to be told, again and again and again, is who the hero of the story is. I am YHWH. I will do it. It will be painful. It will cost you your life.
Things may get worse before they get better. It may feel like I have abandoned you. You may feel that I have wronged you. You can come to me with any questions. I may not answer all your questions, but I want you to bring them to me. I am good. You can trust me. I will keep my word to you. I will carry you safely through to the other side. What you need to know is me. You need to know who I am. I am the hero of your story. You need to know me.