If I had to use a modern cliché to describe Exodus Chapters 5 & 6, Iíd say "its show-time".
This means its time to get down to action, no more talking.
Moses got his marching orders from God, its time to get moving.
The Hebrew people heard Moses say God gave him orders to take on Pharaoh,
Itís "show-time" for the Hebrew people.
Time for them to take sides. Are you on Godís side or the Egyptians?
Itís "show-time" for the King of Egypt, a.k.a. "Pharaoh".
This is the God of the Universe.
You going to obey him, or walk your own way?
The application to us of course- is to choose sidesÖ
Joshua said it best: "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serveÖ But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Josh 24:15 NIV)
If you read these chapters and just see the story of Moses versus Pharaoh,
Then you are missing the lessons God has for you!
Moses sets an example for us of what to expect as a believer in God.
Pharaoh is a typical example (today as well as then) as how a non-believer looks at God.
These two chapters are setting the stage for a war.
The war over the souls of men and women.
The war over who people will worship God, or the World.
Egypt is a land with multiple "gods".
Just like the world today is full of "gods".
Look where people spend their spare time and spare money and you will find peopleís "gods".
What you live for is your "god".
God, our God, is not someone you put on a mantle and call upon when youíre hurting.
God is someone who you have turned over your life to serve.
It is the foremost driving passion of your life.
This is what The God desires for our lives.
When you read about the Hebrew people, in the next few chapters, you are probably going to see a lot of ourselves as Christian believers, both in terms of our faith and our doubts.
While the worldís attitude toward God will be demonstrated through Pharaoh.
Hopefully, this will become clearer as we read the text.
It would probably help to start to remember where we left off last time.
Moses met Aaron in the desert. They had a big reunion, and Moses explained to Aaron all the things God had told him to say to the Israelites and to Pharaoh.
Chapter 4 Verse 30 tells how Aaron explained to the people all that God told Moses.
Remember that God told Aaron to be his "mouthpiece" as Moses was reluctant to be the leader.
The last verse of chapter 4 said the Israelite people believed Moses & Aaron, and they bowed down and worshipped God.
So now, with all the Israelites aware of Godís game plan through Moses, we have, in Chapter 5, the first encounter of Pharaoh & Moses.
Before we read on, try to imagine the scene.
I would logically speculate one does not just walk into Pharaohís throne without an appointment.
The "aides" to Pharaoh probably said, "Sir, its seems the Hebrew slaves have appointed a new leader for themselves, and he wishes to see you"
Pharaoh probably responded "Weíll letís see what this guy has to say for himself.
Imagine the shock to see it was Moses, the man who left the Egyptian throne 40 years ago.
Moses then got permission to speak.
And afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Release my people so that they may hold a pilgrim feast to me in the desert.'" 5:2 But Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should obey him by releasing Israel? I do not know the Lord, and I will not release Israel." 5:3 And they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us go a three-day journey into the desert so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, so that he does not strike us with plague or the sword."
Lets start with verse 1. It says "afterward". After what?
Probably the meeting with the Hebrew leaders, and after permission was given to speak directly to Pharaoh.
Next notice what Moses doesnít say.
Moses doesnít say:
"Let all the Hebrews go free and youíll never see us again."
No, just let them go a 3-day journey into the desert.
Mosesí doesnít say: Let my people go or God will wipe you out!
No, let us go or God will strike us with plague. (Verse 5)
First of all, God wants to give all a chance to repent.
If Pharaoh says "no" to the more reasonable request of 3-day holiday, then Pharaoh has no excuse before God of the larger request of letting his people go!
Second think about this from Pharaohís perspective.
Pharaoh is pretty much "under-whelmed" by this God of the Hebrews".
Pharaoh says, "Who is the Lord that I should obey him?"
Egypt is a land of many, many gods.
Pharaoh must be thinking "this is a god of the slaves"
This "god" must not have much power if he is only a god of slaves.
Think about how non-believing people treat our God.
Ever heard comments like "God is a crutch to people."
Or "look at the people who are Christians, they are weak, and never have any fun."
Like Pharaoh, they see God as a "god of weaklings".
Next, why does Moses say God will strike us down if we donít go?
On the surface, Moses is saying "Hey Pharaoh, better let us go or Godís going to punish us, and you wonít have a bunch of healthy slaves to push around any more!
But Moses is also saying something much more powerful.
The answer comes from the mouth of Peter:
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17 NIV)
What does this mean?
It means that God holds us accountable more than the world!
Will Pharaoh be judged for not letting the people go?
Of course, thatís what the plagues are all about
But as Peter says, judgement begins with the believers!
God holds us accountable to do what he commands!
For all you "mystics" out there, a lot of commentators make a big deal about references to "3 day journey" is similar to the time on the cross.
Therefore when Moses says, "we have to take a 3-day journey", it typifies our commitment to the cross.
Then the king of Egypt said to them, "Moses and Aaron, why do you cause the people to refrain from their work? Return to your labor!" 5:5 Pharaoh was thinking, "The people of the land are now many, and you are giving them rest from their labor."
Iím going to speculate a little about Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said in verse 2 "I donít know the Lord"
Iím speculating he meant, "I donít know any reason why I should worship him. We have lots of gods around here. Iíve never seen any reason why I should follow this guy."
The reason I say this is that this guy is King. Heís Pharaoh.
When youíve got a few million slaves on your hands, Iím sure you know a little bit about them.
You probably know about their religious habits & beliefs.
Pharaoh may have heard the stories of the "God will take these people out after 400 year story" and thought it was just a fable to give the Hebrews some hope.
So now, when Pharaoh hears about the people wanting to get out, the natural reaction is "No way, Jose".
Remember that the Pharaohís fear is that these people are now many and might rise up again Egypt. (Exodus 1:9-10)
The last thing Pharaoh wanted was for the Hebrews to have a taste of freedom and have a chance be organized against him.
Giving the Hebrews a 3-day holiday was giving the Hebrews a chance to organize a rebellion.
Therefore the obvious answer was to say no and make them work harder, as we read in the next verse.
That same day Pharaoh commanded the slavemasters and foremen who were over the people: 5:7 "You must no longer give straw to the people for making bricks, as previously. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. 5:8 But you must require of them the same quota of bricks that they were making before. Do not reduce it, for they are slackers; that is why they are crying, 'Let us go sacrifice to our God.' 5:9 Let the work be harder for the men so they will keep at it and pay no attention to lying words!"
A few technical notes:
When you read "slavemasters", think Egyptians.
When you read "foreman" think Hebrews. That may help.
"Straw" in bricks had an acidic effect that strengthened the bricks.
Archeologists have found storehouses built in layers, some layers with straw, some with stubble, and some with neither, supporting the facts.
Pharaoh feared a rebellion, so the natural reaction is to make them work harder.
Pharaoh was saying (in effect) If they are "considering" worshiping God, letís persecute them.
The history of the Church has been filled with persecution of the saints.
Satan doesnít want you to worship God? Prevention method #1? Persecution!
Itís hard to have faith when you fear for your life!
The first few centuries saw a death sentence just for believing in God.
To be an evangelistic (non-Roman Catholic) believer in Europe through the middle ages was also a death sentence!
Most historians estimated that more Christians died at the hand of the Roman Catholic Church than at the hands of the Romans!
Today, countries like China, Laos, Somalia, some Arab countries, have death sentences for simply professing to be a Christian or holding any type of Church service.
Never, never forget to pray for the persecuted church!
Keep these people in mind the next time your problems are bothering you. At least you have the freedom to worship God!
Verse 10: 5:10 So the slavemasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, "Thus says Pharaoh: 'I am not giving you straw. 5:11 You go get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it; but your workload will not be reduced.'" 5:12 So the people spread out through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 5:13 And the slavemasters were pressuring them, saying "Complete your work for each day, just like when there was straw!" 5:14 And the foremen of the Israelites whom Pharaoh's slavemasters set over them were beaten and were asked, "Why did you not fulfill your quota of making bricks in the past few days, yesterday, or today?"
Put yourself in the minds of the Hebrews.
At the end of Chapter 4, God told them he was going to rescue them and bring them out. "All right God!, Go Moses!, Go Aaron!"
So what happens next? Their slavery condition just got worse!
Why did God permit this? Why not just start the plagues before it got worse?
For starters, its Godís timing, not ours. He may have wanted to give Pharaoh time to repent. By not repenting, Pharaoh was without excuses.
"'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." (Ezekiel 33:11b NKJV)
But why let the Hebrews suffer more?
Ever cleaned up a very messy room or a garage?
It usually looks worse before it gets better. Why is that?
Because we are organizing it.
The Hebrew children have made their choice. They are choosing God rather than being a slave to sin (Egypt.)
Things will often appear worse before they get better!
Why does God do this?
God will do this to expose our sin, and more importantly, see if our commitment is genuine.
God puts us in difficult situations just to see if we trust Him!
Remember Jesusí words about "receiving the Word of God"
Jesus said "The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. (Matt. 13:20-21 NIV)
In those situations, some trust more in God,
Others turn back to the "world" for help.
The foremen of the Israelites went and cried out to Pharaoh, "Why are you treating your servants this way? 5:16 No straw is given to your servants, but we are told, 'Make bricks!' Your servants are even being beaten, but the fault is with your people." 5:17 But he said, "You are slackers! Slackers! That is why you are saying, 'Let us go sacrifice to the Lord.' 5:18 So now, get back to work! You will not be given straw, but you must still produce your quota of bricks!" 5:19 The foremen of the Israelites realized that they were in trouble when they were told, "You must not reduce the daily quota of your bricks." 5:20 When they went out from Pharaoh, they encountered Moses and Aaron standing there to meet them. 5:21 And they said to them, "May the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us odious in the opinion of Pharaoh and in the opinion of his servants, so that you have put a sword in their hand to kill us!"
This whole paragraph is essentially about the Hebrew "foremen".
They were the leaders of the slaves.
They were the ones most loyal to Egypt. Probably got special privileges.
The first sign of trouble, they turn to the Egyptians for help.
This reminds me of an old parable: "People are like teabags. You never know what flavor they are until you put them in hot water."
The Hebrew leaders all agreed to let Moses be their spokesmen.
But some people trust in the world system.
First sign of trouble, they turn to their family, friends, neighbors, and even their pastors, but not look to God himself for help.
The corollary of-course is that there is nothing wrong with turning to family, friends, etc. during tough times. The key is priority and attitude. Turn to God first, and maybe God will work through others.
The other lesson to learn from the foreman is that they next tried to lead a rebellion against Moses & Aaron.
They may have been Hebrew in name, but they were Egyptian in spirit and trust!
People who trust in "the world" and who have leadership skills will often try to lead people away from God.
This is a model of false believers.
I believe just about every book of the new Testament has at least one reference or caution against "false believers", or "Half-hearted" believers. These are the "foreman" of our world today.
Now we get back to MosesÖ5:22 Moses returned to the Lord, and said, "Lord, why have you brought trouble to this people? Why did you ever send me? 5:23 From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in your name, he has caused trouble for this people, and you have certainly not rescued your people!"
Moses is essentially saying to God, "You see, I told you, I told you these people wouldnít believe me! Moses self-doubts were now being surfaced again.
First of all give Moses some credit. As opposed to just running away (as he did 40 years ago), this time, he turned to God for help. Moses didnít look to his own resourcefulness nor did he run away. He turned to the true & living God for help.
Thatís a great model for us.
Next comes Godís responseÖ
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh, for compelled by my strong hand he will release them, and forced by my strong hand he will drive them out of his land." 6:2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am the Lord, 6:3 and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name "the Lord" I was not known to them. 6:4 And I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, in which they were living as resident aliens. 6:5 I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
God is reassuring Moses, "Donít worry Moses, I have a plan. Itís moving along at my schedule. I made promises to your ancestors, & I intend to keep them, thank you!"
Most of this paragraph is re-stating things that have already been previously stated in Exodus.
Like most members of the male population, Moses needed to hear things a bunch of times before the message really sinks in! J
This is why constant Bible reading is so necessary to our lives. God constantly reassures us the same way he reassures Moses. We need to read that message over and over again until it sinks in.
There is a "cool" promise by God in Verse 6:1: "by my (Godís) strong hand he (Pharaoh) will drive them out of his land
This is saying God is going to make life so miserable for Pharaoh,
Pharaoh will literally drive them out (or force them to leave!)
The ultimate sign of defeat will be when Pharaoh not only gives up the fight, but pushes the Israelites out of the land!
God calls us to separate ourselves from the world (in terms of life-style). He is the avenger of those who persecute the believer.
A lot of commentators talk about verse 6:3 when it says " I (God) appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name "the Lord" I was not known to them"
How was God "Jehovah" not "known" to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob?
After all, the word "Jehovah" is used in Genesis
There are two most likely explanations:
1. The reading in Hebrew could be rhetorical.
This means it could read like this "Didnít I make myself "known" Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob?
2. The second (and most likely) is that although God made the promises of redemption to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, those 3 did not see the manifestation (i.e. acting out) during their lifetime.
Itís a small point, but some people make a big deal over this.
One more thing. Notice verse 6: Therefore, say to the Israelites, 'I am the LordÖ
Not just to the foreman.
God was calling on Moses to be a leader.
"Hey Moses, donít let the people be lead (falsely) by the foreman."
Stand up, and remind people of my promises!
Tell them to trust me, I have a redemption plan
This is the reminder for us to be leaders, to call people and point people toward the true & living God. Notice the results:
Therefore, say to the Israelites, 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rescue you from their hard labor, and I will redeem you by my outstretched arm and with great judgments. 6:7 And I will take you to myself for a people, and I will become your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 6:8 And I will bring you to the land I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob-and I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord!'"
7 promises of God given in these 3 verses. Notice the repetition of "I will".
Promise of redemption in Verse 6:
Unconditional Promise #1. I will bring you out.
The 1st is simply that God will bring them (us!) out of the world.
Unconditional Promise #2. I will rescue you from their hard labor.
The 2nd is the rescue from their current situation. It is associated as a reference to the slavery of sin!
Unconditional Promise #3. I will redeem you by my outstretched arm and with great judgments.
The 3rd is the promise of punishment for those who refuse to believe God.
Verse 7 has the next two promises to adopt Israel as his own people
Unconditional Promise #4. I will take you to myself for a people
Unconditional Promise #5. I will become your God
This same promise applies to us as believers too!
Paul calls Gentile believers "Sons of the living God"
Paul states that we are adopted as sons through Jesus.
"God does not save us and then run off & leave us. He wants to be our God. If you are really saved, you will not go on living as if God does not exist". Dr. J. Vernon McGee.
Verse 8 has the last two promises:
Unconditional Promise #6. I will bring you to the land.
As I stated "the land" is not a model of heaven, but a model of what the Christian life will be like for the believer.
This comes through letting the Holy Spirit working through us!
Unconditional Promise #7. I will give it to you as a possession.
This is living the full, rich life through Jesus Christ.
It is a possession to us.
God wants us to choose Him. The life he promises us is much better than anything the world has to offer!
So why were these promises unconditional?
1 To demonstrate Godís unconditional rule & authority.
2. God desired to use the Israelites as part of his "big game plan" to preserve the law, be Godís witness, and bring in the Messiah.
A wonderful blessing is going through the Bible and read all the unconditional blessings God has for us.
(For a few dollars, you can go to a Christian bookstore and pick up a copy of "Godís promises", where all the Bible promises are listed by category.)
They are a great to read when you are down, depressed or simply focusing on your problems & not God!
And speaking of focusing on their problems and not God, lets get back to Moses & the IsraelitesÖ.6:9 Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor. 6:10 Then the Lord said to Moses, 6:11 "Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to release the Israelites from his land." 6:12 But Moses responded to the Lord, "If the Israelites did not listen to me, then how will Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with difficulty?" 6:13 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them a charge to the Israelites and to Pharaoh king of Egypt-he charged them to bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.
For Moses, things were going from bad to worse.
The people were too busy focusing on the problem & not on God
Notice that Godís promise is unconditional
The Hebrew people wouldnít listen to Moses
They still believed in God, but were focusing on their problem.
God does not abandon his chosen people.
You may not enter the "promised land" which does not speak of heaven, but of the full, rich life one can experience as a Christian.
If the "promised land" is a type of heaven, as some argue,
why do the Israelites still encounter wars and suffering when they enter the land?!
Weíll get more into this later in Exodus.
But the real focus of these verses is on Mosesí action.
The people were now against Moses (wonít be the last time either!)
God called Moses to a great task.
God is now testing Moses by saying "Forget the circumstances, forget the people, just focus on what I tell you to do".
This is often a situation a Christian finds himself or herself in.
There comes a time when you really feel God calling you to a task (it is usually very obvious and not contradictory to the whole Word of God!), although all your friends and comrades may tell you otherwise.
These are the heads of their fathers' households: The sons of Rueben the firstborn son of Israel were Hanoch and Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. These were the clans of Rueben. 6:15 And the sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. These were the families of Simeon. 6:16 And these are the names of the sons of Levi, according to their records: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Now the length of Levi's life was one hundred and thirty-seven years. 6:17 The sons of Gershon, by their families, were Libni and Shimei. 6:18 The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. Now the length of Kohath's life was one hundred and thirty-three years. 6:19 And the sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. These were the clans of Levi, according to their records. 6:20 And Amram married his father's sister Jochebed, and she bore him Aaron and Moses. Now the length of Amram's life was one hundred and thirty-seven years. 6:21 And the sons of Izhar were Korah, Nepheg, and Zikri. 6:22 And the sons of Uzziel were Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri. 6:23 And Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 6:24 And the sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph. These were the Korahite clans. 6:25 Now Eleazar son of Aaron married one of the daughters of Putiel and she bore him Phinehas. 6:26 It was the same Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, "Bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt according to their divisions. 6:27 They were the men who were speaking to Pharaoh king of Egypt, in order to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. It was the same Moses and Aaron.
And now, we have an interruption in the story to bring you "the genealogy of MosesÖ
The original Hebrew family who went into Egypt was Jacob & his 12 sons.
In proper tradition, one goes from the father, to 1st son (Rueben), then 2nd son (Simeon, then 3rd son (Levi),
The focus of the genealogy then goes down toward the parents of Moses & Aaron.
I have to admit I have a difficult time with this section. Why interrupt the story to give Mosesí genealogy?
First, read this from Moses, perspective.
Here was Moses, called to the greatest demonstration of the power of God in the history of mankind (to date).
Moses probably felt very humbled by the whole experience.
To paraphrase this whole section from Mosesí perspective, "Hey, Iím just a long-lost descendant of the 3rd born son of Jacob. Isnít it amazing how God called me?
It would be like God calling us to a great task, and our first thought is "Hey, who am I? Iím not part of a famous family; Iím not the first-born child, yet God called me to this task?
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating here:
To quote Dwight Moody:
For 40 years Moses thought he was a somebody.
For the next 40 years Moses thought he was a nobody.
Then Moses learned God can use anybody!
Last set of verses: 6:26 It was the same Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, "Bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt according to their divisions. 6:27 They were the men who were speaking to Pharaoh king of Egypt, in order to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. It was the same Moses and Aaron. 6:28 When the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 6:29 he said to him, "I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I am telling you." 6:30 But Moses said before the Lord, "Since I speak with difficulty, why should Pharaoh listen to me?"
These verses are almost repetitive of verses 10-13.
"The genealogy was written as if to say "Look who is talking back to God. A man of few credentials except those given him in the providence and grace of God" (Expositorís Bible Commentary)
Again we have Moses focusing on the fact he though he was a "nobody" and did not deserve to speak in the presence of Pharaoh.
Moses had his eyes on his own problems and not on God.
Once, again, God has to reassure Moses that he is there.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)
With that promise on our minds, lets end our session in a prayer
Father we thank you for the lessons you have taught us through Moses and the Israelites. Help us to focus our hearts & minds on you, and not on our situation. You have promised us that you will never leave us nor forsake us, no matter how bleak our situation looks. Help us to remember that you are always there, and be strong & courageous in your might, and not ours. For we ask this in Jesusí name, amen.