I think that there is a danger that when I read Exodus that I could fail to see myself in the Israelites. I can see myself in the Moses figure, being obedient and knowing GOD’s hand with me … but I can look down on the Israelites as a bit weak. There were, however, far from weak. They had built a city and had become a great nation. They had been calling out for freedom, and they had seen Moses as a saviour. They wanted freedom from their brick making and hardship and Moses, with his special signs, had impressed them. They supposedly don’t care how it is done, just as long as they could be free. I expect, however, that they had some ideas of what it might look like. They might have thought that God would annihilate the Egyptians, that they would live in the comfort of the city that had been built off their backs …. they had a dream!
GOD was coming to free them … but His freedom wasn’t just about not making bricks anymore. His plan was much bigger than that. Pharaoh had other plans, it seems. He would not let the Israelites go, but instead, held them even tighter. He made them work harder so that they paid no attention to lies … only, they weren’t listening to GOD, so the lies that he wanted them to not hear were from him. His lie was that they belonged to him.
The work and suffering was quick to kill the glimmer of hope that had arisen in the Israelites. Pharaoh’s plan had worked. They were still his. Their expectation of salvation had not materialised the way they wanted it. When Jesus comes to bring freedom to us, we can be like the Israelites and dictate how he does it. We require him to fall in line with our vision of freedom and want it to be done just so. And when it doesn’t happen what do we do … what do they do? Well, they camped out in discouragement.
Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labour. Exodus 6:9
They could not hear the plan that GOD had for them because GOD had not done it their way. At the first sign of backlash (and the Israelites knew a lot about back lashes), they backed down and submitted to the old authority. They could not face hope again. It was too painful to be let down. They were disappointed and discouraged. Can you relate to them now?
We block our hearts from running to hope because it is incredibly lonely and painful to have hope snatched away. Suffering and hardship can shroud any sense of hope. When we have no hope we become discouraged.
But the truth was that GOD had heard, seen and was acting. Their discouragement was misplaced.
Do we really think that Moses didn’t feel the same? He had run away from Egypt before and was now being called back. He had been unable to save just one Hebrew before he ran away and now he had been sent to bring all the people out of Egypt. He had done exactly what GOD had said to do even though he didn’t feel qualified for the job and it appeared he had failed. I think, if I am honest, I might have set up tent in the camp of discouragement too. But how Moses dealt with all that shows us the answer to discouragement.
22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’ Exodus 5:22-23
Moses returned to GOD. He lays out what is going on in his heart. He is honest with GOD. What should we do when we feel discouraged … recognise it and take it to GOD. GOD knows what you are feeling better than you do so it is no good trying to hide how you feel from Him. When you try to pretend that you are alright, you are actually hiding from GOD or trying to be in control. There have been times when I have dealt with discouragement from being hurt by people and situations, yet have ignored what I have held against GOD. He should have …. Why didn’t He …. Does He care? I can try to hide those deep and dark thoughts but GOD still sees them and until they have been brought into the light they will never go away. Where they hide they provide a breeding ground for discouragement, distrust, suspicion and apathy. GOD is kind and will nudge and ask you to share those things with Him. He doesn’t want you to carry them around with you like a heavy rucksack, bending you forward until all you see is the ground.
It is interesting that after this incident, Moses doesn’t have to go back to GOD with this discouragement again. Have those things about him changed? Are the people suddenly freed? No! He is still the same man and the Israelites are forced to make more bricks without straw. But at the same time everything is changed. GOD hears Moses and responds.
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.’
2 God also said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
6 ‘Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”’ Exodus 6:1-8
Moses had returned to GOD and now he was going to see what GOD would do. In fact, GOD didn’t really say anything that different to the burning bush encounter. What GOD was doing was re-aligning Moses’ heart once again. He was telling Moses that His plan hadn’t changed, He was not going to leave them in this situation, His goal was superior to the human expectations.
Before the Israelites ever left Egypt, Moses was already walking in freedom. The same can be true for us. Whatever circumstance, suffering or hardship you are in GOD invites you to walk into freedom.