An Audience with Pharaoh

Exodus 5:1-14

Back at burning bush Moses gave clear impression – digging in his heels, except when running from the snake, resisting every encouragement by God to do appointed task. Continued up until nighttime encounter with God and Zipporah’s quick action. Then Moses did about-face, moving just as deliberately toward God and obedience as had in opposite direction.

Just because Moses declined honor of being God’s spokesman to Pharaoh, didn’t change basic details of God’s plan. Would be Moses and Aaron, working as team, going through steps God had already revealed to Moses. Go meet your brother. Gather elders of Israel together, say the words, show the signs. Say the words to the children of Israel. Go to Pharaoh, say the words. They will respond this way (positively), Pharaoh will react badly. God will do his wonders, Pharaoh will relent.

Almost as if Moses figured: not getting out of this, might as well do it, get it over with. Not unlike attitude toward one of those procedures doctor says is necessary. And things went just as God said they would. Should be no surprise – God never tells us everything, also never tells us wrong thing. God didn’t reveal to Moses and Aaron all nitty gritty details – did reveal more than enough to convince them God could be trusted; God would ensure results would be exactly as he ordained, even when didn’t go like they expected.

Moses and Aaron go as God directed to Pharaoh with words God gave; Pharaoh responded, but not as they expected; then Pharaoh takes out displeasure on Hebrew slaves.

A. request v.1-3

diplomacy with a twist

not equals – no matter how you look at it: emissaries from subject people (slaves) with no standing whatever with Pharaoh

at best should have been shuttled off to some mid-level diplomat, not highest human authority in Egypt

at same time: emissaries sent from Sovereign Lord of all things – King of kings, Lord of lords with power to do as he chooses, Pharaoh or no Pharaoh

not a request

Yahweh says “Release My people” – not phrased as diplomatic request, is imperative command from superior authority

starting out with less than the whole picture

you need to grant this… for starters – will be further expectations later; release them for religious feast, get to specifics of all that entails shortly

professed ignorance

who is he – not identity but authority

pfft, Yahweh has no authority over Pharaoh – writes true God off as insignificant, beneath his notice; doing good job of suppressing innate knowledge – Rom. 1, imago dei

Pharaoh could see no reason take Yahweh seriously, does not know YHWH – God treats as challenge, he will make abundantly so all will know he is the LORD

“serpent in the Garden” reprise – convinced Pharaoh like Eve: “you will be like God”

is how Pharaoh thought of himself, expected to be treated – like Satan, does his utmost to keep in slavery those God lays claim to, intends to deliver

default response firmly negative

not uncommon to negotiations / bargaining – in this case, no intention whatever on Pharaoh’s part to negotiate… as God had promised

renewed appeal

phrased as request – not grovelling/begging, rather exhorting: for the good of all of us, let us go worship our God

more reason given – sacrificing sacred (to Egyptians) animals – willing to conduct religious ritual out of sight so as not to offend

implied threat – God will not be pleased with refusal – he will surely show displeasure, Pharaoh would feel the pain either directly or indirectly

if judgment on Hebrew children for lack of obedience – serious impact on Egyptian economy; if on Egyptians directly, other political / social fallout, Pharaoh at least looks incompetent

B. response v.4-9

outward – get to work

accusing Moses / Aaron of encouraging laziness – probably already knew about meeting with elders & people, their response

if soon to be delivered from slavery or at least allowed to go on religious holiday, no need to work so hard

more concerned with threat to productivity and control than threat from God

if slaves slack off, output diminishes, fewer things get built to enhance reputation and legacy of Pharaoh… not good

if slaves get idea they can set pace of work, even if only minor slowdown, with no repercussions, things lead to things

inward – Houston, we have a problem

we’re outnumbered

not kind of comment made to negotiaters for other side – clear sign of what Pharaoh viewed as weakness: Egypt’s inability to keep slaves in line if were stirred up

if they rebel…

not only is labor force in jeopardy, Pharaoh feared entire way of Egyptian life at risk – didn’t really grasp God’s plan for Israelites did not include overthrow of Egypt

outward – harsh demands

passed down chain of command – Pharaoh -> Egyptian slave masters -> Hebrew foremen -> eventuallly rank and file… relying on foremen to pass word (about beatings) to people, keep them in line

reasoning – keep them busy, show who is boss

even if it’s make work work, less apt to make trouble when overworked / underfed; same if management power structure appears irresistible – no point to rebel, only be crushed

C. reprisal v.10-14

same output, more labor

same number of bricks required – specific demand: quota shall not be reduced; justification – have too much time to think

more steps to gather supplies – same labor to make final product plus additional work of acquiring own straw to bind mud together, keep bricks from cracking, falling apart

make them understand listening to Moses/Aaron promises only adds to their troubles, workload, harsh conditions

reduced contact

families split up by nature of work – some to keep doing what they had been, others sent to find stubble left behind in fields to use in place of straw

less time for coffee breaks, conversation – keep them so busy and tired they can’t get together to make plans

harsh unjust treatment

pick up the pace – no excuses, no slacking off, perhaps unreachable goal but didn’t matter: Pharaoh commanded

beating guy in the middle – making example out of those powerless to change anything, threat to those lower down

D. really important application

obedience is often hard

sometimes by own doing – Moses complicated next 40 years by resistance to God’s plan; sometimes we try to obey by doing it our way, not God’s way at least to start

often because have things still to learn – common thing: trust, learned best when no other choice, when God takes us beyond our abilities, requires dependence on him

obedience can be painful

God’s time and our time not often the same – not only Americans that want instant gratification… Hebrew children did too

God’s power not obvious when it’s easy – great opposition to God can cause great pain for his people, yet pain not without blessing

taking territory from Satan is never easy

true whether individual or group, city or jungle – evangelism/witnessing one on one, church or mission group, regardless of location or people group

expect the work of seeing lost sinners genuinely converted to come at great cost – prayer, time, labor, lives

never gives up territory without a fight – no holds barred, death match, intends to add to his territory not lose any of it

characterizes Gospel truth as false words, foolishness – convinces his slaves they don’t need God, can be own god if really need one

encourages busyness – work a little harder, have a little more, go a few more places, a few more relationships, will be satisfied

Christians can fall into same trap – busyness = spirituality – better Christian, more pleasing to God because super busy

we cannot win against Satan, God in us can

don’t have proper weapons, sufficient strength, adequate understanding… on our own – in full dependence on God, can be more than conquerors


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