Exodus 5 Devotional
by Pastor David Groendyk
After Moses performs his miracles in front of the people of Israel and convinces them that God really has heard their cries at the end of chapter 4, I’m sure it’s no stretch to say that the people did not expect what was coming in chapter 5. Pharaoh hardens his heart to the request of Moses and Aaron and refuses to let the people go. But the careful reader of Exodus will have seen this coming, and so should’ve Moses. God warned him twice (3:19 and 4:21) that Pharaoh wouldn’t take kindly to their request to be freed from slavery. And Pharaoh’s heart was certainly hardened. In his bewildered anger (and maybe with a little fear at how numerous this foreign people have become—see v. 5), Pharaoh puts the Israelites back in their place by demanding twice the amount of work in the same amount of time. This is the opposite of the great salvation that some of the Israelites seemingly expected to happen right away (vv. 21–23).
Actually this scenario isn’t very far off from the sermon we heard yesterday on Jephthah. God doesn’t always divinely intervene into our lives to save us from our suffering the way we like. That’s what we read with John the Baptist being beheaded in Mark 6; that’s what happened for most of the life of Joseph when he was sold into slavery and forgotten in jail; that’s what happened to Job when he lost all his belongings and children; that’s what happened to James when he was killed in Acts 12 while Peter was spared. We don’t know why God chooses to work when he does or the way he does. We can’t mine the depths of his wisdom and knowledge. We often have lots and lots of questions, chief among them being, “Why?” We don’t know the outcomes of our own lives like we do with Israel’s story in Egypt. But let’s remember point #3 of Pastor Lawrence’s sermon: God’s metanarrative is not yet complete. Though Israel’s suffering had not yet ended (and though it was actually intensified), their salvation was not far away. Likewise, though we may feel stuck in a period of waiting with no end to our suffering in sight, God’s metanarrative will be completed. The final act of our salvation—our restoration—is still coming.
Pharaoh doesn’t understand the nearness of his downfall either. The fateful words he speaks in verse 2 will come back to haunt him: “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh will learn very soon who the Lord is and why he ought to obey him. He is the God who laid the foundations of the earth, determined its measurements, causes the sun the rise in the morning, sends rain and snow and sun, knows the deepest depths of the oceans, and knows every star by name (see Job 38–41). The ten plagues God inflicts upon Pharaoh, Egypt, and Egypt’s gods are but tiny demonstrations of who the Lord is. The deliverance God will work for Israel certainly won’t be quick and easy, but it will demonstrate God’s power and authority in a way that both Egypt and Israel had never seen before. They don’t know that yet, but they can be rest assured of the promises God gave them.
Even after God has revealed himself to us, shown us miraculous works, and assured us that he has heard our cries, don’t lose heart when trials still come. God is still the all-powerful one who sees everything and is there for you, and history is still marching towards that final restoration.