Let my people go

Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” But Pharaoh said, “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.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.” Exodus 5:1-9

Moses is here to take the Hebrews away from Egypt, but he starts small. He’s just asking for a a little time off so they can go out to the wilderness and make a sacrifice to the Lord. Pharaoh decides to make life harder for asking, which could also make the Hebrews mad at Moses.

Freedom costs you something, but it isn’t God who wants paid. There are the people who lose your services. Or maybe they just envy your liberty. Either way, if you want to take a week off for some religious reason, it sets you apart and makes you different.

Even though we are not slaves today in the manner of the Hebrews back in Exodus, we do fear losing our jobs, and we are often saddled with debt. We are not really free. We are careful not to rock the boat.

I have been self employed for many years, largely because I lost my job over company immorality. I got free from sin, and they decided I had to go. Since then, I have been fired over political affiliation a couple of times, but not religious reasons. Maybe I need to work on that.

Aaron, the forerunner

The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. Exodus 4:27-31

Moses balks at God’s plan to have him speak to Pharaoh. God tells him to have his brother, Aaron, do the talking. He further tells Moses to show Aaron the miraculous signs so he can do those, too! The only thing God tells Aaron is to go meet Moses in the desert.

We are also afraid to speak for God, although we have been commanded to do it. We’re not good enough, don’t know enough, haven’t got time. But someone like Aaron, who has not seen a burning bush or had a whole conversation with God, can still speak for God and do signs and wonders.

The average Christian in America needs to spend some time alone with God and work out whether or not he or she really believes. Or are we content to stay in the desert, say we’ve seen a miracle or two, and forget the whole reason God called out to us to begin with: to share the good news of deliverance?

“I need YOU!”

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:7-12

When the Lord tells Moses, “I have come down to deliver them,” He means, through the human agency of Moses. Could God just show up in a dream to Pharaoh, like the ghost of Christmas future did, to terrify Ebenezer Scrooge? Yes. After all, he did send an angel to Abimelech to warn him that he had taken Abraham’s wife to be his own. But this is different. Here God is creating a Gospel diorama, showing His people in bondage being rescued by an unlikely savior. There will be many symbols and details, and God will need a person to play a role.

Moses was part of God’s depiction of Christmas future, but we live in it’s reality. God sent a Savior, has rescued the world, but we must make it apparent to those who will believe. It is our job to tell the lost that they have been set free from the law of sin and death by Jesus. We must explain it so they can make an informed choice.

Moses, the Social Justice Warrior

One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well. Exodus 2:11-15

Moses did not kill the Egyptian for simply beating a Hebrew. Moses had been looking at a lot of suffering. This Egyptian took the accumulated punishment for all that made Moses burn with rage. After all, Moses spoke up to the Hebrew who struck his friend instead of striking or killing him. He could have just as easily rebuked the Egyptian, but he didn’t. Instead, he killed him for all the previous suffering of the Hebrews. And then his fellow Hebrew even threw it up in his face! Now Moses was guilty of murder, and had to flee to Midian.

Each of us answers for his or her own sin. We do not have to answer for the past sins of others.

Those people

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. Exodus 1:8-12

The Egyptians had no reason to fear the people of Israel, other than the reasons they conjured in their heads. There were just”too many.” But a previous chapter tells us that Joseph told his brothers to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds. The Egyptians looked down on shepherds.

When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” Genesis 46:33-34

It looks like Joseph was trying to keep his family segregated in Goshen. For whatever reason, this separation kept relationships and trust from forming. They were shepherds -eeew!- and the Egyptians probably stayed upwind from them.

Even today, in an era of exploding communications, we are as separated and Balkanized as ever. For all of our “diversity,” we are suspicious, prejudiced, and believe the worst about anyone different from ourselves.

The church has failed us in this area. We have led the way in creating walls with all our many denominations. Christ came to make us all one, whether we are male or female, slave or free, Jew or gentile. If we will get our own house in order, we may be able to break down the other walls that tempt us to hate one another.