And God said to Moses, “… I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people out of Egypt …” (Ex. 3:10).
While Moses was actively engaged at one task[i], God called him to another[ii]. It happened to be a job Moses had felt himself so prominently qualified for years earlier[iii]. For some reason Moses now felt he wasn’t qualified[iv].
Moses presents to God a series of protests on why he would not be able to accept the commission[v]. God’s response to Moses was largely two-fold: He would personally accompany him[vi] and He would give him a sign and special power[vii]. God also sends Moses a helper, who is none other than his elder brother, Aaron, to assist with the project[viii].
Moses finally agrees to God’s plan and returns home to pack up the family and say farewell to those he will leave behind. His father-in-law, Jethro, sends him off with blessings[ix].
Moses heads back to Egypt and calls a meeting with the elders[x]. Moses is reinforced by Aaron. The leaders of Israel became convinced by the “signs” and decided to go along with the plan upon hearing that God was concerned about their welfare and afflictions. They held a worship service to kick things off[xi].
It is a happy time for everyone. “If God is for Israel, who can be against them?” they probably thought.
Some time later, Moses and Aaron met with Pharaoh to make a moderate and limited request for temporary leave of absence[xii]. Pharaoh’s retort to this affront to was sharp and cynical. From Pharaoh’s point of view, any God who would choose to identify Himself with such a hapless and hopeless lot of slaves is no one to fear. Pharaoh was unmoved by Moses’s request or threats. In his judgment, the people were too idle and lazy. He thus increased their work quota and decreased their resources[xiii].
Experiencing immediate hardship, government oppression, and heavy labor instead of the promised results, the Israelite’s proceed to curse Moses and Aaron as troublemakers, blaming them for the crisis. Lack of results caused them to turn on their leaders and give up to avoid further difficulty[xiv]. It seemed to the congregation that the two preachers in whom they had put their trust only made their harsh conditions worse.
Moses, in turn, blames God for the disaster. God’s plan does not seem be working as promised. He reminds God of his original objections. He has the audacity to accuse God of not coming through on His guarantee[xv], basically calling the Almighty a liar.
God reassures Moses that He has not forgotten His promises and that He would delay no longer[xvi]. Compulsion would be required to convince a tyrant, a fact that was explained to Moses in an earlier conversion; this inconvenient truth was obviously overlooked and forgotten[xvii].
Back to the elders Moses goes. But they refuse to listen[xviii]. Dejection and cruelty had caused them to give up on the idea of freedom. They would rather be slaves than suffer the transitory hard times that commonly accompanies freedom and ministry work.
Moses (now aged eighty years) and his brother, Aaron, who is even older, return to Pharaoh again and again in a series of debate[xix].
The story ends well as we eventually find out. The promise of God is fulfilled, but not without further conflict, temporary difficulties, and squabble among the people of God.
Pragmatic American churches would do well to remind its ministers and missionaries to commit to memory that a calling to preach is not usually an uninterrupted route of bliss and peace. The ordination service is usually a happy time, much like the worship service Israel held – and it should be.
But our young men and their families entering the ministry need to be aware that believing God’s promises is taken through much difficulty and insults of every shape and size. But through God’s grace and power we arrive safely.
[i] Ex. 3:1
[ii] Ex 3:10
[iii] Ex. 2:11-14
[iv] Ex. 3:11
[v] Ex. 4:1-3; 4:10, 13
[vi] Ex. 3:12
[vii] Ex 3:12; 4:2f
[viii] Ex. 4:14
[ix] Ex. 4:18, 20
[x] Ex. 4:29-30
[xi] Ex. 4:31
[xii] Ex. 5:1
[xiii] Ex. 5:2-9
[xiv] Ex. 5:20-21
[xv] Ex. 5:22-23
[xvi] Ex. 6:1
[xvii] Ex. 2:19
[xviii] Ex. 6:9
[xix] Ex. 7:1f
God does not do what false Christianity makes out – keep a man immune from trouble. God says, “I will with you in trouble.” – Oswald Chambers (1874-1917).