Exodus 5-6: When You Hoped for Relief, but Things Got Worse
[Exodus 5:1-23 ESV] 1 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.'” 2 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.” 3 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.” 4 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.” 5 And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” 6 The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 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.’ 9 Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.” 10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.'” 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?” 15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.” 20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” 22 Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”
[Exodus 6:1-9 ESV] 1 But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” 2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “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, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
Let’s take a moment and pray. Father, I ask that you’d open our hearts now. There are people here who are enslaved to sin. There are people here who are enslaved to difficult circumstances and they’re enslaved to acute emotional distress, slave to a long term emotional ill [inaudible]. Lord, I, I asked that today. You administer to them through these words, help me to preach well, to help them understand the hope that this passage offers. I asked. Listen, your precious name, amen. Sometimes getting ready in the morning. For me, it’s kind of a comedy of errors. Our bathroom is about, I don’t know, two foot three foot wide, the walkway by six foot long, which means I, I as I’ve, you know, gotten older, I’ve found that I’ve also gotten a little bit bigger. My muscles are a little bit wider. I’m also a little bit less agile in the bathrooms. So when we pack everything in there to try to make it fit it becomes a bit ridiculous. You know, I’ll be putting some of my stuff away in my little cabinet and as I’m doing that, I’ll knock one of the hair, both things, hairband things that are on the back of the door of the cabinet down. I’ll bend over to pick that up and I’ll hit like my side or my head on the sink that’s right there. And I go to pick that up and I end up knocking more down and then, you know, I’m picking everything up and I’m trying to get my stuff on. It’s, it’s ridiculous.
It’s amazing how things can get tougher even when you think they’re already tough. It’s amazing how things can go bad and then go from bad to worse quickly. In fact, I would say that there are many times when I have hoped for relief in a situation and thought it was right around the corner and it was in that moment that things actually got worse. That’s what we find in this passage here today. The Israelites have been promised deliverance. They’ve worshiped God faithfully. They believe the Lord. In verse 31 they believed and when they heard that the Lord had visited, this is chapter four verse 31 the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction. They bowed their heads and worship and they thought deliverance is finally here. So Moses goes and he tells Pharaoh, let the people go. What happens? What does Pharaoh’s response?
I wish I could say that every time I called out to the Lord in the middle of my enemies, whether they’re enemies outside or inside, that every single time the Lord immediately delivered me. That’s just not always how God works. Sometimes it gets darker before it gets better and we’re going to walk through the story today and we’re going to learn some important facts about trials. We’re going to learn some wisdom and some care in the sympathy of God. We’re going to understand how important it is for us to latch on to God’s promises in difficult times.
I want to give you categories to understand the Exodus story first. I know that this is a story of a people group that was enslaved in Egypt years ago, 3,500 years ago, 3,400 years ago. It’s been a long time, but this story in the biblical authors as they read this story and then they write later on under the inspiration of God, this story becomes the well that they go back to time and time again to talk about all kinds of deliverance, not just physical slavery. It can be deliverance from circumstances. Some of you have had difficult circumstances in your life, no fault of your own.
It can be deliverance from acute emotional pain, the kind of pain that waxy upside the head with a two by four and leaves you in a fog. It can be deliverance from long term to kind of long term numbing emotional pain that you feel in your soul that can be deliverance from sin and shame and guilt. Biblical authors use the Exodus story as an illustration for all of those. I don’t know what you need deliverance from today, but I want to offer a little bit of hope for you, but first you have to see how things get worse. Let’s follow the story starts in chapter five verse one afterward, Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, just pause for a second. If you go back to chapter four verse 16 it says that Aaron will speak for you to the people and he shall be your mouth and you shall be as God to him. In other words, as you speak, you’re going to be speaking to very Oracles of God to Pharaoh, and you would think that if you get to speak for God, people would listen.
In fact, Jewish tradition says that the people believe in verse 31 and they set out from this time of worship together with the elders, maybe 70 elders on their way into Pharaoh and they go to talk to Pharaoh. And Jewish tradition says that on the way there, all of the 70 elders slowly left. They lost courage. They got too scared until only Moses and Aaron were left there in front of Pharaoh and Moses wi confidence. And Aaron with confidence says, thus says the Lord. Let my people go. Idealistic. God said it, that settles it, right?
It should all be clear and easy from here on out. What papers do we have to sign to make this official? But that’s not what happens. Pharaoh said in verse two, who is the Lord that I should obey his voice? Guess what that word obey is Shama. I remember a study echoes of regret. You would not listen to the voice of Moses who is him that I should. Who is he? That I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go. At the very least, Pharaoh should recognize as a matter of diplomacy, the God of these slave people.
He should recognize him just as he recognizes the many gods of the Egyptian Pantheon and the many gods of the surrounding nation, but he refuses to recognize the true God, the God of Israel. Pharaoh’s response is disrespectful and sarcastic and it’s going to have disastrous consequences. He’s positioning himself to do battle and so what does he do? Verse three the God of the Hebrews has met with us Moses scenario and respond. The God of the Hebrews have met with us. Please let us go. Three days journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice the Lord our God.
Verse four but the King of Egypt said to them, Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Give back to your burdens. And the Pharaoh said, behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens. They don’t have enough to, do you ever get that response from your dad, your mom growing up? They come complaining, you know they come like on board or something like that. And the response is, well, I got plenty that you can do. So this is essentially pharaohs response. Oh you, you, you, you think your burdens are tough. Well, apparently you’ve got enough time to come before me and talk to me. So guess what, verse seven 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. You used to the straw so that they could weave that in with the bricks to build the monuments for me. Well, I’ll tell you what. Now we’re going to not supply the straw anymore, but they’re going to have to make the same amount of bricks we’re going to add to their work. This is why. So verse nine, let heavier work be laid on the Mensa. They may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words. So the taskmasters and the four men of the people went out and said to the people, thus says, Pharaoh, I will not give you struggle and get your straw yourself wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced. So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt together. Stubble or straw. That word stumble there is not straw.
That word stumble is exactly what you’d think it would be. It’s the grass clippings. It imagines a dry lands with a patch of grass that’s been dried here and a patch of grass that’s been dried here. These are not fields of straw that they cut down. The Jews are surveying the entire land, trying to find little patches of straw to gather together to work into the bricks so that the monuments they build will actually last the gather whatever they can find. And then verse 14 the foreman of the people of Israel whom Pharaoh’s task masters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, why have you not done all your task of making bricks today? And yesterday as in the past, so Israel scurrying around trying to find all of these, all the stubble they can for the bricks. They’re not able to get the quota. Yeah, so they’re beaten.
So what is the response of the people of Israel? The foreman of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh. That word cry there. It’s the same exact word as chapter two verse 23 during those many days, the King of Egypt died and the people of Israel groaned because of the slavery and cried out for help. The cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. It’s the same exact word. They’re looking for deliverance and they’re going to Pharaoh for it. I wonder if they’re going to find a kind good master with Pharaoh. They say, why do you treat your servants like this? No straws given your service, and yet they say to us, make bricks and behold, your servants are beaten, but the fault is in your own people. But he said, you are idol. You are idol. That is why you say, let us go and sacrifice the Lord. Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks. The format of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, you shall by no means reduce the number of bricks.
This heartless response is so well. Contrast it with chapter two verse 24 and 25 what does it say? God heard their groaning. Pharaoh heard their groaning. Well, what is God’s response? God remembered his covenant with Abraham and with Isaac and with Jacob, and God saw the people of Israel and God knew he felt compassion for them in their difficult situation, but Pharaoh feels no compassion for them and so discouraged people do what? Discouraged people do they find someone to blame it. On verse 20 they met with Moses scenario who were waiting for them as they came out from Pharaoh and they said to them, the Lord look on you and judge because you had made a stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants that have put a sword in their hand to kill us.
Is that true? Is it Moses’s fault? All right, but not really the well-crafted narrative. He doesn’t work right away. Moses then turns to the Lord, the idealistic bubble is popped. He thinks God’s going to deliver it and it’s going to make it easy and everything’s going to be easy peasy from here on out and the bubble is popped and Pharaoh says no and things get harder, and the people of Israel start blaming Moses and what does Moses do? Oh Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever speak to me for, since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name? He has done evil to this people and have not delivered. You have not delivered your people at all. Things got worse. We want to deliver it’s and things just got worse. We wanted relief and things just got worse.
I want you to hear something. You’re going through a tough time right now and things just seem to get, be getting worse and worse. I want you to hear something. Has anything essentially changed in this story? Nothing has essentially changed am I feel like some of the circumstances have changed, but if you could step back and evaluate the situation as a whole, the God, the universe has still promised to deliver them through Moses. He promised to judge Pharaoh for the hardness of his heart. He was going to very soon, but he did not do it yet. Had anything essentially changed, things would have to get a little worse before they got better, but nothing had, nothing had changed. They were still God’s child. God’s still promised to deliver them. God still promised to make everything right. The circumstances might’ve gotten slightly worse, like waves that dip up and down, but God was still in control. Nothing had essentially changed. God’s presence doesn’t guarantee immediate results.
Charles might get worse before they get better. I don’t say this to discourage you, but I think we need to understand with wisdom what we face in this world when it comes to trials. The reality of life is that you cannot just pray all your problems away. God’s present isn’t guarantee immediate results. For example, Abraham. God promises to him that he’s going to have a child with Sarah. How long does it take before he actually has the child? Over 10 years, David was crowned King by Samuel. It was decades of him hiding in caves in the wilderness while Saul hunted him like a dog job cries out to God and what does he get? Miserable friends to counsel him.
You only give religious jargon and no real hope. Even Jesus is in torment in the garden, but he still has to go through the cross. Do you see sometimes things get darker before they get better. You have to see this, but that doesn’t essentially change anything. God is still sovereign. He’s still in control. He’s still promises deliverance and so God in response to what Moses says starts in verse one of chapter six the Lord said to Moses, now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh for with a strong hand, he will send them out and with a strong hand, he will drive them out of his land. He’ll want them gone so much. He’ll drive him out. God spoke to Moses and said to him, this is what he says here. This I am the Lord. What’s that name?
Yahweh. This is the name that had just been revealed to Moses at the burning Bush. Two chapters, three chapters ahead. Okay. This is a brand new name to the people of God. In fact, God verifies that and the next statement he said, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I appeared to them as El Shaddai. You know that phrase, that name? God almighty, El Shaddai, the powerful one. When I talk to them, that’s how they knew me. L should I, but I did not make myself known to them. I didn’t give them my name of Yahweh, but I give you my name. Yeah. Why self existent one, the one who is and was and will be the one who is not dependent on anyone for his existence, for his joy is not dependent on anything in creation. He doesn’t need any one of us.
I am Yahweh. I made my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan. The land that they lived in a sojourners, they never actually owned that land back then. I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves and I have remembered my covenant, say therefore to the people of Israel. I am the Yahweh. I am Yahweh. Remember my name, I am Yahweh and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and I will deliver you from slavery to them and I will redeem you with an outstretched arms and with great acts of judgment. I will take care of you, take you to be my people, and I will be your God and you shall know that I am the Lord your God who has brought you out from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give you, to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob. I will give it to you for possession. I am Yahweh.
You hear the promises. Notice verse five he sympathizes again. I’ve heard the groanings of my people. Pharaoh would not hear the groanings of your heart, but I hear them. I hear your groanings, I care about you. I sympathize with you. Notice verse six he makes all these promises again, I am the Lord. I will bring you out. I will do this and then notice verse seven that he be with them. I will take you to be my people and I will be your God. He’s going to be with them. These are the promises that sustain us, difficult times, that our God cares and our God promises deliverance and that our God is with us.
All of that was my introduction because verse nine wrecked me this week. Moses said, thus, in other words, everything that the Lord had said, and chapter six one through seven Moses said thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. The word broken could be, could be translated, despondent. Have you heard that word before? It’s from the word for reap, to cut short. In other words, it’s a shortened spirit. It’s, it’s minimized. It’s like if you ever come to the point in your life where you’re like, I got nothing. I got nothing.
I’m empty. Psalm 89 45, you have cut short the days of his youth. You have covered him with shames. Psalm one Oh two 23 he has broken my strength and mid-course that were broken is the word there is shortened my days, the despondent spirit. They can’t hear. I purchased this book this week. It’s a book called Spurgeon Sorrows by Zach Eswine. He’s one of my favorite authors. I highly suggest this to anyone who struggles with depression. Yeah. It is a look at how Spurgeon dealt with his years of, of sorrow, of, of despondency, of depression. He was very open and honest. He didn’t share all the gory details of his struggles with it, but he was honest about his struggles with it. At one point, this is his comment. I want you to hear these words. He said, the mind can descend far lower than the body for it. There are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more. But the soul can bleed in 10,000 ways and die over and over again each hour.
It’s the broken spirit, the despondent spirit, the hopeless spirit. And here’s the truth. I don’t know how many of you have been here before. It is because of that brokenness that they are not able to hear the promises of God. Have you ever been there? You don’t have to. Not. I just want to ask. Think about it in your heart. Have you ever come to the point in your life in brokenness and frustration and discouragement inside where you feel like you can’t even will your soul to open the pages of your Bible? You can’t latch onto the promises. You know you should. Where somebody says, you know God’s always with you. He never forsakes you. He heals the brokenhearted, binds up their wounds, he cares for you. You can cast all your anxieties on him. You hear those words and it’s like, it’s like they’re lost in the wind.
They feel more like stabs of the sword, the medicine to the soul. The people are so broken and hopeless that they can’t [inaudible]. The second word there is harsh slavery. They did not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. They’re servants of Pharaoh. They’re under harsh slavery. They’re whipped, beaten, and forced to work hard. Their children have been taken and killed. They’ve experienced the dregs of life. The word harsh is used again in Isaiah when the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service with which you were made to serve. Isaiah 32 17 and the effect of righteousness will be peace in the work of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. In contrast, God who services is, it’s a good yoke. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a light yoke. It is a burden. In contrast to that, the, the slavery of life in the, the struggle of life.
It’s hard. Do you ever feel enslaved and trapped by your circumstances? Do you ever feel enslaved by your acute moments of emotional pain that you just, they just overwhelm you ever feel in slaved by that numbing long term blueness that just sits over your head? Have you ever felt in slaved by your sin and the shame and the guilt of your sin? So I know how I have the cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate deliverance. He will take you to have an away from your circumstances. He will wipe away every tear from your eye. He will remove your sins as far as the East is from the West. So they you stand as a child of God. But I know all too well and I know you know all too well that these promises can feel so very hollow, too. Despondent spirit and harsh slavery. I felt them [inaudible] Instagram sayings, don’t give me hope, cute little turns of phrases offer me nothing.
So I have two things for if you felt that way. I have two things to offer and I hope that they will feel more like medicine than a sword. Number one, I want you to see in this passage that you have a God who sympathizes with you. If you can’t look at the second coming of Christ, when he will wipe away the tears from your eyes, then look at the first coming of Christ when he was the man of sorrows and during all of the same afflictions that you feel. If you can’t hope it look back.
He was tempted in every way like you and I are. Yet without sin. He carried the title man of sorrows and not that janky old country song man of constant sorrow. Nobody knows what I’m talking about. No, he bore that title. He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. He was a man who experienced the depths that you’ve experienced. He’s been there. He knows them, doesn’t solve everything. I know that it doesn’t make everything better just like that, but remembering this, it may give you just enough grace to remember that there’s a God who sits there with you. Crying may give you just grace to get through it.
Second thing, you have a God who sympathizes with you, but I want to encourage you and I’m going to encourage you with the kick to the rear that I often need when I feel this way. I want you to grab onto God’s promises and remember that deliverance is not dependent on your emotional ability to hold onto God. When God makes a promise that promise will happen or does happen on the basis of his character, which is unchanging, not on your response to it. The Israelites don’t listen. You see that? Verse nine they do not listen to Moses. They don’t listen. God delivers him anyway, but it would be better for you if you could. Listen.
I know you feel so crushed that you feel like you can’t, but you need to. I know you’re too tired to trust, but you need to. I know you feel too broken to believe, but you need to. I know you feel too weary to rest in him, but you need to. Your soul needs to. I want you to read the rest of the story of God’s deliverance. They are unfaithful to him time and time again, and it would be better for them if they found a way to be faithful to him. So I’m encouraging you to skip the part where you don’t listen, where you don’t trust well, you don’t turn to God when you turn to other things. When you grow hard-hearted skip that part. Do everything you can to latch on to God and make use of the people around you in your life, to care for you and love you. People who know better than to try to say little trite Instagram sayings, people who are just willing to weep with those who weep. Let’s pray. My gracious heavenly father, I pray you would
Remind those in here. You’re a good Father who loves them, the ones who need it, the ones who are currently turning away from you and not listening to you. They’re living in slavery to sin. I pray that they would turn to you, turn from their sin, pray that we would be a church that cares deeply about one another. The brokenness that we, each experience I pray that we would be a church who encourages the fainthearted, builds up the weary weeps with those who weep. Lord, help us to be a people who’s able to know that you are a God who sympathizes. Help us to be a people who can skip the part where we don’t turn to you. I know, it just feels impossible sometimes.
Be with us today, we pray, and ask this in your precious name.
Oh man. Well then thank you so much for being here this morning. I’ll be up here for a few minutes after the morning service. If you’d like to talk or pray, I would welcome that opportunity. I would, I would love to be able to minister to you in that way.