For many years, the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt.
Israel and his family moved to Egypt because of a widespread famine. God used Israel’s son Joseph to preserve the family from the devastating effects of the famine.
While Joseph was alive, the children of Israel lived in favor in Egypt. However, a pharaoh came to power who did not know Joseph. He saw the rapidly growing population of Hebrews and made plans to both dominate and reduce the Israelite population.
Those plans included slavery, oppression and killing the male babies. The labor demands, slavery and oppression became so harsh that the people of Israel cried out to God for help.
God responded and appeared to a man named Moses. Moses was tending sheep in the wilderness at the time. He saw a bush engulfed in flames, but the fire did not consume the bush. When Moses went to investigate, God spoke to him from the bush. God told Moses to go and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. God said, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7)
God does not call them the children of Israel; He calls them “My People.”
Moses objected that he was not capable, and that the people would not accept him as their leader. God gave Moses powerful signs to present to the leaders of the people as proof that God sent him.
Reluctantly, Moses went to Egypt and met with the leaders of the children of Israel. He performed the signs for them and convinced them that God heard their cries for help and was acting on their behalf. The people of Israel were overjoyed. Exodus 4:30 says, “When they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.”
Moses and his brother Aaron went to Pharaoh with a request to take a 3 day’s journey into the wilderness to worship God.
Pharaoh responded that he did not know God, had no reason to listen to God and he would not let the Israelites go to worship their God.
Moses and Aaron asked a second time, very humbly, saying they were afraid of God’s anger if they did not go and worship.
Pharaoh replied that Moses and Aaron were distracting the people from their work. He said the people were lazy and gave orders that in addition to their normal brick quotas, they were now required to gather their own straw. What had been brutal labor now was elevated to the point that the workers feared for their lives.
Exodus 5:22-6:1 says:
Then Moses went back to the LORD and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”
Then the LORD told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!”
The Lord said, “Now you will see.”
There are times when we need to see the hand of the Lord.
We may not be in slavery in Egypt, but there are difficulties, challenges and obstacles that block our path. Marriage problems, problems with children, family problems, financial problems, disease, addictions and an unlimited variety of issues surround us.
Like the Israelites, we get to the point that we call out to God. We need to see. We need to see what God will do to Pharaoh.
There is a progression of events here in the story of God’s dealings with Moses and Israel that, if we understand them, will help us be patient and not lose hope when waiting for God’s deliverance.
First, we see the confrontation.
Moses approached Pharaoh with a request, and Pharaoh did not want to talk about it.
When we come to God for deliverance, there has to be this confrontation. The problem or issue has to be brought to the surface. It has to be faced.
With Pharaoh, it was his pride. Literally, he said, “Who is God?” We can almost hear the contempt and derision in his voice. He set himself up in opposition to God.
Many things set themselves up in opposition to God in our lives. The first and greatest of these is pride. It might manifest itself in the form of a problem with anger, an addiction or a habit, but at the root, it is still pride.
Many cries for deliverance fail here, because we fail to recognize or confront the real issue. The monster, giant or Pharaoh controlling our lives must be confronted. It will not work to try to control a behavior without addressing the pride, unforgiveness or attitude behind it.
Another issue is why we confront the issue. Moses and Aaron requested permission to go and serve the Lord. If they had sought permission to go to the beach for a few days, it might have been understandable but not a reason for God to intervene. Often we ask for deliverance so that we can be normal, so that we can be free to do more with what we perceive to be ours. In this case, our plea for deliverance has nothing to do with the Lord or His purpose for our lives. In other words, James 4:3 has an explanation. It says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.”
It took a lot of courage to do what Moses and Aaron did. However, they mustered their courage and approached Pharaoh. That is the confrontation. We must have the courage to face the real issue.
After the confrontation comes the response.
Pharaoh’s response was to defend his turf. “Who is the Lord?” he said with contempt. Then he increased the people’s workload beyond reason. He brought all the weight of his nation to bear on the problem. All the machinery of slavery went into action. Slave drivers, whips and supervisors all had a part to play. Slavery had a long history in Egypt and the institution was designed to keep the Hebrews oppressed. Therefore, everything got a lot worse. The response to the confrontation was devastating.
This is a pattern in life. Once we confront our slave master, things get worse. The enemy of our souls is not Pharaoh. He is the devil, the ancient serpent from the Garden of Eden. The hang-ups and habits he uses to get control are called strongholds. As this name implies, these habits and hang-ups are resilient. They do not go away easily. Like the institution of slavery, they have all the machinery in place to keep us held captive.
When God starts the process of removing us from these traps, we start to realize just how much they are a part of us. The fight will feel like a fight for one’s life, because it is. The serpent’s intent is to destroy us. God’s intent is that we might live.
At this point, we, like the people of Israel and Moses, are prone to cry out, “God what are You doing?”
When the time is right God says, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh.”
This is the answer.
We have progressed from the confrontation through the response to the answer.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV)
When everything gets worse and we see the strength of the stronghold in our lives, we are tempted to give up. We must wait for the Lord. We must hope in the Lord. Notice that God did not say, “Don’t worry, I will give you strength to deal with Pharaoh.” He said, “Now you will see what I will do.”
In our own strength, defeating a stronghold is beyond us. This is why we need to see the mighty hand of God at work.
Many years after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, there was a king in Judah named Ahaz. Two nations conspired against the kingdom of Judah and Ahaz and his people were afraid. At that point, God said something that applies to us. God said, “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” (Isaiah 7:9)
This is the lesson of Isaiah 40:31. Those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength.
Consider Luke 18:1 where it says, “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.”
Did you know that Jesus taught that you should never give up?
Never give up hope in the Lord. Call upon Him for help. Do not be surprised when things get worse; expect it. Be confident that God, who began the work in you, will bring it to completion.