By Joseph Ametepe
"So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, 'You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the quota of brick which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.' Let the labor be heavier on the men and let them work at it that they may pay no attention to false words. So the taskmasters and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, 'Thus says Pharaoh, I am not going to give you any straw. You go and get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it; but none of your labor will be reduced.' So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. And the taskmasters pressed them, saying, 'Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw'....Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, 'O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak to in Your name, he has done harm to this people; and You have not delivered Your people at all'" (Exodus 5 :6-13, 22-23).
After spending forty years in the back side of the desert, God appeared to Moses at the burning bush. God called, charged and commissioned him to bring His people, the sons of Israel, from Egyptian bondage and oppression. Moses dragged his feet. After giving several excuses, which God did not accept, Moses complied with God's call and charge to bring God's people from Egypt. Partnering with Aaron, his older brother, Moses and Aaron stormed the presence of Pharaoh at God's command. Their message to Pharaoh was strong and sharp. "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness'" (Exodus 5:1). Moses and Aaron were bubbling with confidence. After all, God had revealed Himself to them and put these words in their mouths. Despite their boldness in the presence of Pharaoh-the world's most powerful man at the time, he would not bulge. Pharaoh displayed great arrogance. He disregarded the Lord. He disdained the God of Israel. He disobeyed Him. Pharaoh's disrespectful and disdainful response to God's direct command to let His people go is recorded in these words: "Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2). Moses' and Aaron's respectful and polite pleas to Pharaoh to let them go, did nothing to change Pharaoh's stubborn stance. In fact, things went from bad to worse for God's people in Egypt. Pharaoh would deliberately make life unbearable for the children of Israel from that point on.
Moses and Aaron had come to Pharaoh with the hope of seeing God's promises fulfilled. But they ran into a major roadblock. Pharaoh-a proud and stubborn king. The spiritual lesson in this touching story is this: God's promises to His people often seem far removed from reality. Notice very carefully that the very same day Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and told him to let God's people go was the same day things went from bad to worse for the sons of Israel. It was on that same day Pharaoh gave orders to the slave drivers and foremen in charge of the Israelites to no longer supply them with straw for making bricks. It was on that same day, Pharaoh decreed that the Israelites were to gather their own straw and make the same number of bricks as before-when they had straw given to them. It was on the same day that the slave drivers or the taskmasters and the foremen swiftly executed the decree of Pharaoh: "No straw, but produce the same number of bricks as before." The slave drivers and foremen were rigid, relentless, rude, rough, and religious in carrying out Pharaoh's orders. They pressed the Israelites. "Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw." As if this was not enough to dishearten even the most resilient worker, the slave drivers of Pharaoh whipped the Israelite foremen. Talk about things going from bad to worse! Talk about hitting rock bottom! Talk about life throwing you a curveball! This was the experience of the sons of Israel in Egypt. They had just been given the great and precious promises of God. The promise of deliverance. The promise of freedom. The promise of their own homeland. The promise of worshiping God in the land God Himself had chosen for them. What happened to these glorious promises? As far as the children of Israel were concerned at this time of increased oppression and brutality, those promises were far removed from reality.
What about Moses? What was going through his mind? Moses, the chosen deliverer of the children of Israel, himself also thought that God's promises to His people were far removed from being realized. How do we know that? After leaving the presence of Pharaoh with a heavy heart and watching the mistreatment and manhandling of his fellow Israelites, Moses went to God and laid it all out before Him. Moses asked God two "why" questions. First, "Why have You brought harm to this people?" Second, "Why did You ever send me?" Moses was trudging in the land of doubt. He had received a direct and specific promise from God, but he had not seen its fulfillment. At this critical moment in Moses' life, all he could think of was that God's promise of deliverance seemed so far removed from reality. Moses was so plagued with the seeming failure of God's promise that he even questioned God's rational for sending him to Egypt in the first place. After his two "why" questions, Moses proceeded to charge God for bringing trouble upon His people and failing to rescue them. It is as if Moses was saying to God, "Deliverance is what I came for. Deliverance is what You promised me. But as things are today, deliverance is far removed from us. Pharaoh's grip on Your people is ever tightening and threatening. God, I don't see the deliverance You promised. Whatever happened to Your promise of rescuing Your people?"
Many of us can identify with Moses' experience. We have humbly and honestly sought God. In His grace and goodness, He gave us a promise. But the very day we began to lay hold of the promise of God, things went from bad to worse for us. We faced a major roadblock to the fulfillment of the promise. Like Moses, we ask: "Lord, why? Why are You not fulfilling Your promise to me? Why is the enemy gaining the upper hand in my situation? Why are my circumstances becoming more difficult after receiving Your promise? Why have You brought trouble to me ever since I've decided to trust You to fulfill Your promise to me? Why? Lord, why? Lord, I can honestly say to You that Your promises to Your people often seem far removed from reality."
Personally, I have wrestled with this spiritual lesson for years. God had given me certain promises, but at this point in my life, despite devoting myself to the call of God and diligently serving His purpose through the help of His Spirit, I have not yet seen God's fulfillment for them. What about you? Does God's promises to you seem far removed from reality for you despite being committed to Him? Remember Moses! He was devoted and diligent in serving God's purpose, and yet he didn't see the fulfillment of God's promise on day one. Why? God had an appointed time for fulfilling His promise of deliverance. He had more work to do in Egypt to make a name for Himself. In fact, when His appointed time came and His work was fully accomplished in Egypt, He speedily and swiftly brought about the fulfillment of His promise of deliverance to His people. Similarly, when God's appointed time comes and His work is accomplished in us, He will swiftly and speedily bring about the realization of His promises in our lives. Until then, what are you to do? Here is what you do and I do. Rely on the Holy Spirit to lay bare your heart to God! Relate your heart's struggles to God in all honesty! Resist blaming Him! Remain devoted to Him and be diligent in serving His purpose for your life! Raise a song of praise to Him-for He will not fail to keep His word to you! Thanks be to God! For He is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. What He has said, He will also do. What He has spoken, He will also make good! Blessed be the name of the Lord!