Meditations on coming out of slavery into freedom (Exodus 4 and 5)

4:31 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.

When God speaks, we worship him. A sign we have not heard God is we refuse to worship him. Worship is the appropriate response to God speaking!

Exodus 5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD (YHWH), the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’ ”

Pharaoh truly believes the Israelites are his to do with as he wishes. He is their king, ruler, and god. Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh with a false perception of reality. “Let my (God’s) people go, that they may hold a feast to me (God) in the wilderness.” Israel is God’s, not Pharaoh’s. God has made a decision about what is right for Israel. He has let this decision be known to Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh has been left out of the chain of command. Instead of setting the divine agenda for all who live in Egypt, Pharaoh is basically commanded to listen and obey.

The battle between Pharaoh and Moses is more than a difference of opinion. Rather, it is an issue of power, control, and authority. Pharaoh could care less whether or not Moses has the right idea. The real issue is that in the Egyptian world, Pharaoh is supposed to make all the decisions. He is literally considered a god on earth. He decides all things, not some washed out Hebrew man who had the good luck of being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. At some level, Pharaoh respects or fears Moses enough not to kill him at the very suggestion. However, the thought of Moses bringing orders from God eventually makes Pharaoh’s blood boil.

Freedom is more than making moral or right choices. Freedom is a change of rule! So often we try to put slave clothes on Christ. We introduce him to our world of slavery and ask him to help us have a better slave life. We ask Christ to bless our slave ways, increase our slave wages, and expand our slave quarters. God meets us in our bondage to lead us into freedom. Many of us spend our entire life trying to get God to see the logic of our slave ways.

God’s commandment is clear, “You must leave your slave ways!”

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD (YHWH), that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD (YHWH), and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Pharaoh set the religious agenda of the nation, not Moses. If Pharaoh doesn’t value YHWH, then YHWH is not of value. This is the logic of our age.

The world does not acknowledge YHWH as God. Consequently, the world does not make room for YHWH. To live a live free from perpetual bondage, we must make room for God. Pharaoh will not acknowledge God’s presence, that is our job. I am becoming increasingly convinced that God must take radical, practical, importance in our lives. The world will not make room for God. The implications are profound.

We must choose careers that make room for God. A job is only good when it allows us to worship God freely and consistently. If a job keeps us from attending church, then it is a worthless job. Yes, there are season when we cannot control our schedule. However, freedom is found in giving God priority!

We must choose a standard of living that makes room for God. Many do not faithfully attend or serve in the church because of work commitments. Many of these commitments are for the purpose of maintaining a standard of living. If we give God our second best to maintain a standard of living, we are choosing Pharaoh’s kingdom over God’s command.

Some may despise these comments, but I am convinced that freedom can be found when we take obedience seriously! This is not a question of salvation, it is a question of freedom. Many have been saved, but few walk in the abundant freedom provided by the cross. This world will not let you go! We must choose to follow God’s lead first and foremost in our lives.

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.”

Moses and Aaron are more concerned with God’s discipline than with Pharaoh’s. We are to be more concerned with God’s purposes than with the world’s punishment. What concerns us more, not measuring up to our culture’s standard of living, or not following God’s purposes for our life? There must come a time in our life when the primary motivation for all our decisions is God’s purpose! If I asked your family, your boss, or your friends to tell me what your primary purpose in life is, what would they tell me? Who would they say you serve? How long would they have to think about the question before answering? Freedom is found in taking God’s perspective seriously!

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!”

In Pharaoh’s eyes the work of the Israelites is slavery, not worship. Their burden in life is to serve Pharaoh. The whole system changes if you let this large population do something other than what they were created to do. So Pharaoh commands them “Get back to your burdens.”

A guaranteed result of pursuing freedom is a push back from the world. The world wants to occupy all your time. Satan’s goal is for you to live so far within your bondage that you simply call bondage “life.” Bondage is far more than breaking a commandment. Bondage is living in a state of continual servitude to darkness. A sure fire way to stop spiritual growth is to expand the hours you spend consumed with things that have no eternal value. Even vacation and luxury have no value if they take away from spiritual intimacy with God.

Pharaoh wants your best energy, time, and resources. Some of us work so hard in our fields of slavery that we use our spare time to improve our slave quarters and conditions. God says, come out from your depravity. Learn to worship me! Give me your best time and energy. I will teach you how to walk in freedom.

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.”

Pharaoh pushes back to squash the dream, divide the community, and destroy the leadership. He makes them work harder and longer. He consumes their lives with the burden and bondage of slavery. Pharaoh keeps them from thinking about anything but their bondage. The pursuit of freedom often comes with a push back.

The battle for freedom is actually a battle. Salvation is something we receive in yielding to Christ. The ability to walk in our freedom is something we fight for as we live in a world that is bound. If someone is not following Christ, they will intentionally or unintentionally try to advance the kingdom of darkness. Satan does not want you to walk in your freedom. He will push back!

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.’ “

God’s proclamation is followed by Pharaoh’s commandment. Your life is not going to get better, it is going to get worse. When we begin to walk out our freedom, we will hear such whispers. There will come times when we feel as if our pursuit for wholeness will crush us.

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?”

Pharaoh gave the Israelites a task they couldn’t do. Therefore they were beaten and ridiculed. The foremen were treated the worse; they were leaders among the Israelites who had worked up through the ranks to oversee their own people’s bondage. Freedom is most difficult for those who have received some temporary benefit from their bondage. The foreman had been given a small amount of authority and prestige. Moses and Aaron were disrupting this system.

Some of us resist true freedom because it appears to come at a greater cost. We have gained a certain amount of influence, power, or prestige from this world. We may be bound, but we are doing better than others. Our standard for prosperity can not be from a slave’s perspective. Whether working in the brutal fields or in the luxury of the master’s house, a slave is still a slave.

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.”

Notice that the foreman don’t negotiate through Moses and Aaron. They go directly to Pharaoh.

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.”

Things seem truly bleak. The foremen are beginning to understand the enormity of this problem. Even though the foremen don’t recognize Moses and Aaron’s authority, Pharaoh is going punish the foremen as if they are in agreement with YHWH’s plan.

20 They (the foremen) 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.”

The foremen direct their hostility to Moses and Aaron because they have made the bondage worse, they have stirred the waters and have given Pharaoh reason to punish them.

22 Then Moses turned to the LORD (YHWH) and said, “O LORD (YHWH), 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.”

Moses does not remotely understand what God is doing. God has given him signs, but no real direction on how he will free the Israelites. Consequently, Moses immediately questions God’s plan. God seems to be bringing harm to the people, he appears to have sent the wrong person to take Israel to the next level. God is taking too long to deliver his people. Whatever small amount of authority Moses has gained with the Israelites, he is quickly losing.

When we pursue freedom we will frequently question the following: God’s plan, God’s timing, God’s leadership, God’s ways! In other words, we will question God, even after seeing amazing signs and wonders. Faith is required, whether or not our staff turns into a snake.

6:1 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.”

This is going to be a battle that makes Israel entirely detestable to Egypt and Egypt detestable to Israel. Before all said and done, Pharaoh will not just let Israel go, he will pursue them to wipe them from the face of the earth. God is not only going to lead Israel out of Egypt, Pharaoh is going to try and wipe out Israel from the face of the earth.

For Israel to fully break away from Egypt, the relationship had to be completely broken. God desires to break us from our relationship with sin and depravity. God desires to make sin appear truly sinful, detestable, and unappetizing. We are not to hate individuals, but we are to hate sin. Sin should leave a bitter taste in our mouth, it should turn our stomachs, and unsettle our souls.

God has truly called us out from our bondages. He wants us to hate the sin that once entangled us. Freedom from addiction, perpetual immorality, and defiant behavior requires that these behaviors become so detestable to us that we are willing to do whatever it takes to walk in freedom. Sin ultimately becomes the pursuing chariots of Pharaoh. My prayer is that God increases our hostility to sin. It is good and right that lying, cheating, gossiping, grumbling, and all manner of depravity become utterly distasteful to our spiritual pallets. God meets us in our depravity, but his purpose is to free us from our bondage! He often frees us from our bondage by freeing us to see how detestable our bondage has become!

Meditate upon these words. They will bring you life!


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One Response to Meditations on coming out of slavery into freedom (Exodus 4 and 5)

  1. Shawn April 1, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    Thanks Doug,

    Powerful and true word. I have been struck by the same concern both for myself and those around me. Seated with Christ in heavenly places does not look like slavery.


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