Scripture points us to the ways we can become enslaved, enjoy misplaced dependence, and find freedom. Tiberius Rata referred to the Israelites as becoming “Egyptized”. As the Israelites continued to live in Egypt, they absorbed the culture around them and became more ensnared. They became dependent on Pharaoh and Egypt. We can also absorb the culture of what consumes our hearts and become dependent on that source for our success, happiness and fulfillment and consequently become enslaved. How do you see people being absorbed into the culture that consumes them? They Egyptians were only concerned about controlling the economic benefits that they received on the backs of the Israelites. Moses’s request to “Let my people go” was met with disdain from Pharaoh who did not acknowledge the existence of I AM.
Pharaoh’s responded by making the Israelites’ labor more difficult.
More Bricks, No Straw
Once enslaved, it becomes difficult to see the full nature of your entrapment. “Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: ‘why have you treated your servants this way?’” (Exodus 5:15) The hope for rescue, for the Israelites, was in the, perceived, most powerful person; the very one who was exacting their enslavement. When life becomes difficult for you, where is your hope for rescue? Who or what do you turn to for help?
(A good measure of where you are looking for help is how frustrated, angry, or disappointed are you when you don’t get the help you need from a source.) I find myself turning to ways to earn more money, open another line of credit, reduce expenses, reduce stress, and finding a person to unload my concerns on. It’s easy to put my hope for deliverance in the very source that enslaved me to begin with. This can quickly become a cycle of “making bricks without straw”.
Depending on my skills, my time, my energy (anything that has my before it) gives a false sense of security. “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:8-9) I can cry out to God in complaint, desperate for relief, like the Israelites. God heard the Israelites plea for relief, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt…and I am concerned about their suffering.” (Exodus 3:7) How have you seen God send an answer to your cries and ignored it and continued to try to find another source for relief?
More Bricks, No Straw
Unfortunately, the Israelites, would rather depend on Pharaoh and their pleas for relief to him, than on God, and Moses, as God’s rescue plan. The Israelites appeal to Pharaoh for relief was met with “Lazy, that what you are-lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now get back to work.” (Exodus 5:17-18) Where have you seen people depend on their perceived most powerful source rather than depend on God?
The dependence cycle on what consumes people’s hearts can be broken by choosing to turn to the Ultimate Deliverer. What consumes your energy? Who or what whispers, “lazy”, in your ear? After the Israelite overseers pled their case to Pharaoh, “The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble…they found Moses…and they said…you have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh.” (Exodus 5:19-21) Instead of going to Pharaoh to complain, the foremen should have gone to Moses and Aaron and suggested that they summon the elders and have a prayer meeting. They had misplaced dependence that resulted in:
More Bricks, No Straw.
Today, identify misplaced dependence and seek freedom with the Ultimate Deliverer “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:7)
We’ve all been there... thinking to ourselves, "What else can go wrong?" ...and then someone pulls the rug out from under us. And we think, "That's the last straw! I can't take one more thing!"
Can you remember a time like that? How did you handle it?
In today's reading the Israelites, who were suffering under the despotic reign of cruel Egyptian rulers, were told, “We will not provide any more straw for you to use in making bricks. Go find your own straw.” We would like to think that this kind of barbaric treatment no longer exists, but unfortunately, one quick search on the Internet for "slave labor” reveals what we consider unthinkable, inhumane treatment. The phrase, "Man's inhumanity to man" comes to mind.
Here's a quote from "newtolerance.org" that might better be called NO tolerance. "Over the last two years, we’ve slowly been learning about how the [name deleted] government has been abducting, isolating, and brainwashing innocent people simply because of their religious beliefs. On March 1st, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute [people] are being rented as slave labor. . . . After being held in dystopian brainwashing camps, [these people] are shipped across the country to work in factories. They aren’t allowed to leave or practice their religion, and any time away from the factory floor is spent in indoctrination classes meant to strip them of their . . . identity." *
Is your life full of hard things right now? Perhaps you're thinking, "This is the last straw; I can't take one more thing!" How can Israel’s suffering long ago or the suffering of people groups today speak into mine?
Our ABF is discussing this very topic. Using Barb Wooler's 30 Days to a More Resilient Faith, we are looking at suffering from three perspectives:
One: How do we see God in our suffering?
Two: What does my suffering reveal about Man (me)?
Three: What do sin and Satan have to do with suffering?
It is very obvious that it was within God's plan that the Egyptians would bring such unbearable suffering and hardship on the Jewish nation. So, are you wondering if what you're going through is his plan for you? Ask yourself the three questions and then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal his answers to you.
One more question: How is God using your suffering to prepare you to offer help to others in similar circumstances? (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.)
*This people group are Muslim. Please use this as a reminder to pray that many Muslims would come to Christ during the month of Ramadan, which began April 13.
jbd & gmd
On January 28, 1986, the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch from Cape Canaveral, claiming the lives of seven astronauts. The severe cold that morning reduced the resiliency of two rubber O-rings that sealed the joint between the two lower segments of the right-hand solid rocket booster. The weather conditions were simply not conducive for the O-rings to be effective. A devastating impact resulted from this small oversight.
In Exodus 4 we read that God had called Moses to a very significant mission, and all must be in order. But wait! Moses had been disobedient. Maybe it wasn’t intentional; maybe he just didn’t want to debate with Zipporah again; maybe he considered it a small matter. But God said that Moses’ action, or inaction, was sin—and for this God was going to kill him!
A little sin is like a little leaven. It leavened the whole lump of dough.
Despite Moses’ 40 years in the wilderness university preparing for the Exodus from Egypt, his sin of omission was going to doom the whole mission. Leading the people to the Promised Land was going to be a huge endeavor, and God had invested much in Moses. But he would not accept this imperfection. Would it take a second trainee another 40 years to be prepared to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Couldn’t God just let this little detail slide?
We know the answer: God is holy. He requires us to be holy. He cannot look on, tolerate, or excuse casual disobedience—this procrastination of the required procedure for Jewish males. Why would God require this act of cutting and bloodshed on this little son? After all he was only half Jewish, and his mother apparently didn’t think the act was necessary, and Moses didn’t insist on it.
But if Moses couldn’t be obedient in this little thing, how would he be obedient when the big mission needed to be executed, especially before Pharaoh? After all, about a million people were waiting to be led out of Egypt, and for this to happen, Moses had to be in a proper relationship with God. And divine leading must never be missed. Even a small sin hindering clear communication with the God of the universe would have a devastating impact on the mission.
Life Application Questions
Today’s Scripture resource reveals Moses covered with both divine anger and grace. God’s anger comes settles on him like a winter coat during high heat and humid afternoon. The increasing heat of judgment should not be missed (Exodus 4:10-17).
Moses actively underestimates God’s intention and apparently fears being abandoned, yet again. Perhaps he doubts God’s willingness to provide spiritual support, during the time he will serve as a public witness before the royal court.
Clearing his throat and with downcast eyes, Moses may have said, [About this speaking assignment Lord God Almighty,] “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).
Anxiety, fear, and trepidation cover Moses heating his soul. God’s reply, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:12).
Moses wears his winter coat: “…Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” God, becomes angry. “Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…” (Exodus 4:12-13).
Perhaps, like me, you have made people angry. My family, friends as well as other disciples have worn garments of anger because of what I said, or not said. However, it is not personal anger from others that is the focus in Exodus 4—here is the very real anger of God.
Today, and I observe blessedly, whatever amount of anger God possesses with me being me, grace through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit continues to cover this soul (Romans 8:1).
God seems to specialize in choosing spiritually challenged individuals like Moses and like me. Possibly like you? We have not been automatically judged as spiritually unacceptable incompetents; rather, we have been raised up and clothed with grace.
God chose Moses and there is a deep hiddenness in this choosing. The pain and trauma of Moses' birth, secret life, and childhood have born foul fruit—Moses is afraid of being abandoned.
Do you experience feelings of being abandoned by God?
Do you have spiritual disciplines which help you trust God?
The Bible is brutally honest. That’s one of the reasons I am convinced it is true.
Look at this. Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time, resisted God’s call in his life. He tries all kinds of tactics to wiggle out of this calling and get back to his comfortable, all-too-predictable life.
Talk about a reluctant leader! I’m not sensing any enthusiasm here.
Moses literally ran away from the staff-turned-snake. What Moses really wanted to do was run away from God (like Jonah did many years later). Unlike Isaiah, Moses said, “Here I am, send anyone but me.”
This is what you call an inauspicious start. It doesn’t instill confidence. If you were rating Moses’ chances of success based on this interchange, it would not be a hopeful outcome. But God...
If Moses had been listening well, he would have heard that it was God who was going to do the heavy lifting. It was going to take someone greater than Moses to convince hard-hearted Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. “So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them,” says God. “After that, he will let you go.”
Somehow, “all the wonders” didn’t pique Moses’ interest.
What would eventually set Israel apart from all the other nations is that the one, true God would live among them. The first lesson Moses needed to learn, if he was going to lead this people, was to believe God when he said, “I will be with you” (3:12).
I’ve heard it said that reluctant leaders make the best leaders. I don’t know if that is true or not. What I do know is that most things worth doing feel too hard...until I count God in.
How are you counting God in today?