1-3 First Meeting with Pharaoh 4-14 Increase of Hard Labor 15-19 The Request for Relieve Rejected 20-21 Moses and Aaron Are Blamed 22-23 Moses Complains to the LORD
First Meeting with Pharaoh

1And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” 2But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” 3Then 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, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”

In their first meeting with Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron speak to him in the name of “the LORD, the God of Israel”. This name for God is mentioned here for the first time in Scripture in connection with His people. In that Name they speak and give God’s message directly. It is not a request, but a command to let the people go. They stand as God’s ambassadors for Pharaoh. It is “My people”, says the LORD. The Pharaoh has no right to them. He will be told seven times “let my people go”. He is told that the people should celebrate a feast in the wilderness to the honor of God. This was not possible in Egypt.

The Pharaoh answers proudly: “Who is the LORD?” This fully indicates his character. He has no respect for God at all. He considers it foolishness to listen to the LORD. For him the LORD does not exist. This is pride at its peak. The flesh does not submit to God (Rom 8:77because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so],). It also determines his reaction that he will not let the people go.

Moses and Aaron then call God “the God of the Hebrews”. Hebrew means ‘someone of the other side’, that means from another country than Egypt. God has determined that His people will sacrifice to Him. Any opposition is folly, both of Pharaoh and of the people themselves. If they do not listen, they will experience God’s punishment.

To celebrate the feast for the LORD, they must make a three days’ journey into the wilderness. The number three speaks of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That forms their separation from the world. A feast is characterized by gladness. Joy is part of being in God’s presence. Man’s approach to God is on the basis of sacrifice (pointing forward to Christ’s sacrifice). A heart that is free to enjoy God’s presence is on this foundation. The sacrifice averts judgment and allows the heart to be in God’s presence without fear.

Moses and Aaron do not speak to them of going on to the promised land after the feast in the wilderness. That is not deception. Once liberated from Egypt, one will never return to it. The wilderness is not the goal of salvation. That is an area through which we pass. The purpose of salvation is to bring us into the enjoyment of fellowship with the Father and the Son. It can be enjoyed in the wilderness. For this purpose God has the tabernacle there as His dwelling in their midst.

Increase of Hard Labor

4But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get [back] to your labors!” 5Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!” 6So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, 7“You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8But the quota of bricks 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.’ 9Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.” 10So the taskmasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I am not going to give you [any] straw. 11You go [and] get straw for yourselves wherever you can find [it], but none of your labor will be reduced.’” 12So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13The taskmasters pressed them, saying, “Complete your work quota, [your] daily amount, just as when you had straw.” 14Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not completed your required amount either yesterday or today in making brick as previously?”

Pharaoh sends Moses and Aaron about their business, accusing them of avoiding their labors and of wanting to stop the people laboring. His reaction is that he makes the people work even harder. He even gives the command on “the same day” (verse 66So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying,). What the Israelites get first, straw, is now being withheld from them. They have to gather it themselves. Pharaoh asks the impossible.

Satan works in the same way. He takes more and more. If he gives something, it is to take it back later and take much more. Every trace of charity is missing. Satan comes only “to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn 10:1010The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have [it] abundantly.). He is “a murderer from the beginning” (Jn 8:44a44You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature], for he is a liar and the father of lies.). He finds the greatest pleasure in the misery of his slaves.

Pharaoh calls what Moses and Aaron say “false words”. Here too we see how satan works. He always twists the truth of God, he reverses it. He “does not speak the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature], for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44b44You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature], for he is a liar and the father of lies.).

The Request for Relieve Rejected

15Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why do you deal this way with your servants? 16There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your [own] people.” 17But he said, “You are lazy, [very] lazy; therefore you say, ‘Let us go [and] sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18So go now [and] work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.” 19The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble because they were told, “You must not reduce [your] daily amount of bricks.”

In their distress, the Israelites cry out to Pharaoh, but he is not the right one to appeal to. They have to go to the LORD. They don’t think about that yet. They subserviently call themselves “your servants” to Pharaoh several times, but all attempts by the people to get relief from slavery, he answers with ruthless harshness. He makes unreasonable demands on them. He shows his true nature.

The people are beginning to understand how hopeless their situation is. A person must first come to the lowest point of his misery if he wants to experience the redemption God offers. A sinner is not really set free if he is redeemed by God at the first sigh for salvation. God wants to teach us what true salvation is, what His great power is, and how great salvation is. If Pharaoh had let them go straight away, they would have thanked him. Where then would be their honor of God? Only God can set the captive free. John 8:36

It is with the people as with the man in Romans 7. There the experience is described of a man whose soul is awakened by the gospel. Then he discovers the power of sin within him and the impossibility of overcoming sin dwelling in him. The gospel, which first seemed (and is!) a happy message, seems to become a torment for him.

When he comes to the recognition that his struggle against sin in him is a hopeless struggle, he exclaims: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free” (Rom 7:2424Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?)? Then he is where he should be, for immediately afterwards comes thanks: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:25a25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.). He is ready to believe the gospel in its fullness. Now he is free. Romans 8 describes the situation in which he found himself (Rom 8:1-3,10-141Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.3For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did]: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.11But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.12So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.).

The people must first discover that they have no strength to work on their own liberation. The same goes for the sinner, who has to learn that he is in the flesh and under the power of satan. God allows this to test the faith of His people and to make them accustomed to His discipline. He also allows it in order to give a glorious revelation of His power in the area where satan had established his control.

The slavery of Israel in Egypt is an appropriate type of our slavery to sin (Rom 6:1717But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,; Tit 3:33For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.). Being dominated by sin is fatally exhausting. No matter how we beg for relief, it does not come, rather desperation. In the gospel comes relief, liberation, freedom. That was brought by the Lord Jesus. It is written of Him: “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD”” (Lk 4:18-1918“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,

Moses and Aaron Are Blamed

20When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were waiting for them. 21They said to them, “May the LORD look upon you and judge [you], for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

Moses and Aaron are blamed. Servants of the Lord should take into account that they are misunderstood, accused, even overloaded with reproach. Moses and Aaron seem to have silently turned away to do the only right thing in this situation: turn to God.

Moses Complains to the LORD

22Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? 23Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”

The people grumble at Pharaoh, but also at Moses and Aaron. When Moses brings the matter before the LORD, he expresses his difficulty with the course of his mission. There is unbelief in his voice. No results have been achieved at all. On the contrary, it has all got worse. Moses’ eye is no longer focused on the LORD, but on the people. He believed that the people would appreciate his ministry, but is disappointed. But the servant must not look at his field of work, but at his Sender.

The Lord Jesus is not discouraged either if the cities where His most wonderful powers have been demonstrated do not repent. He praises His Father (Mt 11:20,2520Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.25At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from [the] wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.). He does not look at success or at opposition, but at the Father. We must follow His example and keep our eye on Him.

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