When the heat is on: God's man under pressure

Exodus 5:1-14

Commentary on Exodus 5 -- The tense story of Moses and the Pharaoh in Exodus 5:

"Let my people go" -- Moses before Pharoah

5 1 Afterward, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.'"

2 Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go."

3 Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword."

4 But the king of Egypt said, "Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!" 5 Then Pharaoh said, "Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working."

6 That same day, Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 "You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don't reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.' 9 Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies."

10 Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, "This is what Pharaoh says: 'I will not give you any more straw. 11 Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.'" 12 So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. 13 The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, "Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw." 14 And Pharaoh's slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, "Why haven't you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?"

Week 39 (September)

"Let my people go," was the impassioned plea of Moses before Pharaoh. However, not only did the hardened monarch reject Moses' request, he also accused the Hebrews of being lazy and of giving religious motives to evade their responsibilities.

When Moses persisted, the Pharaoh countered with an order to increase the workload on the children of Israel. As the cruelty of their Egyptian taskmasters mounted, it appeared to the Israelites that Moses' attempts to free them had backfired.

They began to blame him for their problems, wondering how Moses could be following the leadership of the Lord. How could the God of Abraham be at work in a situation where matters worsened rather than getting better?

When Moses could not convince his own people, he began to doubt if he would ever convince Pharaoh to let them go. However, even under pressure from both sides, Moses didn't walk away from what he believed to be the will of the Lord.

He took his doubts to the Lord in prayer. Instead of taking the situation into his own hands, he sought divine guidance for each step. Because he remained God's man under pressure, he was successful in carrying out the master plan.

I have had the occasion a few times to watch my own father fulfill his divine calling while under heavy pressure. Once, for instance, a Nazarene general superintendent asked him to accept an appointment as pastor of a church in severe difficulty. The congregation had defied their district superintendent in the calling of a pastor.

In their appeal to the general superintendent, these people had insisted on calling a man the district superintendent would not approve. They threatened not to pay the moving expenses or one penny of salary to any person other than the man they wanted.

It was into that situation that my father was asked to go. (Incidentally, he was not the man they wanted.) But he prayed through on accepting that appointment. Though he had not had a burning bush experience like Moses, he was convinced that it was the voice of the Lord asking him to change pastorates.

So he went and began by prayerfully searching for ways to revitalize that church. It was not easy. There was pressure both from people and from Satan himself. His term of service even cost my father some physical well-being. But in it all, he remained God's man.

Some years later, I walked around the property of that church with my dad's successor. The congregation had just finished a multistage building program and was growing in every way. My heart warmed with "sonly pride" when I heard this pastor say that the church was where it was because my father, even under great pressure, had remained God's man.

Perhaps God is leading you into a new spiritual adventure. Your obedience to Him may cost you something. As Paul and Barnabas reminded the first-century Christians, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22, NIV). But whatever the pressures, you can rest assured that the Lord will enable you to accomplish His will for your life.

Discussion questions

  1. What challenges did Moses face in freeing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery?
  2. What significance should be attached to Moses remaining committed to the will of God in Exodus 5?
  3. What examples do you know of people who faced opposition while fulfilling a divine calling?
  4. Do you know of situations where people insisted that a certain course of action was God's will when that later proved not to be the case?
  5. What might be some of the costs of obedience to God's calling? What might helps us to trmsin committed to following God's leading when facing hardships and opposition?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

I wrote this devotional article while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. It originally appeared in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes published by The Foundry.

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