Yahweh’s people joined in worship to Him! That’s what we want to see. Surely everything is smooth sailing from now on.
In reality, who among them would have imagined that the real difficulties had not even begun?
“Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel…” (Exodus 5:1) They are so confident in Yahweh’s word and plan!
But Pharaoh’s response is very revealing and sets the scene for everything that we will see in the next 11 chapters: “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? (Exodus 5:2) The most powerful man on earth will not simply bend his knee at the mention of a name, much less the name of a God of slaves! “I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).
But Pharaoh doesn’t just say “no”. He sees that this is more than a request for a few days of vacation. These slaves are not asking to worship an Egyptian god but their own God. They are demanding to obey and worship an authority different from any recognized by the Egyptian throne. And if these numerous slaves feel the liberty and comfort in worshiping an authority of their own, if they begin to identify themselves and obey an authority outside of the Egyptian sphere of influence, if they begin to find a legitimacy through their own religious organization… what will it end in except rebellion?
Therefore, he doesn’t just say, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens” (Exodus 5:4). As they began their petition by saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel…” (Exodus 5:1), Pharaoh wants to teach them who really has the authority in Egypt: “That same day Pharaoh commanded…” (Exodus 5:6)
And it seems like Pharaoh’s word is much more effective than Yahweh’s. The Israelites slavery grows worse, and immediately they groan in pain. They publicly complain of Moses and Aaron’s authority, and even Moses himself cries out to Yahweh, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 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” (Exodus 5:22-23). Pharaoh 1, Yahweh 0.
But even though this situation has gone from bad to worse, notice this very important detail. Moses does not lose faith. He never thinks that Pharaoh’s authority is superior or even comparable to Yahweh’s; he cries out to Yahweh with the certainty that He is more powerful than Pharaoh, only Moses is confused because Yahweh hasn’t acted like he expected.
Notice too, how Yahweh responds to Moses’ faith: “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” (Exodus 6:1). In a response that underlines Yahweh’s name five times, He confirms His covenant, His promises and the new work that He is about to do. Later, the reading ends with Aaron’s genealogy as a reminder of his legitimacy as Yahweh’s representative even in these times when it seems like he has no power or authority.
As we finish the reading, we should reflect: who do we call on in the middle of difficulties? When bad times appear, and especially when we are mistreated, how do we react? Are we consumed in anxieties, wondering how we can manipulate or convince authorities who are causing us pain? Or do we believe that the best use of our time is to kneel and cry out to the All Powerful One?
May Moses’ example here, the first of many of Moses in prayer, encourage us to present our petitions to Yahweh, too.