Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” 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.” 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.” And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 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.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.”
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. Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 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?”
Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 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.” But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 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.” They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 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.”
Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “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 ESV)
Yahweh had told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart to resist Yahweh’s command, and sure enough Pharaoh derisively denounces the name of Yahweh and his responsibility to obey Him. Moses and Aaron say, “Thus says Yahweh,” but Pharaoh’s representatives say, “Thus says Pharaoh,” setting up a battle between the two to show who has ultimate authority.
The people of Israel are understandably upset and even Moses has trouble understanding why God is doing what He is doing. What Moses does not see is that Israel needs to recognize just how miserable their lot is in Egypt. Are they servants of Pharaoh or servants of Yahweh? Will they trust Yahweh despite the circumstances seeming to the contrary of what God has promised them? Will they follow Moses as Yahweh’s spokesman? In order to see where we must go we need to see first where we must leave. Is my current lifestyle keeping me from truly following God’s lead and accomplishing His purposes? I need to see how inadequate my current lifestyle is before I will be attracted to God’s calling. I need to see how bad off I am before I am willing to make major changes to seek something better.
The process of realizing how miserable you are before you take positive action and institute radical change works in every aspect of our lives. I don’t get knee replacement surgery until I can hardly walk. I don’t quite smoking until I can hardly breathe. I don’t learn how to stop hurting my relationships until I’m all alone. It is a shame that we cannot see the way forward until we have totally explored all other directions and come up lost.