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 5:23
Moses spoke these words to God after he obeyed God and went to Pharaoh, asking him to let the Israelites go free. In response, Pharaoh made their work as slaves doubly difficult, demanding that in addition to building the bricks he required, they must also collect all their own materials and complete their work in the same time. Obeying God’s command led to harsher slavery conditions for Israel.
Have you ever felt like following Jesus leads you into situations you did not choose and suffering that could have been avoided altogether? I have. It seems like some of the areas of obedience that the Lord calls us into make our circumstances worse for a time—relationships get flipped upside down with an unexpected truth, choosing integrity means persecution at work, denying sin leads to friendships lost.
If walking with Jesus is anything, it is difficult and costly. And this shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus tells us as much in his parting words, and yet, when that truth becomes reality, we, like Moses, say, why have you done evil to me? Why did you ask me to do this? Ever since I obeyed your command, my life has become more difficult. You have not delivered me through what you called me into.
When Moses confronts God with this accusation that He has only brought evil into their lives and not delivered them at all, God responds with promise. He promises Moses that Pharaoh will drive the Israelites out of Egypt, he reminds Moses of the promises he made to his ancestors to make Israel his own people who will know him as their God, he tells Moses that he will bring Israel into the land he promised for them.
God responds to Moses’ cries with promises. He will do what he said he will do. He is not finished with his work. He will keep his promises, bring glory to himself, deliver his people from slavery, and make himself known to them.
I need to hear this. When following Jesus leads to seemingly unnecessary pain or suffering, I need to be reminded of God’s promises of deliverance, of his presence, and of his greater plan. But what’s interesting about this anecdote in Exodus is that Moses goes back to the people and proclaims God’s promises to them, but “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (6:9).
Israel’s response paints a much more realistic picture of how we respond to God than we would like to admit. When we face trouble, we are more likely to ignore the promises of God because of our broken spirits and harsh circumstances. We allow our present emotions and situation to dictate what we believe more than a God who feels far off, whose promises have not yet come to pass, and who would allow our life to get more difficult rather than making a straight and easy path for us. They are broken in spirit and crushed by the demands of their lives and they do not hope in the promises of God.
If I’m honest, I think that “broken in spirit and crushed by the demands of life” describes far more Christians than I would like. We, like Israel, live in difficult times. We may not be enslaved by another people, but we are enslaved to our sins, trapped in cycles of unhealth, unforgiving, selfish, bitter, unbelieving, and often disappointed in a God who doesn’t really seem to show up like he used to.
We need deliverance. We need our God to act in our lives in powerful ways. We need his presence to lead and empower us when it feels like following him only makes life harder. And while Israel would be delivered from the hand of their enslaver Pharaoh, in Christ we are delivered from the ultimate enslavement of sin and death so that we might no longer be people who ignore the promises of God because of our broken spirits and challenging situations.
Israel didn’t know it but God was about to completely transform their lives. He was going to free them from centuries-long slavery, perform signs and wonders that the world had never seen, dwell in their midst, and lead them into the fulfillment of all of his promises.
Today, we read the story of Israel’s deliverance and we are not in the same vantage point as Israel. We have their story, the songs of David, the word of the prophets, the revelation of the Son of God, and indwelling of the very Spirit of God in our hearts. Today, we have every reason to believe that God keeps his promises.
So when you find yourself broken in spirit and crushed by the weight of life, remember. Remember that God has been faithful to his word and he will be again. Remember that he still delivers us from pain and suffering and sin. Remember that His presence goes before us in the day and in the night. Remember that he dwells in your midst.
Our God who redeems has proved his faithfulness, let’s rest in his promises.