Redemption is hard. It is hard because our hearts gravitate toward idolatry. And it is hard because there are forces that oppose redemption. Moses and Aaron show up and tell the leaders of Israel about God’s great rescue plan. It went something like this, “Hey, we’re here and we’re going to rescue you from this slavery that you’re living in under Pharaoh. God has sent us, and He is going to rescue you.” And the people worshipped God. (Exodus 4:29-31)
And then Moses and Aaron met up with Pharaoh for the first time. And they say, “We’re from God and He says you are to let His people go.” (Exodus 5:1) And Pharaoh was like, “Who is God? I don’t know this God. And I’m not letting Israel go. Tell them to get back to work.” (Exodus 5:2-4)
And then Pharaoh tells his taskmasters, “Apparently the Israelites aren’t busy enough. Force them to do more work with less resources.” And that is what the taskmasters did. (Exodus 5:5-19)
Israel is in a situation that many people find themselves in. They hate their life. But it is the only life they know. They hate the Pharaoh and his enslavement of them. But they have grown up with this and they are used to it. There are many, many oppressed people in the world today who understand this feeling. Whether they are living under the oppression of a brutal dictator (such as in North Korea), or are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or pornography, or are abused, they despise both their oppressor (the dictator, the addiction, or the abuser) and the acts of oppression themselves. Like Israel in this story, the idea of rescue sounds amazing at first. But rescue from slavery of any sort is very difficult. Often, things get worse before they get better. And that’s what happened here. So now the Israelites who welcomed Moses and Aaron’s rescue by worshipping God just a few verses earlier, are saying, “Thanks a lot, guys! At least before the work was manageable. Now, they are going to kill us!” (Exodus 5:20-21)
And, even though God had warned Moses that this would be a difficult assignment, Moses is very discouraged and basically says, “I wish you had never sent me here. I’ve only made things worse. And where is this deliverance you promised?” (Exodus 5:22-23)
I can so sympathize with both Moses and the people of Israel here. We want immediate fixes to our problems, and obviously this characteristic of man goes back a long way.
I can relate to Moses. Sometimes, I feel that I have totally failed, as a pastor, youth pastor, dad, etc. I understand that redemption is God’s work and not mine, but like everyone else, I don’t always live it out. My work brings me in contact with a lot of hurting people and enslaved people. And sometimes waiting on God to act can be exhausting. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so.
I’ve worked in a chemical dependency hospital, and I have seen addicted people detoxing and going through the tremendous pain of withdrawal. When they checked themselves in, they were so full of hope that they were going to kick this thing once and for all. And now they feel worse than their worst hangover and they want to use again so badly that they can taste it.
I’ve planted a church with the vision of reaching a community with the gospel of Jesus Christ and seeing God transform lives. And, instead, I saw sin destroy destroy that church from within and felt literally powerless to do anything about it.
I have seen counselees whose lives seem so hopeless, and I know that the things that I am asking them to do in therapy are going to cause a lot more short-term pain before things can ever get better long-term.
And yet, in all that, I have great hope! I have seen addicts freed from the bondage of drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc. I am trusting God that He planted seeds through lives I have invested in that others will water and from which fruit will eventually result. And I have great confidence that God can AND WILL provide hope to the hopeless situations that my counseling clients face. I can have hope in the midst of all these situations because I know how Exodus ends – and I know that God’s people ARE rescued and redeemed by Him. I also have that hope because I know the Redeemer Himself, and I trust His heart, even when it is hard to see His hand at the moment. That is called faith, and it is the life to which all Christ-followers are called.