Meditations in Exodus: 22. Uneventful Start
Ex 5:1.2 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 desert.’ ” 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.”.
So far all has gone to plan. Moses has met with Aaron, shared with him what has happened and what they need to do, and got him on side. Then they travelled back to Goshen together and met with the elders of Israel, told them what had happened, performed the two miraculous signs and had got them on side as well. As we said, so far all has gone according to plan.
So Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and somehow get an audience with him and make the bald statement that God says let my people go. Pharaoh is not impressed. Who is this “I AM” God, I don’t know him, why should I obey him. No, I won’t let Israel go! He might have added, “We’ve got hundreds of gods in this country, what do I need with one more? Suddenly it is not going as well as Moses might have hoped for but, hold on, think about this for a moment.
First, that last comment was right, he does have hundreds of other gods and so humanly speaking at least, one more doesn’t seem like it is going to make much difference. That is true. Recognise where he’s at! Second he is the all-powerful king of Egypt and he doesn’t do what other people tell him to do, so actually it is not a surprising response. Third, God did warn Moses that this would happen, so one way or anther this is not a surprise.
So how does this impact us today? Well I think there are at least three aspects to be considered. Here we are, the people of God, minorities in our nations, nations that have largely turned their backs on God so, first of all, if we are doing evangelism don’t be surprised if there is not immediate welcome. It is often said that for a person to come to the Lord, on average it is shown that they will need to have the Gospel presented to them at least five times, I think it is, before they turn to Him. For the Gospel to be understood for a meaningful response, they will need to hear it more than once. Second, we are bringing a challenge, an alterative way of thinking about life, and when the apostle John in his first letter spoke about ‘the world’ (1 Jn 2-5) he meant the godless spirit of the world that we have to confront. Third, there is also Satan who seeks to sow unbelief, challenge with temptations, and cause general upset; we will be coming against him.
It is often said that when you first start to pray for someone’s healing, initially they get worse before they get better. Why is that? What is going on? When Jesus healed it was the authority of the Son of God that brought the healing or deliverance. When it comes to us, I believe there are times when the enemy challenges our authority and so when we pray for healing, he resists and indeed for a moment or two the sickness gets worse it seems. Do we give up at this point? Definitely not! If the Lord is allowing that to happen, He is doing it, I suggest, to teach you about authority. Do you not realise that you have his authority?
As we pray and pray again, He takes that opportunity to teach us who we are – His children, His representatives, His ambassadors, those who come with his authority. As I have watched this over the years I am convinced it is all about belief and about faith. If we do not believe we are His representatives and do not believe (contrary to the Gospels) that it is His will to bring healing we will not listen for Him to impart to us how He wants that healing to come. I don’t believe there is an a,b,c of healing that is the same every time, but I do believe it is all about relationship and responding to what we are hearing from Him, and that is faith.
So the big lesson here is don’t be surprised by opposition. God warned it would happen here and Jesus warned that we would find it in the world. Be clear in your mind as to your calling. For Moses it was to go and confront Pharaoh. For us it is to confront those He places before us and bring them the Gospel and let the kingdom of God be revealed as He is able to let His power flow through us as we step out in faith.
There is a secondary lesson here as well. This is just stage 1 of Moses interaction with Pharaoh. In retrospect we know there were ten plagues following Pharaoh’s initial rejection and even after the miracle of the transformed staff. The Lord may call us to pray for a specific individual, He may call us to pray for change for our church, or He may put something in the community before us that we are to do to bring change. It may not happen immediately, it may be that we have to go through a number of stages before we achieve ‘success’.
There has to therefore be a third lesson: think in the long term and persevere. Persevere as you pray, persevere as you serve, persevere as you love; i.e. don’t give up just because there is some opposition or you don’t seem to be making headway. Remember all the time, you are God’s servant; only do what He puts before you and speak as He gives you the words. If the initial reaction is not over positive, don’t be put off.
Have you ever thought, it took Jesus three years to train up his initial disciples. Why didn’t he just spend say ten months with them and then die on the Cross? Why three years? I suspect the answer has to be because that was how long he considered necessary to get just some of the basics into the lives of those men. As a trainer, Jesus needed to persevere with the likes of Peter – and he was one of the most outward going leading characters of that bunch and yet again and again he was stumbling about in faith. Whether it be training up disciples, confronting the Pharaohs of this world, or whatever else it may be the Lord puts before us, it takes time and perseverance to handle the opposition, the misunderstandings, the doubts and the fears. Moses, this is just stage one. It is not a failure, so just get ready to move on to the next phase; words were not sufficient, so what else have you got in your armoury? Watch this space.