Meditations in Exodus: 23. You will not get free
Ex 5:4,5 But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labour? Get back to your work!” Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.”
We need to re-emphasise much of what we said in the previous meditation because I believe it is so significant for many of us. I noted there in the previous one, “It is often said that when you first start to pray for someone’s healing, initially they get worse before they get better.” Now between writing that yesterday morning and the end of the day, something significant happened. We are negotiating to use a restaurant for a morning outreach breakfast and when I was there initially a week ago, the restaurant manager confessed that he had a very bad back. I offered to pray for him and despite his protestations that he was an unbeliever we did actually ask the Lord to heal him. Nothing appeared to happen at the time and so we left resolving to carry on praying for him which I did for the next few days. Yesterday we called in there to confirm details of this breakfast and he said, “I thought you must have put a curse on me last week!” I enquired why. “Well, he explained, “after you prayed my back got worse. It was only a day later that it completely got better.” I explained about resistance which often gives way after carrying on praying and was able to say we had carried on praying for him. He is still an unbeliever but now has something to think about.
For Moses’ people, life is about to get much worse and it all appears to be the fault of Moses. As our verses above show, Pharaoh reacted badly to Moses’ first approach. It continues: “That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and foremen in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, `Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.” (v.6-9) That was bad! It means that Israel, as slaves, had to work twice as hard. Surely this isn’t how this is meant to go? But it gets worse because as this starts to impact them, the Israelite foremen go to Pharaoh to complain but are given short shrift and so, “When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (v.20,21)
We then find something very significant which is something we can see again and again in Moses’ future life: “Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (v.22,23) Let’s summarise his action very simply: he went and complained to God.
I’ve just spotted some words I have never noticed before which suggests they are the sort of words we usually take for granted: “Moses returned to the Lord.” That’s interesting. God cannot be seen so how does Moses ‘return’ to Him? It surely must mean he simply went to a quiet place and prayed, a place with no noise or distractions or people, a place where he could talk to the Lord alone. In later years he will go into the Tent of Meeting to meet with God but he hasn’t got that yet, so it must mean he goes aside somewhere to speak with the Lord. This sounds so obvious but I wonder how many of us run into such difficulties and don’t go and offload to the Lord?
In the days ahead when things go wrong – and they do with a regularity that makes you glad you aren’t Moses – the record shows that again and again Moses falls down before the Lord and seeks Him and cries his heart out to Him. It is so obvious but do we do it?I find I have something that suddenly arises as a difficulty and I start worrying about it. After about half a day I’ll think to pray about it. It used to be several days before I came to my senses and prayed but I am slowly learning. They do say a sign of how mature you are in Christ is how fast you either repent or seek God for His wisdom.
Yesterday we put the emphasis on perseverance, on not being put off and pressing on, but prayer is a vital fuel, if we can put it like that, to resource perseverance. This may apply to difficult life circumstances or even simply a bad habit you want to break free from. You are sure God has got something better for you and you pray and pray but nothing happens. In the background Pharaoh (Satan) says, “You will not go free; in fact it will get worse. Stop crying and put up with it. Submit!”
But you are a child of God indwelt by the all-powerful Holy Spirit and God has plans and purposes for you that stretch out many years. Carry on praying, carry on persevering, don’t accept Satan’s words designed to quench faith, listen to God and step out in faith and if it gets worse for a while, OK, that’s part of the package as the enemy shows he is afraid. But he is already defeated by Jesus on the Cross. We say again, you are a child of God and as you look to the Lord He WILL deliver you. Jesus’ declared his mandate in a synagogue in Capernaum: “”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Lk 4:18,19) He has come to set the prisoners free and that includes you and me whenever Satan seeks to rise up and put a hold on our lives. You and I are in the kingdom of light, the kingdom of the Son, and being a slave is no longer a part of our package. Pray and believe and if it gets worse, pray again. In fact go all out to upset the enemy and pray and praise and worship the Lord for what He IS going to do. Hallelujah!