Predictable: It’s not what you want from your story plot. Who wants to be thought of as a predictable writer? Unless, of course, you’re Moses, then you want predictability. Or, at least, it seems that he does. In chapter 5 of Exodus, we have the first encounter between Moses and Pharaoh, and it’s not exactly what Moses was hoping for. But the reader is expecting something precisely like this.
And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.'” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”Exodus 5:1-2 NASB
But why? Why is the reader not surprised, but Moses seems to be? Perhaps you’re not sure he is. Okay, then review Moses’ two responses, the first one in verse 3 and the second in verses 22 and 23:
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, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”Exodus 5:3 NASB
Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”Exodus 5:22-23 NASB
The surprising thing about Moses being surprised is that God has already told him that Pharaoh will not let the sons of Israel leave willingly:
“They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.Exodus 3:18-20 NASB
And yet, Moses seems surprised by Pharaoh’s response. Which is surprising, or it should be. But think back to the discussion Moses and God were having. It was choppy, and Moses kept asking “what if…” questions, and making excuses. Is it possible that Moses stopped listening to God somewhere in the middle of God’s explanation?
Surely, we never do that. Who would refuse to give a burning bush their entire attention, and listen to every single word said? A burning bush has never spoken to you? Then, perhaps there is a danger you didn’t listen to everything your Savior has told you? Let’s be honest, this happens a lot. We will often find a nugget in Scripture, and run, excited about our discovered promise, and charge into a new ministry without listening to the whole… Wait, not you?
Oh, then perhaps we’re more like Moses, formulating our next protest rather than listening to God’s next detail? We read that passage of Scripture that’s supposed to launch us into a ministry, but excuse ourselves because we’re sure it’s for someone else. Still not you? You do read the Bible, right? One of those two things should happen. Either you read and become inspired to act, or you read, and excuse yourself from acting. If you’re not sure, then, by default, you fall into the second one. I’m there a lot with you, so, we can be embarrassed together.
Let’s be honest, we do that. We’re often Moses: surprised that what God told us would happen, actually happens. In this chapter Pharaoh sounds like a parent or mean teacher at school. He ramps up the work because we seem to have time to complain, therefore not enough work to keep us busy. Those of you who have been through basic training in the military should recognize this tactic.
Pharaoh’s response is common sense. Moses’ surprise is not. Our surprise is not. Not paying attention to the Creator of the universe isn’t smart, and we do it all the time. The real blessing in all of this is that God isn’t surprised. He doesn’t berate Moses, look at chapter 6 verse 1. God seems to know Moses wasn’t listening, or, at least He’s not surprised.
He is that way with us as well. When the consequences of not listening to our Creator come to haunt us, God is right there, ready to continue working with us. We excuse ourselves from service, we suffer some sort of loss, and suddenly, there is our Savior, coming alongside to help us minister to others. Oh wait, not you? Seriously? Have you never complained loudly to your Savior? Okay, then, when you did, He listened. Did you? Or, like me at times, did you stomp off and pout first? Either way, He listened, and He is ready to use you again.
How do I know? I wrote this blog entry. And right now, if you’re thinking about God using you in His Kingdom, then, even though I shouted and pouted, God used me in your life. If He is willing to use me, then you’re a shoe-in.