Summary: I'd always thought Moses just told Pharaoh "Let my people go." But Moses never said it quite that way. What did Moses actually say... and why should it matter to us?
OPEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SJrHDSlE7A from 0:50 to 1:31 (it’s the part of the move “The Ten Commandments” where Charlton Heston/Moses confronts Pharaoh/Yul Brynner and declares “Let My People Go.”)
There’s an old Negro spiritual Louis Armstrong made famous back in the 1920’s called “Let My People Go”, and it went like this:
“When Israel was in Egypt land: Let my people go,
Oppress'd so hard they could not stand. Let my People go.
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land,
Tell old Pharaoh, let my people go.”
It’s a beautiful song. And it has such a haunting melody.
And the first time I heard that song I thought to myself “Yes. That exactly what Moses said to Pharaoh!”
And when I saw Charlton Heston stand before Yul Brynner and say “Let my People Go!” I thought to myself: “Alright. That’s exactly what Moses said to Pharaoh.
And I've seen other movies with Moses confronting Pharaoh and proclaiming “Let my people go.” And I've always thought “Yes, that exactly what Moses said to Pharaoh.”
(Pause) But then I read the Bible, and I realized that wasn't “exactly” what Moses told Pharaoh.
When God sent Moses to speak to Pharaoh He said:
“I am the LORD. Tell Pharaoh… EVERYTHING I tell you.” Exodus 6:29
And if all Moses had told Pharaoh had been: “Let my people go…” he wouldn't have been telling him EVERYTHING God commanded.
Take another look with me at what God told Moses to tell Pharaoh:
“Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’
But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”
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.”
Every other time Moses appeared before Pharaoh he shortens it up a little, but each time Moses said: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” (Exodus 7:16; 8:1; 8:20; 9:1; 9:13; 10:3 and 10:24-26)
7 times Moses appeared before Pharaoh – in Exodus 7, 8, 9 and 10 and never once did he simply say “Let my people go.”
As I prepared for this sermon it occurred to me that the message God had Moses give Pharaoh almost sounded like they’d go out in the desert, make their sacrifices, and then come back.
But Moses knew they weren't coming back.
And Pharaoh knew they weren't coming back.
And you've read the story before… and YOU know they weren't coming back.
So why did God have Moses say it the way he had to say it?
Because there was something in that message that Pharaoh needed to hear.
And there was something in that message Israel needed to hear.
And there was something in that message you and I needed to hear.