Summary: When we are on a mission from God and we run into barriers and things don’t seem successful - how do we react? Moses experienced this upon returning to Egypt. We learn how God works with us but keeps on task.
Sometimes we think that battling for the Lord ought to be easy. I mean, here’s a Guy who created the universe by talking! It’s like Bill Cosby said to his son once on The Cosby Show "I brought you into this world and I can take you back out!" We like have a powerful person on our side.
The problem is we don’t see God often just step up, say a few words, and change the world so that it suits us. There’s this little nuisance called faith that muddies the waters of our battles all up. We say "okay, God - I’m fighting for you so here we go and we step out and start fighting for the Lord - and nothing happens except that we make our enemies really really mad.
That’s sort of the situation in which Moses finds himself in Exodus chapter 5. He’s grown up in Pharaoh’s court - stood up for his people and had to run for his life - spent 40 years in the wilderness before God called to him from the midst of a burning bush to go back to Egypt - not just to save his own skin but to save an entire people. God had to practically twist Moses’ arm behind his back to get him to agree - at one point it says that God got pretty miffed at Moses - but in God’s patience Moses finally relented.
So now he’s gone back to Egypt and told the leaders of the people what God had said and showed them the miracles and they accepted him - at least so far. Now he’s going to go to Pharaoh and watch God work - with the first order of business: diplomacy.
This is kind of like saying "this town ain’t big enough for the two of us so I give you until high noon or it’s pistols on main street!" Moses thinks - I’ll just use the name of God and that oughta do it! It doesn’t.
Pharaoh says - I don’t take orders from anyone - I’m a god after all. Who is this other pipsqueak god you speak of - YAHWEH? Who is that? Let the people go - are you crazy? I detect a faint chuckle here.
Verses 3 - 5
So Moses changes his speech a little bit - saying "the God of the Hebrews" told us to do this. Not only that but He met with us - that ought to impress you, Pharaoh. Moses demand "let my people go" has turned to "please!" And not only that but Moses says God might hurt them if they didn’t obey Him.
But far from sympathetic, Pharaoh reacts even more strongly at this upstart Moses. He recasts the request as an excuse for a holiday - a time for laziness - not productivity. Once again, Pharaoh is thinking in both political and economic terms. He’s succeeded in protecting his country from the Hebrews siding with a foreign invader or leaving and hurting Pharaoh’s labor force by forcing the Hebrews to build him cities. He is not about to give up that - he thinks he holds all the cards.
Often the enemy or the world thinks it holds all the cards - and they won’t budge an inch until forced. But two things are going on here - faith building on the part of Moses, Aaron and the people - but also case building against Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. God wants to give them ample opportunity simply to obey without being forced. Pharaoh refuses - and brings about retribution for Moses doing this.
Verses 6 - 9
What Pharaoh is trying to do here is more than just punish Moses and the people - and it’s a pretty smart move - he’s trying to wipe out this fledgling opposition leader by putting a wedge between him and his people. And it works.
Verses 10 - 14
The orders get passed on to the taskmasters and then on to the Israeli foremen who reacted to this unjust demand. What was left out was the "why" of it and the context. Just an observation here - Jesus said that Satan is the "father of lies" and when he lies he speaks his native language. But lies are often nothing more than a grain of truth hidden in a sack of falsity. The enemy will use anything and everything to his advantage - including withholding key pieces of a story so that the reaction is what he wants.
So the Israeli foremen ask an audience with Pharaoh.
Verses 15 - 19
Pharaoh calls them "lazy" - that’s his conclusion. The foremen blame Pharaoh but Pharaoh, again holding all the cards - seemingly - turns the blame right back on them with this withheld piece of knowledge of the feast. It seems that they didn’t know anything about the interaction with Moses - so their argument is overcome by Pharaoh.