This week’s passage picks up where we left off last week: the people of Israel were mired in depressing slavery, and Moses the saviour of Israel was faced with the harsh reality that things sometimes get worse even when we walk in obedience to God’s commands. But God remains sovereign, and this week’s passage allows us to peek at what the strong hand of God looks like in our worst situations. Read on to find out more!
(A) God is in control and remembers his covenant (Exo 5:22-6:5)
We immediately note that Moses turns to the LORD in Exo 5:22. This the type of observation that we tend to read over and quickly forget, but our passage today calls us to contemplate it seriously. The God that Moses turns to is the God who has the strong hand to rescue His people out of slavery. Moses turns to God with strong and pointed questions, and God listens! Is this surprising? Friends, this is a God who allows us to go to Him with our doubts and our struggles - a God we can be genuine with. The crucial action was that Moses turned to the only sovereign One. While what followed was less than ideal, it remains that Moses had the clear understanding that God was the One to turn to. This is something we can learn from Moses, for our proclivity to solve things for ourselves in our daily affairs is all too familiar. Who do you turn to when relationships fall apart at home and projects fail terribly at work? This verse reminds us that for Christians, when things go wrong, we go to God (c.f. Ex 3:19).
We also see that Moses’ care is for the people of Israel. He prays and intercedes on behalf of God’s people. We all have spiritual leaders and pastors, and Moses shows us a glimpse of a pastor’s heart and struggle. Things are no different today, for things often get worse - especially for our spiritual leaders. We seldom think about this, but how can we care for our spiritual leaders who face setbacks in their own ministry? Leaders face incredibly upsetting and disappointing setbacks all the time! This is a picture of a spiritual leader trying to do his best for God’s people. Let’s pray for our pastors and spiritual leaders. Let’s ask them how we can care for them.
Moses says 3 things that imply a certain view of God and provide a contrast with how God later responds):
- The first accuses God of having done evil to the Israelites: If God is sovereign and evil has happened, then God must be behind it!
- The second questions God’s decision to choose him: God made a mistake in picking me. I’m not good enough. My limitations are greater than God’s strength to work through me.
- The third indicts God for having failed on His promises: “You have not delivered your people at all (Exo 5:23)." Not one bit! God is not willing to carry out His plan of rescue.
What does God say to Moses in response (Exo 4:1-5)? God responds to Moses’ doubts by reasserting certain truths:
- From Exo 6:1, God reiterates the fact that He promised will come to pass. God is in control, and the people will be driven out completely free. It will be a quick and sure exodus. God’s hand is on His people to guide them out.
- God also reminds Moses that He is the God of the covenant, and the Israelites will know Him in a special way (Exo 6:2-4). This verse is interesting because we know that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew God’s personal covenantal name, “YAHWEH”. Did God forgot what He had promised? The difference here is that the forefathers did not get to see the covenant fulfilled, but things will be different for the Israelites under Moses. They will see the covenant fulfilled. They will see God delivering them to the land He had promised. Their knowledge of God will go beyond His promise-making, and into His promise-fulfilment. What kind of God makes Himself known to His people? This is a God who wants His people to know Him personally, and definitely not a God who wishes evil or does evil to them.
- God has heard their cries and remembered His covenant. This is similar to what God announced in Ex 3:7-9, and it reminds us that this is a God who is unchanging and near to us. He still knows exactly what He promised. Our God hears, knows, and has not forgotten.
It is clear that God is not caught off-guard by Pharaoh’s rebellion. He’s not shocked, or even primarily driven by love for His people. His commitment is primarily to His own promises! And because He is faithful to His people, His people will receive most joy. It may not seem like that in the present, but it will come to fruition.
(B) God will fulfill his covenant (Exo 6:6-9)
From Exo 6:6-8, God details 7 “I Will”s, seven things that God says he will do. Phil Ryken in his commentary "Exodus: Saved for God's Glory" in the Preaching the Word series helps us learn more about God and his nature through these 7 statements:
In spite of these glorious promises, we learn that the people of Israel respond to Moses’s words with cold disbelief. The matter-of-fact manner in which their response is recorded stands in stark contrast with the passionate warmth of God’s loving promises. The harsh reality here is that the solution for slavery is beyond ourselves. If we are in slavery and in sin, we are just like the Israelites - powerless to respond rightly. The people of Israel could not strategise better, build themselves stronger, or think more clearly. The solution was beyond themselves.
This also tells us that people can hear the life-giving joy-fulfilling peace-bringing promises of God and still reject it. But God’s response helps us to understand and work through these situations where words of truth fall on deaf ears. Have we taken our hearts to God’s covenant promises in the midst of our struggle with sin? Are your ears turned to what He has promised He will do?
(C) God recalls Moses to his mission (Exo 6:10-13)
Finally, the strong hand of God recalls Moses to his mission. God doesn’t change His strategy. He simply tells Moses to do the very same thing He had been calling Moses to do. How do we read this? This is a God who is consistent to His ways. The mission He gave to Moses wasn’t flawed. Moses was to keep continuing in obedience and trust in the covenantal LORD. Friends, this shows us that God really knows His plan, and He doesn’t need to alter them based on how people are reacting to His will. God is truly sovereign.
God called Moses before, and He is recalling Moses again. Moses is to remember that what God had given Him is what He was to be doing at that point in time. This is a reminder for us as well. We need to be recalled. We need to be recalled to stay focused in the midst of distractions at work, school, and at home. We need to be recalled to be disciples and disciplers. It may cost us time, effort, and money. But God doesn’t change His plans. What He called us to do in the beginning is still the same.
We remember that Exo 4:1 shows us the same pattern. Moses doubts because of his speech defect (4:10), Moses struggles, but God responds with the same unwavering charge. What might this picture of a disobedient Saviour remind us of?
Hebrew 5:7-10 tells us of a True and Better Saviour who was perfect in His obedience. The offices of Prophet, Priest, and King are all embodied in Christ. As a priest, he atones and mediates on behalf of His people. While Moses mediated imperfectly, Christ mediates perfectly. Through these verse, we see Jesus with a genuine humanness (Heb 5:7). The cries and tears that He experience in His path of obedience to God are recorded for us, and we are reminded of Moses’ disappointment in trying to obey God. And Jesus went to God who heard Him because of His perfect reverence, and God was able to save Him from death. In His suffering, He learnt obedience (Heb 5:8) - not that He was every imperfect, but that His obedience was clearly demonstrated through experience.
Moses was a servant who got called to do God’s mission, but he struggled and attempted to shrug off responsibility. This is someone we can all associate with, for we know what it feels like when we have been walking in obedience. But here we see a another servant (Heb 5:9). One who came down as fully man, and took on His designation as perfect priest, using His own life as atonement that He might appease God. The call is not to be more like Moses or to be more persevering on your own effort. It is not just to be more studious of what God has promised. But it is to look to the one who took on His designation joyful and perfectly, all the way to the Cross. Reading any of these “I Will”s should lead us to cling to His promises, take comfort, and take heart. Look to Christ whom He sent as our Saviour! Christ did not come just to bring us out of our sin, nor did He come just to redeem and adopt us into His family. He also came that we would be given full rest in the land that He will bring us to!