Our text today is Exodus, Chapter 5, verse 2. Every year in the first month at the full moon, we celebrate Pesach with our families. As we sit around the Seder table, we recount at length the events that led to the exodus of Israel from Egypt. The narrative recalls the bondage of our forefathers in Egypt; the cruelty of Pharaoh and his people, and the groaning of Israel in their bondage.
In the opening chapters of the Book of Exodus, we read about a man called Moses. Born to the people of Israel, but brought up as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. We read of his aborted effort to rescue his people; his flight from an angry Pharaoh; and his exile in Midian. Then, when he was already resigned to end his days as a shepherd, GOD appeared to him and commanded him to bring His people out of Egypt. It was a different Pharaoh before whom Moses stood, and to whom Moses delivered the message in verse 1 of this 5th Chapter.
'Thus said the LORD GOD of Israel, 'Let My people go that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.' It was a different Pharaoh, but the same attitude as his predecessor. Hence the defiant and angry response to the demand of GOD.
The demand was peremptory and unexpected, a complete surprise. Pharaoh had no idea who GOD was, and no time to listen to Him. He correctly discerned that GOD was challenging him to obey, and, to put it mildly, he was not about to comply. The reason for his refusal included the helplessness of the people of Israel; the apparent helplessness of their GOD to save them; and, most of all, his own ignorance of GOD and His purposes. He was going to find out very shortly how mistaken he was.
Let us look at his defiant question again.
'Who is the LORD that I should obey? I do not know the LORD.' The answer to that question is threefold. GOD is the GOD of creation; of circumstances; and of redemption. Firstly, He is the GOD of creation. He is the Great Creator. Psalm 95, verses 6 through 8:
'O Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for He is our GOD, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.'
Secondly, He is the GOD of circumstances. Not only is He the Great Creator, He also controls history and the minutest occurrences. Matthew 10, verse 29:
'Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will.' His very title, the GOD of the Hebrews, conveys a message and a history. He is the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Pharaoh chose to ignore this, although he most probably knew about them and their beneficial dealings with his people.
Thirdly and lastly, GOD is the GOD of redemption. Pharaoh found to his cost, that he could not oppose GOD's purposes to deliver His people, Israel, from Egypt. Ten mighty plagues were unleashed on Pharaoh and the Egyptians before they grudgingly let Israel go. The last, being the most severe of all, the death of all their first-born. GOD had said to them at the very beginning,
'Israel is My son, My first-born. So I say to you, 'Let My son go that he may serve Me, but if you refuse to let him go, indeed, I will kill your son, your first-born.'(Exodus 4, verses 22-23).
We pause at this point to point out the similarity between us and the proud Pharaoh. We are too much like him, although we may not realize it. For example, when we are confronted with GOD's absolute demands for total obedience, we too, say in our hearts, 'Who is the LORD that I should obey? I know not the LORD.' We insist that we steer our own ship. We consider it outrageous that GOD should require implicit faith and obedience from us. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 7, verse 29:
'Truly this only I have found: that GOD made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.'
When things are going well for us, we congratulate ourselves, or we thank our 'lucky stars'. But when things go wrong, we are too ready and too apt to blame it on GOD. In other words, we want our cake, and we want to eat it too. Are we not even worse than Pharaoh in this? At least he acknowledged after one of the plagues that GOD was righteous in afflicting him and his people. He may not have been sincere, but he admitted to more than we are prepared to do. We defiantly echo Pharaoh, and say in our hearts, 'Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice? And yet, in spite of our rebellion, GOD has provided deliverance for us from a far worse bondage than that of Pharaoh. I am referring to the bondage of sin.
Our Messiah said,
'Whoever commits sin, is a slave of sin.' (John 8, verse 34). As GOD said through the Prophet Jeremiah,
'Is Israel a servant? Is he a home-born slave? Why is he plundered?' (Jeremiah 2, verse 14). And in Isaiah we get the reason:
'For they would not walk in His ways, nor were they obedient to His Law.' (Isaiah 42, verse 24).
The only way, is the way back. And that means a renewed obedience. We need to repent, to practice t'shuvah, to believe His promises, and accept the atonement He has provided for our sins through the Messiah. Listen to what the Tanakh says concerning our Messiah.
'He was wounded for our transgressions He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.' (Isaiah 53, verse 5).
Will we continue to pretend that we do not know, or shall we say with one of Messiah's disciples,
'LORD, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.' Also,
'We have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of the living GOD.'