Pile Drivers and Paper Cuts

Exodus 5:22-23: “Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have You brought trouble upon this people? Is this why You sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and You have not rescued Your people at all” (NIV).

Observation: Moses and Aaron had made their first appeal to Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. It was a modest request for three days’ journey into the desert so they could worship according to their custom without heathen Egyptians looking on. But even in this relatively modest request, Pharaoh was unyielding. He further responded by making the Hebrews’ work assignment even more difficult: their quota of mud bricks would be maintained but now they would have to gather their own straw, as well. Pharaoh clearly laid blame for this increased work at Moses’s feet. This caused Hebrew foremen to turn to Moses in fury, saying, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hands to kill us” (Ex. 5:21, NIV).

Application: That part about Moses’s making them a stench was probably hyperbole; slaves whose job was to stomp mud and straw into bricks were probably a stench anyway. But other than that, the angry Hebrews had it about right: the pressure on them did indeed increase. After generations of backbreaking affliction, deliverance was at hand. Moses was on the scene, stirring things up as a prelude to God’s rescue of His own.

Soon enough God would release wave after wave of plagues upon the Egyptians, but notice that His pressure was first applied to His own. Upon reflection, I may see myself in the lives of the Hebrews. Burdened by difficulties, oppressed by circumstances I seemingly cannot change, I cry out to God only to find that pain deepens. It’s as though God has everything from pile drivers to paper cuts within His arsenal, and He applies them liberally to me. I would prefer that He mount His white horse and ride to my rescue at the first hint of difficulty, but He seems to have another strategy in mind. It is as though He wants me, when deliverance finally comes, to be aware of the fullness of my difficult circumstance.

God does not, it seems, deliver from mere discomfort or inconvenience. Although the Hebrews’ lives had indeed been oppressively difficult, God engineered another ratcheting up of pressure before He would visit an even more severe process against their enemies. His willingness to leave me in the furnace of affliction a bit longer is painful for the moment, but it is also surety of His full deliverance to come. He does indeed have a white horse at the ready.

Prayer: Father, Your plans for me are good—plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope, and a future. I choose to trust You today, based upon Your word.

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