Monday, January 28, 2019

Exodus 5:1-7:7

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

Obeying God does not guarantee success. In fact, when we are obedient, things can sometimes become more unpleasant. Moses' initial encounter with Pharaoh demonstrates how leadership can be wrought with resistance and discouragement.

Needless to say, Pharaoh does not respond well to Moses' demands to let Israel go. The thought of losing his slave labor so they can worship a God he does not know meets with Pharaoh's stern resistance. Keep in mind that Pharaoh realized Moses' demands involved more than a little time off for corporate worship. Douglas Stuart points out, "In the style of Near Eastern requesting favors, the initial request was purposefully stated in a modest way, although what was really being sought was much more: full permanent departure."

Moses' situation is not lost on any leader who proposes something new or different. Sometimes when a leader brings forth a word for change, voices can rise up in resistance. Change, after all, might entail people losing positions of power or a sense of control.

Pharaoh was certainly unwilling to lose control over the Hebrew people. It did not matter that God had given the word; this was Pharaoh's kingdom, after all. 

While the intention of Exodus chapter 5 is not to provide a commentary on the church, let's be honest and admit that the unbelieving attitude of Pharaoh can rear its ugly head even among true believers. The Lord might be directing a leader to promote a change - be it big or small - only to encounter a pharaoh-type resistance. It is their church, after all.

Pharaoh's resistance takes shape in making things even more unpleasant for the Hebrew people. As things get increasingly worse (and sometimes things must become worse before they get better), Moses experiences doubts that prompt feelings of discouragement. 

As the circumstances grow hard, prominent Israelites blame Moses and Aaron. The Hebrew foremen had not lost faith in Yahweh, but they thought Moses and Aaron had terribly mishandled matters. They decry, "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 hand to kill us" (5:21). They reasoned that God would not have allowed for such a difficult circumstance except for failed leadership. 

I doubt leaders can experience much greater discouragement than to be told that they have only made a "stench" of things. Ignore the fact that a leader is simply speaking truth from God's Word. Ignore the fact that a leader has the best interest of God's people at heart. We are a "this instant," "results-oriented" culture, and we do not want to experience any period of discomfort that a new direction might require. 

Needless to say, when a number of voices clamor against the direction of a leader, that leader might wonder about his or her ability and value. Like Moses, we think to ourselves: "I knew I was not fit for this job" (6:12; 6:30). Furthermore, as Moses surveys the landscape, he begins to question his purpose (I will expand on Moses' response to these events and its significance in the next blog entry). 

So how can leaders overcome the discouragement that resistance can cause? I think the lesson we learn from the circumstances surrounding Moses and Aaron is that we must rest in God's promises and rely on God's power.

As you read Exodus 6:1-8, notice how many times the Lord says, "I will." Each statement draws attention to God's covenant promises.

As you read Exodus 7:1-5, notice how many times the Lord says, "I will." Each statement draws attention to God's sovereign power.

I also love the intrusion of lineage listed in Exodus 6:14-25. It perhaps seems odd for the names of families to appear at this point in the text, but 6:26-30 helps to clarify the matter. Aaron and Moses emerged from the genealogy.

In Scripture, genealogy often serves as a means of validation for a person's place and purpose. No doubt this is a major reason for its inclusion here. 

I contend, however, that Moses is further making a point that these two men were apt to feel unsure of themselves and that they were certainly too weak to bring deliverance for God's people of their own accord. The beginning of verse 26 and the end of verse 27 read, "It was this same Aaron and Moses ..." In other words, that which qualified them to lead did not originate from who they were but from Who called them.

From the discouragement that resistance caused, people questioned Moses' leadership. From the discouragement that resistance caused, Moses questioned his own ability to lead. And maybe you have found yourself in Moses' shoes a time or two; maybe you find yourself there now. It is in such moments that God would remind you it's never about who you are but Who He is.

The Apostle Paul hints at this lesson of leadership from Moses' life in 2 Corinthians 4:5-7. That text is a great reminder that ministry is not about us but about the promises of God fulfilled through the power of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Specifically, Paul writes in verse 7: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 

Two points bear emphasizing:
1. Do not think too low of yourself in your leadership role. Understand that wherever God calls you to lead, He will work through your strengths and your weaknesses in His time to bring about His purposes. 
2. Do not think too high of yourself in your leadership role. Understand that what you say and do must come from God's directive and not your own agenda.

Exodus 7:6 highlights that Moses and Aaron did not let resistance and discouragement derail them (cf. Ex. 7:10; 7:20). No, they continued to follow the will of the Lord. I believe they were able to do so because they ultimately rested in God's promises and relied on God's power.


TAKE TIME TO RESPOND:

When you face resistance and discouragement, what promises from Scripture do you find especially uplifting that point you to the hope you have in the power of God:

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from runner-up to Best Devotional Commentary - "So the question is not, 'Will we ever have moments of discouragement?' The question is this: 'How can I deal with deep discouragement?' When I seek to live out God's Word and things do not work out the way I expect, where do I go for help, strength, and sanity? The answer to this practical, real-life question lies in Exodus 5-6. We will learn that we fight discouragement with Gospel promises" (Merida).

from Best Academic Commentary - "The passage concentrates especially on Moses' need for reassurance. The hero of the story, in other words, is Yahweh, not Moses. Moses openly admitted repeatedly in Exodus that he lacked confidence in his ability to carry out God's orders and reminded us in each case that God sustained him through the entire process. Even the note about his and Aaron's age in 7:7 is instructive: The two of them were called upon to lead a great movement at an age when most people have already died (Ps. 90:10). Their contribution to the exodus was not their genius or their experience (what experience had they in leading an exodus?) or their credentials (Moses' were essentially negative as far as most Israelites were concerned) or their vitality, or any such thing. What made them successful leaders was the fact that they 'did just as the Lord commanded them' (7:6)" (Stuart).

from runner-up to Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "Exodus 3:1-7:7 as a whole forms a large unit that is unified by a central theme: The God of Israel is in control. The main way in which this theme is presented is by the reiteration of the divine name in 3:14-15 and 6:3 and the recurring reference to God being the 'I AM.' Despite apparent setbacks, the game plan has not changed. Moses and the Israelites may be panicking, but God is steady and sure, for the outcome is never in doubt. Moses and Aaron should understand the recurring setbacks they experience by Pharaoh's repeated refusals as being well within the parameters of God's plan of deliverance."
     ... "It is perhaps easy to empathize with Moses in 5:22-7:7. God has called him to a special task, yet in following God he faces severe discouragement. One can hardly blame Moses' exasperation in 5:22-23. It seems natural for us to allow setbacks to affect how we live out the Christian life - even how we view our relationship to God Himself. Yet, the Lord often pushes us, as He did Moses, to reach limits we thought impossible" (Enns).

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