Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”—Exodus 5:22,23
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.—Exodus 6:6,7
This past week at Honorbound, our Monday night men’s Bible study, we looked at a story from Exodus chapters 5 and 6. It’s the story of what happens when Moses and Aaron first go and ask Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out into the desert to worship God. Pharaoh responds by saying that He doesn’t know this God they’re talking about, accuses them of being lazy liars, and increases their workload. Instead of being set free from slavery, as they had hoped, their lives get worse.
The leaders of Israel blame Moses for this turn of events, and Moses in turn blames God. He goes to God in prayer and accuses God of bringing trouble on His people and failing to rescue them as He had promised.
When God responds to Moses, it’s interesting what He doesn’t do. He doesn’t apologize for the fact that life has gotten harder for his people. He doesn’t make excuses or explain himself. Instead, He simply repeats His promise. He reminds Israel of the covenant He made with their forefathers to eventually establish them in a good land as a free people. And He repeats what He told Moses at the burning bush in chapter 3: that He has seen His people’s suffering and is working for their deliverance.
In other words, God says “Trust me.” Moses says, “You have not rescued your people at all,” and God responds, “I am going to rescue my people as I promised I would. I just haven’t rescued them yet.” And then He describes how He’s going to rescue them: “With an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” This rescue is going to be dramatic. It’s going to display His power and His glory. Through the ten plagues that are to come, He’s going to show both Israel and Egypt that He is holy and judges sin, that He hates idols and false gods, and that His power is unlimited.
All of this is more than what Israel was looking for. When they heard that God was going to deliver them from slavery, in their minds it seemed obvious that the process should be as quick and painless as possible. They assumed that God would agree with them that this was clearly the best way. But He did not. God had an entirely different goal. In His mind, the best way to deliver His people would be to do it in a way that as many people as possible could see how great He is. If Pharaoh was gracious and agreeable and let the people go the first time He was asked, the process would be more comfortable, but it would make for a pretty boring story. But if Pharoah’s heart was hard, and God displayed His power in increasingly amazing miracles, eventually parting the sea to save His people and defeat their enemies, then not only would they be set free, but they would know more about who He is. They would be able to tell their children about the holy, awesome, and powerful God who delivered His people with mighty acts of judgment.
If you’re like me, you see the same thing happening in your own life. We love God, but we don’t think like God, and so we are often working toward different goals. We think that the goal is to maximize our comfort, and He thinks it’s to maximize His glory. And in order for His glory and power to be on full display, there have to be obstacles to overcome. If you’re not backed up against the water with your enemy bearing down on you, there’s no need to part the sea. If there’s no cancer diagnosis, God doesn’t get to be the healer. If there was no season of loneliness, we might forget to praise Him when friends come our way.
I know enough about the Bible to know some of God’s goals for me. At the top of the list, I know He wants me to become more like His Son. But if I’m ever going to be like Jesus, with a heart that is patient, trusting, and gracious, that probably means God’s going to allow a fair amount of flat tires, lean months, and difficult people in my life, because as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t grow much when things are going my way. If I got everything I needed without having to wait and pray for it, I might not pray as much as I should.
The truth is that if I had my way and got to write the story of my life, it would be a story so boring no one would care to read it. God is writing a different story, one where the rescue doesn’t come in the first chapter. It’s a story where I have to trust, where I am learning more about Him all the time as I wait for His deliverance. When we reach the end, I pray it will be a story where His power and glory are on display. In the meantime, I want to learn to stop saying “God, you have not rescued me at all,” and start saying, “God, you have not rescued me yet.” Whatever you are facing in this season, I pray you’ll be able to trust that God sees your suffering and is working for your deliverance, even as He writes a story of His own power and glory for the whole world to see.