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The Lord of Egypt met the God of freedom

July 8, 2024

Daily Scripture

Exodus 5:1-9

1 Afterward, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, Israel’s God, says: ‘Let my people go so that they can hold a festival for me in the desert.’”
2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is this LORD whom I’m supposed to obey by letting Israel go? I don’t know this LORD, and I certainly won’t let Israel go.”
3 Then they said, “The Hebrews’ God has appeared to us. Let us go on a three-day journey into the desert so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. Otherwise, the LORD will give us a deadly disease or violence.”
4 The king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you making the people slack off from their work? Do the hard work yourselves!” 5 Pharaoh continued, “The land’s people are now numerous. Yet you want them to stop their hard work?”
6 On the very same day Pharaoh commanded the people’s slave masters and supervisors, 7 “Don’t supply the people with the straw they need to make bricks like you did before. Let them go out and gather the straw for themselves. 8 But still make sure that they produce the same number of bricks as they made before. Don’t reduce the number! They are weak and lazy, and that’s why they cry, ‘Let’s go and offer sacrifices to our God.’ 9 Make the men’s work so hard that it’s all they can do, and they can’t focus on these empty lies.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Moses (a reluctant, perhaps stuttering 80-year-old shepherd—cf. Exodus 4:10-13) appeared before the Egyptian Pharaoh (who claimed to be divine) and said, “This is what the LORD, Israel’s God, says: ‘Let my people go…” Moses didn’t say he demanded Israel’s freedom—he spoke on behalf of the unique creator God. Pharaoh saw it as a contest and couldn’t see why he should bow to another god’s will. He ordered more cruelty to Hebrew slaves and shrugged off the idea that God might favor freedom.

  • The Exodus story didn’t show God immediately meeting Pharaoh with the worst, most devastating plagues. The first plagues were more of a warning, an irritation, than a serious threat. But Pharaoh quickly made it plain he didn’t take Moses’ message seriously, and that he had no interest in letting the Hebrews go. Have you ever known anyone (or been someone) like Pharaoh—a person who brushes off warnings about the ruinous path their life is on?
  • The Biblical story addressed the conflict in theological and national terms. But Pharaoh (like the American South before the Civil War) also faced a major economic problem that Exodus didn’t mention. Letting a large slave labor force go was very costly. Have you ever faced a moral choice about benefiting others that was likely (or even certain) to cost you money? How did you deal with the choice? How do you feel about the decision(s) you made?

O God, thank you for honoring my freedom by giving me room to think, to decide. But help me to think clearly, not to deliberately ignore signs that you are at work in my life. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Dawn North

Dawn North

Dawn North is fairly new to Church of the Resurrection and lives with her husband, Jim, in their comfy cozy log cabin in rural Edgerton. She was a middle school teacher and now is a ‘sometimes’ freelance writer. She loves hanging out with her kids and grandkids and is an amateur beekeeper.

I love having a GPS app on my phone, especially when I am driving through unfamiliar territory. It gives me confidence that I will reach my destination. In addition, my GPS knows the arrival time, so I know when to leave my house. Detour? Police speed trap? It knows! It even speaks aloud, so I don’t have to take my eyes off the road. (My husband and daughter mute the voice; they want to look at the map. Really?)

Not long ago, I was driving to a house in the city to drop off some things. Unexpectedly, my phone died. It was plugged in. Volume turned up. But no lights, no map and no voice to tell me where to turn or when to change lanes. I was flummoxed and frazzled. At the next exit ramp, I left the freeway, parked in an empty lot and thought about my options… I could call my husband for directions. Nope, can’t do that. I could pull up a map online. Need my phone for that. At the very least, I should call the person I am meeting and explain. Uh-uh. Stop at a pay phone? What’s that? Call a friend? Couldn’t. I had no lifeline. To anything. I was dumbfounded. How could I not know how to get where I wanted to go in a city that I have lived in for over 30 years?

Eventually, I pulled myself together. I had been to this address once before, so I started thinking about landmarks and major highways and how to get to those major highways. Gaining confidence, I proceeded to the route, only a mere five minutes late. In spite of getting there safely, I admit it shook me up. I thought about turning the car around and heading home, embarrassed and defeated. But I didn’t. I just kept going and did the best I could in a tough situation.

On a more serious note, there will be multiple times during your lifetime when you will be caught off guard. Trouble will sneak up from behind you and place you in a stranglehold. Trials will knock on your door when you least expect it. Then, quite suddenly, you are walking through an unknown land, feeling bewildered, overwhelmed and abandoned. You have been there, and so have I. Whether it was a tragic car accident, cancer diagnosis, divorce, severe mental illness, a miscarriage, a gender change or ______________ (fill in the blank). At those times, our comfort zone is nowhere in sight. Our world has been shattered, and we believe things will never be right again.

But hang on when hard things take you by surprise. Keep walking when life doesn’t go as you expected. You are not alone. And you are in good company. You are a part of humanity living your life on this big blue ball called Earth. And I am sorry to say, there will be suffering here. There is nothing wrong with you. You did not cause it. God did not cause it. And you are not unique. All of humanity is right there with you. And so is God.

God heard the cries of the Hebrew people and had a plan to free them from slavery. Imagine the relief that washed over them. But Pharaoh denied the request Moses and Aaron made. Again and again. He even punished them by requiring the same number of bricks while they had to search for their own supplies. This was not what the people expected. They expected freedom, but they were not free. You can bet hope turned quickly into uncertainty. But God did not go into hiding–he was there. Eventually Pharoah did let God’s people go. Yet, as we know, trouble did not elude the Hebrew people even after they were freed.

Yesterday Pastor Robert talked about freedom, what it is and what it isn’t. And I realized that “freedom” does not mean problem-free. Even after the former slaves were freed, the ups and downs continued. Because that is real life. Great happiness and great joy. Deep sorrow and deep despair. All of it intermingled into this one and only life we’ve been given.

I used to think I was immune from tragedy, but then I learned the hard way that I am not. There is no magic potion or vaccination that will keep hard things from our doors. But God is never absent. He cares for us just like he did the Hebrew slaves.

So be confident as you wade through the high waters and as you try to keep your head above the waves. It will be okay. You will figure it out. You will adapt. Just keep going and do the best you can in a tough situation. God will be right there with you.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.