EXODUS: Bricks without Straw
Last we left Exodus, Moses and Aaron had travelled to Egypt and met with the elders of Israel. In this meeting, they described God’s plan to free them from slavery and showed them miraculous signs to prove it:
Moses’ staff turned into a snake and back into a staff.
Moses’ hand turned leprous and healthy again.
The elders were pumped:
You got this, Moses!
Mop the floor with Pharaoh, Aaron!
God’s got your back!
Our suffering is about to end!
I. Suffering Increases
With the elder’s approval, Moses and Aaron went to visit Pharaoh.
They said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. Let my people go so that they may hold a festival for me in the wilderness.” (5:1)
You’ll notice that this is not a request for full freedom. It is much simpler. They ask for time off for a festival.
It’s as if Moses and Aaron were requesting off for vacations days at work. Only for all the employees….
…All at once.
Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should listen to his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and I certainly will not let Israel go.” (v.2)
This is probably the first time that Pharaoh had heard the LORD’s name. In this Scripture, God’s name is written in all capital letters. This means the name that Moses and Aaron used to introduce God to Pharaoh was the same name that God had used to introduce himself to Moses: “I AM.” A name, by the way, that Moses himself first heard a few weeks earlier.
No wonder Pharaoh hadn’t heard of him.
In fact, when God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, Moses asked a very similar question:
Who are you?
Only Moses seemed to ask for clarification.
Pharaoh asked because he wanted to know what puny “god” was daring to mess with him.
They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go on a 3-day journey into the wilderness, and let us sacrifice to the Lord, our God, so that he does not strike us with plague or sword.” (v.3)
I’ve seen his power.
He has done some amazing things!
I don’t want him to turn his power against us.
Nor should you want him to turn his power against you.
Pharaoh is not so concerned.
“…Why are you taking the people away from their work? Get back to your forced labor!” (v.4)
After Moses and Aaron leave, Pharaoh isn’t done with the conversation.
Can you believe those guys?
Who do they think they are?
Who do they think their “god” is?
Don’t they know there is no “god” in Egyptian except me.
I’m not some statue.
I’m not some sarcophagus.
I’m not some name etched in hieroglyph.
It’s time I taught this to the Hebrew people.
And to their puny Hebrew “god.”
In Egypt, I’m the only “god” that matters.
Pharaoh called a business meeting.
“Do not give the people straw for making bricks anymore. Let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as they made before. Do not reduce it. You see, they are lazy. That is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they do their work and do not pay attention to lying words.” (v.6-9)
I don’t think Pharaoh had his M.B.A.
Minus the resources?
Plus twice the amount of work?
Does not equal the same amount of production.
The people scattered all over the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters kept insisting, “Fulfill your daily quota just as you did when straw was provided!” The overseers, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had placed over the Israelites, were beaten.” (v.11-14)
Then, I imagine the taskmasters would walk…
Limp to their people.
“Why have you not fulfilled your quota yesterday and today, as you did previously?” (v.14)
I know it’s impossible.
But please go faster.
I don’t want to suffer anymore.
The elders that had been cheering Moses and Aaron?
Were doing so no longer.
God had promised to end the suffering of the Israelites.
It got worse.
II. Identifying the Source
We’re pausing there in the story to think about the issue of suffering. Where does suffering come from?
To find the Biblical answer, we need to go to the only book before Exodus.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
Did you hear what God called the world that he made?
Understand – God isn’t like you and me.
When I say very good about my outfit, I tend to think, “Yep. I’m wearing clothes.”
It’s good enough for sinful me.
God is perfect.
When he says, “Very good” he means, “Eternally, divinely, perfectly good.”
Suffering was not ORIGNALLY in our world.
…Nobody got uncomfortably sweaty in the sun.
…Nobody was forced into slave labor.
…Nobody had to make bricks, because the elements weren’t harsh enough to warrant a brick shelter.
…Nobody had to wear masks.
…Nobody had to social distance.
…Nobody worried about whether they could get enough gas for their gas tank.
Suffering was not a part of God’s original plan for earth.
God placed a tree in this suffering free garden.
God asked them not to eat from the tree or suffering would enter the world.
But God gave them plenty of other food to eat so that they would never suffer from hunger or thirst or even a late night craving for a milkshake.
And these humans?
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Can you imagine the next morning?
The man woke up and, “Ugh, I have this strange pain in my back. Did I sleep the wrong way? I didn’t know there was a wrong way. Hey honey, wake up. My back doesn’t feel…good.”
His wife said, “Quiet down. I have a bit of ugh… Something going on with my head. It aches. My head aches. What do you call it when your head aches?”
As a result of that sin in the garden, suffering is a part of our world.
Although sin works this suffering in a few different ways:
Suffering is the result of SINFUL WORLD.
The other Tuesday I was raking my front yard.
The next day, I noticed something:
The top of my head hurt.
Sunburn on my thinning hairline.
Sunburn wasn’t a part of the God’s original earth.
The sun didn’t originally have harmful UV-Rays.
Skin didn’t react by getting burned.
But we don’t live in that perfect world anymore.
We live in a sinful world.
Viruses that lead to a worldwide pandemic.
Are all a result of living in the sinful world.
Suffering is the result of SIN in OTHERS
This is what happened to the Israelites.
Sinful Pharaoh didn’t want to suffer from low production, so he decrees suffering for his workers.
The sinful overseers didn’t want to suffer Pharaoh’s wrath, so they whip suffering into the taskmasters.
The sinful taskmasters don’t want to suffer whipping, so they enforce impossible demands on the people.
Suffering is STILL the result of sin in others.
Your boss makes you work late hours.
Your coworker leaves you high and dry.
Your kids scream for hours on end.
Suffering often comes from sin in others.
If I suffer from the sins of others…
And all people in the world are sinful…
That also means that…
Suffering is the result of SIN in Me.
The other day, Daniela got very angry.
She was upset that I didn’t let her throw her dirty diaper away.
(I know…bad dad).
So, what did she did?
She yelled so loudly and violently that.
She fell off the potty.
And bonked her head.
Sometimes suffering is the result of sin in OURSELVES.
This headache? Because I drank too much last night.
This sluggish start to the day? Because I ate too much last night.
This scary medical situation? Because I abused my body over the years.
This relationship suffering? Because I was a jerk to my wife.
The suffering of gossip from others? Because I was unfaithful to my husband.
The fear and terror I deal with on a daily basis? Because I haven’t been faithfully in God’s Word.
Suffering comes from sin.
And sometimes in all three forms!
Take the gas crisis!
The colonial pipeline breaks – sinful world.
People panic and buy way more than they should – sinful others.
I rant on Facebook about how awful people are – and suffer he loss of a few Facebook friends.
Our world is filled with suffering.
Because our world is filled with sin.
Eventually the Israelite leadership banded together and approached Pharaoh:
“Why are you doing this to your servants? No straw is given to your servants, yet they tell us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look, your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.” (v.15-16)
They have correctly identified sinful Pharaoh as the source of their suffering. But sinful Pharaoh misdirects them;
He said, “Lazy! You are lazy! That is why you are saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now go! Get to work! Straw will not be provided to you, but you will deliver the same quota of bricks!” (v.17-18)
Did you catch that?
Pharaoh refuses to accept blame for their suffering.
They Israelites leaders said to Moses and Aaron, “May the Lord look at you and judge you, because you have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword into their hand to kill us.” (v.20-22)
As if Moses and Aaron’ real meeting with Pharaoh had included a 57-slide PowerPoint on why the Pharaoh should increase the Israelite’s suffering.
Sinful Pharaoh wouldn’t accept responsibility.
So the sinful Israelites pass the blame onto Moses and Aaron.
What do you think sinful Moses and Aaron do with the blame?
“Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (v.22-23)
God, this is suffering is YOUR fault.
Sin BLAMES suffering it causes on GOD
This is what Adam did in the garden.
It’s what the people did to Moses.
It’s what Moses said to God.
Maybe…It’s what you’ve been doing too.
IV. God & Suffering
We shouldn’t let that be the end to the study of suffering.
The LORD should be allowed to respond.
He does so in the next chapter:
“You will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country…Tell them: I will free you from being slaves…, I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” (6:1-6)
Did you catch?
God wasn’t the one driving suffering on the people.
God was the one who would drive it out.
God DRIVES OUT suffering.
God said he would do it with his outstretched arm and Mighty Hand.
The same arm he stretched out to transform a wooden stick into a venomous serpent, He would stretch out to transform the venomous Pharaoh into a whimpering coward.
The mighty hand he used to drive out the leprosy from the hand of Moses, he would use to drive out his people from slavery.
But that’s not it. God would do it again.
He would stretch out his arms and wrap them around your sin.
He would take his mighty hand and grip your guilt.
He would stretch out his arms onto a plank of bloody wood.
He would take his mighty hand and nail it to the cross.
He would stretch out his arms to roll away his tomb stone.
He would move his mighty hand to feel the doorway to the tomb.
He would drive out sin.
He would drive out guilt.
He would drive out shame.
To drive out suffering.
Jesus is your Savior!
That truth drives out your deepest suffering.
…Suffering from guilt. You are forgiven.
…Suffering from shame. You are redeemed.
…Suffering from loneliness. God is with you.
…Suffering from fear. I am powerfully with you.
If God is more powerful than suffering, why allow it at all?
“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. (v.7)
Did you follow?
God has allowed suffering amongst the Israelite people for a time.
A time when all eyes are directed on him.
If God had ended it in an unceremonious manner, what do you suppose the people would have said?
That Pharaoh is so nice.
Those overseers are so bad once you get to know them.
We really did a great job in getting our suffering to end.
All credit would have went to sinful people.
None of whom were responsible to ending the suffering.
None of whom could bring an end to all suffering.
God WORKS THROUGH suffering to put eyes HIM!
Over this pandemic, that’s happened.
People have searched for him.
People have been looking for hope.
People have been turning to their LORD.
When all hope is lost and we turn to our God, it becomes apparent that God is God.
We put our faith in him.
We have the promise that…
God will bring suffering to an END.
The last thing that God told Moses was this:
I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…I will bring you to the land I swore to your forefathers…I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” (6:9-10)
Not to spoil it, but….
God frees the people of Israel from the hands of Pharaoh.
They never again have to make bricks without straw.
They are free from that suffering.
Not to spoil it, but…
He will put an end to all suffering.
He will put an end to your suffering.
He will one day bring you home to heaven.
A place where there is no suffering.
A place where they’ve never heard of suffering.
A place where there isn’t even a word for suffering.
Our suffering is about to end.
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