My sermon this week focused on the frustrations Moses experienced as he sought to share his good news of God’s deliverance with the Israelites. At first they were excited, but when things didn’t go smoothly they turned on Moses and Aaron, abusing them. My sermon emphasised the persistence that sharing our faith requires, if it is to bear fruit.
We also benefit from considering the other side of this relationship. It’s easy to criticise the Israelite overseers who in 5:20-21 abuse Moses. We know that Moses is the hero of the story and he’s working with God, so anyone that contradicts him is on the wrong side of God. But I think the overseers’ attitude is very realistic and more common than we often credit.
My impression of this story is that during their 400 years in Egypt the Israelites had forgotten a lot about Yahweh. In fact, given how quickly they adopted the golden calf in Exodus 32, many of them had probably converted to Egyptian gods. Then Moses turns up in Es 4:29 to meet with the Israelite elders and he tells them a fantastic story of a god that will free them from slavery. On the basis of the signs Moses performs and the foggy memory of Yahweh’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the elders buy into the story and in 4:31 they “bow down and worshiped” Yahweh.
It seems to me that this mirrors the faith journey of many people today. While their parents or grandparents attended church the people we encounter have forgotten more about God than they remember. Some of them, through desperation, relationships, or Bible study, will be convinced of the truth of God’s Good News. They will “bow down and worship Yahweh”.
In emphasising the Good News of hope and freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation, grace and love, we run the risk of creating the impression that deliverance from all of life’s difficulties is imminent. It’s no surprise then when our new brothers and sisters in Christ have a hard time understanding what’s going on when they encounter obstacles.
The Israelite overseers certainly encounter a major obstacle. Pharaoh demands greater productivity with less resources, and then beats them when they fail to meet the new standards. I don’t think anyone can blame them for questioning the message Moses brought. There’s not much good news in a beating.
This story reminds us that making right choices and accepting God’s truth doesn’t necessarily result in an easier life, particularly in the short term. However, knowing the ultimate fate of Pharaoh should encourage us to keep the big picture in mind and the victory Christ has already won.
It should also remind those who are older Christians to continue to encourage and disciple those with younger faith, because baptism’s just the beginning of their new life. Questions, doubts, and difficulties are all common experiences that Satan throws at new Christians and we can’t afford to leave them on their own at that time.
Have you experienced particular challenges in your life soon after accepting the Good News of Jesus? or maybe after a particularly uplifting spiritual experience, eg. a great book, a retreat or seminar? What got you through that difficulty? How important was the encouragement of other Christians?