June 27, 2018
2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
I want to take stock of the complexity of Divine deliverance by looking at this Exodus scenario. For starters, we are no longer talking about the extended family of Abraham caught in a tight spot and needing help. In Exodus we face the mass enslavement of an entire nation of people. We have hundreds of thousands of men, women and children bound in a tyrannical, unjust, cruel and inhumane system.
Did I mention this had gone on for decades if not centuries? Not only did a “people” need to be delivered, but “persons” needed deliverance. Ultimately, while the former would prove successful, the latter would not. It would take forty years in the wilderness to finally bury all the former slaves who could never leave slavery and to form new generations who could begin to receive the promises of God. Deliverance is a multi-generational project. It is as true now as it was then, and we are all somewhere in that process within our own generations (see also Exodus 20:4-6).
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Moses and Aaron first delivered the good news to the Israelite Elders. They told them everything God said. They even performed the signs in front of them. At 4:31 we are told, “and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.” All good, right? Not on your life. Piece of cake, they must have thought. Not so fast. Next stop Pharaoh’s palace.
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:1-2
Not only did he categorically reject the request, he did this:
17 Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”
On top of making their treatment more inhumane, Pharaoh publicly shamed the Israelites, adding insult to injury. From Eden to Egypt, shame always leads to blame. In response to this, the Israelite overseers ran back to Moses and Aaron with this stinging word.
“May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Exodus 5:21.
Moses then visited his angst and frustration on God, in response to which God reiterated the resolve of his promise of deliverance. Moses went back to the Israelites to share the good news of God’s promised deliverance only to find this:
9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor. Exodus 6:9
So far we have Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s minions, the Israelite slaves, their overseers, Moses, Aaron and God. We have suffering, oppression, shame, anxiety, discouragement, depression and despair. When the threat of deliverance is whispered into this kind of setting, look for things to blow up and get a lot worse—the Word of God notwithstanding. Just as ground seems to be gained, the oppression grows stronger.
Deliverance is complex. Why? Because the status quo always has the mo (as in momentum). As my friend, Maxie Dunnam, says, “Most people prefer the hell of a predictable situation rather than the joy of an unpredictable one.” People in prison often return to prison. People in addiction often refuse help. God respects human freedom and has chosen to work within the myriad complexities it presents in so many situations. Divine deliverance is the strategic intervention of the Holy Spirit working through human agents for the sake of the freedom and flourishing of people who are oppressed and bound. It happens through prayerful discernment and bold obedience.
As we are seeing in Egypt, so we see today, things often have to get a lot worse before they begin to get better. As we will see, it is messy and fraught with conflict and controversy. In addition to being a Divinely canonized historical story of the might acts of God, The Exodus, provides tremendous wisdom for the present day work of prayer and deliverance.
Who knew? The well known petition from the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from Evil (and the Evil One),” might all at once be the most simple and the most complex prayer of all.
Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. You are our great deliverer, one greater than Moses, who with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, in the grip of the Cross, delivered us from darkness to light and from death to life. Fill me with confidence in your power to deliver completely those who trust in you. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.
- Have you ever been in a situation that called for divine deliverance? What stands out in your remembrance about the complexities of that situation?
- Are there strongholds in your own life from which you need deliverance? Have you ever shared those with anyone else?
- What “hell of a predictable situation” do you find yourself or someone you love stuck in? How are you learning to pray more strategically for them?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.