When you think of a clash of titans, what comes to mind? The US and the USSR during the Cold War? Bulls v. Celtics? Hatfields and McCoys? Packers v. Bears? Microsoft v. Apple? Yankees v. Red Sox? Wile E. Coyote v. the Roadrunner? (OK, maybe not that last one so much)
In the first 4 chapters of Exodus, God told Moses to go back to Egypt and lead Israel out of slavery to the Promised Land. Moses was reluctant, coming up with excuse after excuse, and only relented when God sent Aaron to go along as a helper.
So since God commanded Moses to do it and even provided help, this should be pretty smooth, right? Well, not quite. Since the fall in Genesis 3, man has had a propensity for thinking that he can outsmart or overpower God. In no case this far in the biblical record has that been more transparently displayed than in Exodus 5 and following.
When Moses and Aaron come to Pharaoh in Exodus 5:1 and request that he allow the Israelites to go into the wilderness to worship, Pharaoh says, “Who is this ‘LORD’ that I should have to obey him? I’m in charge here!” Like I said, no clearer picture of man’s resistance to God’s authority than coming right out and saying it!
I won’t rehash all the details, because you know the story, but Pharaoh, rather than allowing the people to leave, suggests that they are trying to get out of doing their work and that this would create a problem in Egypt’s economy. (At this time, it’s estimated that there were about 2 million Israelites. Imagine if that many people just dropped out of the workforce for 3 days.) Moreover, he didn’t just say, “No, you can’t go.” He added to their workload by demanding the same production while decreasing their supplies, meaning they had to get their own supplies and still meet production standards.
The leaders of the Israelites (ie. not Moses and Aaron) approach Pharaoh and ask, “Hey, what gives? Why are you making things harder?” Pharaoh tells them that they are just trying to be lazy by requesting to go into the wilderness to worship. When the leaders come upon Moses and Aaron, they say, “We hope God judges you for what you’ve done to us!”
Imagine how Moses must have felt! “God just told me to do something, I did it, and now everybody is mad at me, and God didn’t even make me successful in what He told me to do!” Have you ever felt like that? You feel like you are doing what you believe God wants from you, but it feels like you’re getting less than nowhere? Was Moses wrong to go to Pharaoh? No, he was doing right (we can debate his attitude at another time). So why was God not allowing him to be successful?
Next week, we’ll see the climax of this clash between Pharaoh and God, but it‘s important to note that obedience to God doesn’t always mean immediate tangible results. In fact, it can sometimes seem like things are going backwards. However, God is in each and every detail.
We know from Romans 9:16-17 that God raised up Pharaoh to power SO THAT He could demonstrate His power. Would His power have been well displayed if Pharaoh had been a pushover? No. Pharaoh’s resistance only added to the magnificent display of God’s power. You don’t receive glory from defeating a weak opponent, but a clash of titans? Just ask Michael Jordan, Brett Farve, Bill Gates, or the Roadrunner. Overcoming a powerful adversary magnifies the victory! God will always get the victory, but you might have to be patient to see the final outcome.