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Freedom and Redemption

Date: Jul. 4, 2021

Author: Michael Mark

Exodus 5:1-6:12

Key Verse: Exodus 6:6

"Therefore say to the Israelites: 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.'"

Happy Fourth of July!  Today, as many of you may know, is Independence Day here in America.  It is a day that commemorates the birth of our nation, and a complete break from British rule.  245 years ago from this day, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the 13 original colonies to declare the United States of America as its own sovereign, free and independent nation.  Some would say the Declaration is the essence of the spirit and ideals of America, one which acknowledges the Creator over earthly kings, and to fight for and protect the Rights this Creator has given to humanity, which includes freedom from powers that seek to take away these Rights.  You may be familiar with this famous statement in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  In today’s passage, Moses and Aaron finally meet Pharaoh face to face, and after 400 years of living in Egypt, and 80 years since the birth of Moses, God’s plan for the redemption of Israel is set into motion.  Now, what they say isn’t exactly a declaration of independence, but it does kick off God’s plan to redeem Israel, which is really only a foreshadowing of God’s plan of universal redemption, from an unseen and hidden slavery and oppression that has bound us all.

Last week, we heard about Moses coming back out of his “retirement” from Midian, and returning to Egypt after a 40 year self-imposed exile.  He had met the One True God, the Only God, who commissioned him to be the one who would bring Israel out of Egypt.  Though reluctant, God reassured him through helping, teaching, and granting him power to perform signs, and so he went.  At the end of the last chapter, we see that the Israelites accepted and believed everything the Lord told Moses and Aaron.  They were so moved, that when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.  This was a good sign, so far, it seems, things were going according to plan.  The Israelites at this time must have been optimistic and hopeful.

Look at v.1, “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.’’”  This is the beginning of the confrontation between God (who is represented by Moses and Aaron), and Pharaoh.  With boldness and courage, Moses and Aaron delivered this message from God.  Look at Pharaoh’s response in v.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.’”  They met their first resistance, and hit their first hurdle.  Pharaoh may have said this with a smile, indignant and arrogant, “And who is the LORD that I should obey him?”  It isn’t that he was ignorant of the God of Israel, but he had no fear, no reverence, no respect for God.  Part of it might be because since he could oppress the Israelites so easily, he thought their God was weak or non-existent.  But we know that he is only heaping up more trouble for himself.  Ps 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

So Moses and Aaron try again in v.3, “Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us.  Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.’”  Now look again at what the Lord is asking of Pharaoh – it’s interesting that God gives a purpose for letting them go – it is to worship.  He didn’t leave it open ended, but he commanded Pharaoh to let the Israelites go for the purposes of worship.  See again also what Moses said – they may be struck with sword or plagues.  That’s not even the Egyptians; it’s the Hebrews who would be punished if they do not worship.  What we learn is that God is due worship, he requires worship from us; not because he does not deserve it, but because he deserves it in every way, if even just for the simple fact that He created us and gave us life.  He wants the Israelites to go free in order to worship.  We were made to worship, so you also see there are consequences of not worshipping God.

Pharaoh now starts to get mad.  Look at v.4-5, “But the king of Egypt said, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor?  Get back to your work!  Then Pharoah said, ‘Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.’”  Pharaoh accuses Moses and Aaron of giving the Israelites false expectations.  Either he does not buy the fact that they want to go worship, or he simply does not want them to leave, or both.  He accuses Moses and Aaron of putting unnecessary hopes in the Israelite’s heads.  There was much work to do, and the people are numerous, so a lot of work gets done every day.  But it looks to Pharaoh that Moses and Aaron want to organize some kind of union to rebel to get extra vacation days, and making the people believe they can do it.  This would cause disruptions in their productivity and undermine the authority of Pharaoh, who treated them how he wanted.

The simple request of Moses and Aaron was met with a swift and powerful backlash.  That same day, like immediately, Pharoah ordered that their work be made harder.  The Israelites were enslaved to making mud bricks to build store cities for Egypt.  These bricks were made of mud and straw and sun dried.  The straw reinforced the bricks and made them stronger, without it, the bricks would crack and crumble.  While the Israelites made bricks, Pharaoh used to provide them with straw.  Now however, Pharaoh ordered the provision of straws to be cancelled, and ordered the Israelites to find their own straw, but have to make the same amount of bricks per day.  This is essentially doubling their work load, but not giving any more time for them to do it.  Brick making was a stationary job, you’d make the bricks in one place.  But now they would have to scatter dozens if not hundreds of feet away, fight with others over straw, and bring it back to the brick making station.  Needless to say, it was impossible to meet their quotas.  Not only was this unfair, but it was cruel.  The Israelites were already groaning with this new Pharaoh, and things only got exponentially worse.

You can see Pharaoh’s reasoning in v.9, “Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”  He was calling Moses and Aaron’s messages from God lies.  He was casting doubt that God had spoken to them.  He was also exercising the power of his own authority over God’s people.  But perhaps this was also his strategy to get rid of Moses and Aaron.  He knew the workloads were impossible, but perhaps this way he could turn the people against Moses and Aaron, making it look like it was their fault that all this was happening.  Once Moses and Aaron were out of the picture, perhaps there would be no more demands for worship times.

It would seem that Pharaoh’s strategy was starting to work.  The Israelite overseers were getting beaten for not meeting quota.  Now it’s becoming really cruel.  Making the work harder, but not giving any more time or assistance was a guaranteed beating.  You could just get beat up now for showing up to work.  And yes, it was truly unfair, but that didn’t matter to Pharaoh.  The Israelite overseers tried to appeal to Pharaoh, but he wasn’t budging from his position.  No reduction in brick quotas.  When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said this – look at v.21, “May the LORD look on you and judge you!  You made us obnoxious to Pharoah and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”  You can see how quickly their attitudes had changed.  When they first met Moses and Aaron, they believed and bowed down to worship God.  Now, they blamed Moses and Aaron for their increased misery.  How ironic, that on one day they believed the LORD sent Moses and Aaron to save them, then another day they pray the LORD will judge the ones he sent.  But we can’t really judge the Israelites either, we probably would react the same way.  It’s easy to lose sight of the promises of God when we are under distress and oppressed.  This really goes to show how heavy the burden was for the Israelites.

Moses and Aaron weren’t immune to this sudden lapse of faith either.  Look at v.22-23, “Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?  Is this why you sent me?  Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”  The people blamed Moses, but here, it looks like Moses in turn is blaming God!  If you see things from God’s perspective, think about what this looks like.  You promise someone you will help them, but then they come back to you and say you have not done what you said.  Don’t we all get like this too?  When times get really hard, do we say to God, “Why, Lord, have you done this?” 

However, though it appears to be a lack of faith, rather than discourage you from doing this, I would encourage you to do this more.  One thing that really spoke to me was in v.22, “Moses returned to the LORD.”  He brought his lament and complaint to the Lord.  This, perhaps, is how you can overcome a lapse in faith: return to the Lord.  Cast your cares upon the Lord.  1 Pet 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”  I heard in another sermon about how helpful it can be to bring your laments to the Lord, and even verbalize them, and say it out loud … maybe best in a place where no one else can hear you, but bring all your anxieties, I love how 1 Peter says all of them, say them out loud, and know that God hears them and he cares.  It has certainly helped me – just recently.  We are in the process of buying a new home, and something didn’t go our way.  On top of that, there had been a mistake in one of our loan disclosures that would have added some cost.  This all happened on the same day, and I brought it to the Lord.  I am ashamed to say, that I was very angry with God at that time, I shouldn’t have been, and am humbled by it.  But the issues eventually were resolved, and peace came back into my heart.  Moses returned to the Lord, and let that be a lesson to us to do so all the time.  You will find that the Lord is compassionate, gentle and understanding, loving and encouraging, as we will see in his response to Moses.

Look at 6:1, “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now 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.’”  God did not scold Moses for his lack of faith or offense upon his promise, instead he gave him an affirmative answer: “Now you will see.”  And we will see soon that God also will rebuild his faith.  Often times God does not work in the way we expect, but we can always trust that He is working for our good.  He did not immediately save and deliver the Israelites when Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh.  He could have struck immediate fear into Pharaoh’s heart, or force Pharaoh to quickly relent.  But God does all things first and foremost for his glory, and will do things to magnify his greatness, all the while he will never let us down.  How would the Israelites know how much they needed a Redeemer if Pharaoh always went easy on them?  How would we see and know that God can overcome and triumph over any situation in a variety of ways if he instantly changed Pharaoh’s heart, instead of showing us how mighty Pharaoh is, and how much mightier He is?  How will we know our own strengths and weaknesses, unless God tests us?  How can we know how much we need God, unless we feel a little bit of his absence?  How can our faith grow, unless our patience is tried now and then?  Why else might God wait?  Maybe so that the full number of Israelites would be met.  Moses must have been stretched thin, his hope almost dried up, but at that point, when he returned to the Lord, the LORD said to Moses: “Now you will see what I will do.”

God gives Moses the reassurance he needs, by teaching him about Himself, and we can find security also, in knowing who God is.  Look at v.2, “God also said to Moses, ‘I am the LORD.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them.’”  God begins with saying his name, the name which should give us a sense of awe and wonder.  I am the LORD.  This is God’s proper name.  When you see the LORD in all caps, you can substitute it for God’s proper name.  As we learned in Dan’s message last week, God’s name is “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” which translates into “I AM.”  The LORD = YHWH = Yahweh = Jehovah.  Overtime we lost the vowels, but these all refer to God’s proper name, as in, my proper name is Michael, but in French you might call me Michel, or in Spanish Miguel, or Russian Mikhail.  But it means “I AM,” or the ever existing, unchanging eternal God.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew God as God Almighty: who was all-powerful.  They knew God’s proper name, Yahweh, as it is mentioned several times in Genesis, but they did not fully know God as the “I AM,” that he was unchanging, eternal and absolute one; who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  There was no way they could experience God in this way; because he made the promises to them; the covenants.  They welcomed them from a distance, and had faith that they would come true, but they could not experience it because of their limited lifespans.  But now, after 400 years, and after Israel had grown from a family of 70 to a nation of over a million, God could now fulfill the promises that he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Moses.  Moses and the Israelites can now fully see that God keep his word, that he doesn’t change and that he is eternal, beyond years and time; because he can keep his promises that he made hundreds of years ago.

What does this mean for us?  It means that God is constant, that he is the same as he was yesterday, in the time of Abraham, and Moses, as he is today in our lives, and that he will be forevermore.  It means that God is One and He is the Only God, ever.  This means that the same God Adam knew, that knew Noah, and that Abraham walked with, that Isaac met, and Jacob wrestled with, that King David sought after, and King Solomon prayed to, the same God that Moses was a friend of, is the exact same God we pray to every day.  God does not change, and neither does his word nor his promises.  This gives us great security because we can trust that whatever God says, it will be done.  And what does God desire to do?  Just look at the great list of promises God makes in v.6-8:

Three times in v.6-8 God says “I am the LORD.”  He is using his name as a security, he is using his name to confirm what he will do.  When his name is attached to it, you know it’s as good as done.  You may know people like that.  If that person’s name is on the paper, you know it’s good as done.  So along with the 3 “I am the LORD,” there are seven, count them, SEVEN “I wills” in v.6-8.  That is a LOT of “I will to pack into 3 verses,” but look at the things God will do for his people:

  1. I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians
  2. I will free you from being slaves to them
  3. I will redeem you
  4. I will take you as my own people
  5. I will be your God
  6. I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand
  7. I will give it to you as a possession

Look at these promises!  Freedom, redemption, adoption, inheritance, and he seals the deal with this closing statement at the end of v.8, “I am the LORD.” 

There is no need for a spoiler alert, because you know how everything ends.  But let’s talk about freedom and redemption, and the difference between the two.  God wants to free his people, but he also says he will redeem them.  It is one thing to be free, it is another to be redeemed.  To be redeemed has a concept of ownership, such as when you redeem some tickets for a toy at Chuck E Cheese, that toy is yours.  So it is with redemption, that on the one hand, the Israelites were freed from slavery, on the other, they had become God’s possession; they were a people who belonged to God.  And that is part of the will of God: to redeem a people for himself.  The Israelites were not just set free to go and wander in the wilderness.  They were set free to belong to God, to live with Him, to be with Him, to worship Him, to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  This is the true Declaration of Independence: the Right to be Children of God, so that we have the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, for all eternity.

As I mentioned in passing earlier, there is a tyrant, an oppressor, a slave master far worse than Pharaoh, and that is sin and Satan.  Look at how it had entangled Pharaoh, and the Israelites, and even Moses and Aaron, who despaired of God.  See how sin prevents us from worshiping God, or even knowing God.  When you offend someone, when you speak a careless word, when you become blindly angry, see how sin weighs you down with guilt.  There was a time in my life when I could not go one month, or even one week without getting drunk at least once.  I wish I could have controlled myself, but I couldn’t.  Sin had entangled me so, and I couldn’t help myself.  What an awful task master sin is.  And it is never satisfied, it makes you work harder, but reduces your reward.  Ultimately, the wages of sin is death.

But remember the LORD, who said I will seven times.  I will free you; I will redeem you; and guess what, he has done that, when he sent His Son Jesus into the world.  Jesus freed us from bondage to sin and death, and he redeemed us by his blood shed for us.  Jesus triumphed over Satan, and made a public spectacle of him, when he burst out of the tomb and rose from the dead.  God said I will free you.  I will redeem you.  You will be mine.  And Jesus said “It is finished.”  Our true Independence Day was 2000 years ago, when Jesus was hung on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Even after the Declaration of Independence, many battles were fought for seven more years until the Americans won, and the United Kingdom officially recognized American independence on September 3, 1783.  There may still be spiritual battles here on earth, until the day Jesus comes again to bring us into heaven, the Promised Land.  But he has already given us the victory over sin and death, and a deposit, the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing what is to come.  It is by this power, I overcame my sin and addiction to alcohol, and it is by this power, that I am being sanctified and made holy.

We are still waiting on these promises: to go to heaven, and receive our inheritance, but as God is the same yesterday, today and forever, he will do it.

As you celebrate this Independence Day, remember the Lord, who remembers you.  As you watch the fireworks with joy, be joyful in hope.  And if you are afflicted or anxious, return to the Lord, who cares for you.  He will free you, and redeem you as his own.

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