In this passage of Scripture we have Moses going to Pharaoh to request that the people be allowed to go into the wilderness to worship the Lord. The Lord has sent Moses, but this results in making Pharaoh mad, and as such, he causes the labor of the Israelites to be more severe. Therefore, the first act in this drama of deliverance is that THINGS GET WORSE INSTEAD OF BETTER. Why did God cause His people to suffer more as a result of divine intervention in their affairs? Why did God allow Pharaoh to persecute them all the more? Why didn't God deliver the Israelites immediately? And, why did God record this in the Bible for us to read? I think there are several reasons:
- Life is not about instant solutions and immediate answers. This is very difficult for modern people to understand and accept. Our technology creates a false understanding of life. People who live in a context of immediate information, instant communication, and real-time involvement in current events, have a difficult time understanding real reality. In real reality one must wait, one must persevere, one must accept challenges and disappointments.
- This situation exposed sin for what it really is. The Egyptians kept getting worse and worse. They imposed more restrictions and caused greater difficulties for the Israelites. God was demonstrating to the Israelites the true nature of a pagan society and sinful action. Later, in the wilderness, some of the Israelites would clamor to go back to Egypt. This is remarkable in light of the great suffering they endured there.
- The circumstances allowed the people to see who God really is. I think one of the keys to the interpretation of this whole history of deliverance in Egypt is the question Pharaoh poses when Moses seeks for permission for the people to leave. Pharaoh asks, "Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?" This is the central crux of the matter - Who is the Lord? Pharaoh was under the delusion that he was in charge, that he had power. Pharaoh did not know that God was the One who is always in charge; He is the One who has all power. Both Egyptians and Israelites learned one great lesson in all of this - The Lord, He is God!
- God demonstrated His love for His people. The pain and suffering of the people of God is the context in which God is able to better show His love for them. Another way to think of this is - in suffering God's people are better able to understand and perceive the love of God for them. Trouble brings about situations whereby God's mercy and delivering power are brought more into focus.
- God foreshadowed the deliverance of sinners through salvation in Christ. It is thought by many Bible scholars that the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage is the central motif of salvation in the Bible. This foreshadows the salvation of sinners through Jesus Christ our Lord. I agree with this hermeneutical assessment. The reason this story is included in the Bible is to become a permanent and prominent expression of salvation, which will later be more fully demonstrated in Christ.
When things seem to get worse instead of better, it is good for us to step back and take a look at the big picture. God is always working, even when He doesn't seem to be working. God is always in charge, even when He doesn't seem to be in charge. God is performing His plan, even when everything looks chaotic and depressing. Be patient, wait on the Lord, and trust in Him.