When God Fails (Exodus 5)


There is no one more confident than me on Day 1 of a fresh attempt at weight loss. I feel so good about myself, so hopeful about the future you would think that I had already lost the weight. I make plans and write down rules and set up reward systems, yet nine times out of ten I find myself mere weeks later, back to the same old habits that got me overweight in the first place. I had hit the ground running, but all my eagerness and enthusiasm couldn’t keep me from failing. It sucks, but it happens.

You never expect it, though. How could you? You’re so hopeful! Just like the Israelites in Exodus 5, fresh off the meeting with Moses and Aaron, the men sent by God to free them from slavery to Egypt. The future looked bright. Finally God was coming through for them. In just a little while they’d probably never have to pick up another tool again! Starting the effort off with a bang, Moses and Aaron visit Pharaoh and declare that God has demanded His people be released (verses 1, 3).

Pharaoh essentially laughs in their faces. He calls the Israelites lazy, because if they were working hard, they wouldn’t have time to ask to go be with their God (verse 8). Since they have so much free time on their hands, he decides he’ll give them something to do. He decrees that instead of being given the straw necessary to make bricks, the way it had always been, now the Israelites will have to find their own straw and still produce the same number of bricks per day. The Israelites turn around and blame Moses and Aaron. Moses turns around and blames God. “Was this Your plan all along?” Moses complains. “You have not rescued your people at all!

The Treasures Within:

Didn’t Know

Moses and Aaron and all the Israelites had to have known that Pharaoh would resist. As the Egyptian king, Pharaoh was revered as not just royal, but divine. It was bad for his foreign slaves to dare to tell him that contrary to his initial decision, he should now let them go about their business. It was even worse for them to tell him that their God commanded him to do so on pain of death (verse 3)! So while there’s nothing unusual about the fact that Pharaoh did refuse to obey God, there is something interesting about what he said in his refusal. “I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” (verse 2) Here Pharaoh was more honest than any of us. Pharaoh did not obey Him because he did not know Him. Why should he listen to this foreign God?

But what about those of us who do know God? What excuse do we have for not obeying Him? Truth be told, when we sin we’re in the same boat as Pharaoh, even if we don’t admit it. Because if we knew God, we wouldn’t act this way. If we truly knew and acknowledged the Lord as the Creator, the Lover, the Author of the Bible, and the Wisdom the law is founded on, then there’s no way we would ignore His commands. But when we do what we want, it’s like we’re saying we don’t know this Man. “God who? I’m gonna go ahead and curse this person out. Or watch this porn. Or eat this anyway. Or tell this lie. Or treat this person cruelly.” It may seem fun at first, to pretend God doesn’t exist for a while so you can indulge. But it’s dangerous. It’s blasphemous. And as Pharaoh’s story will show, it cannot end well.

An Equal And Opposite Reaction

Maybe Moses and Aaron and the Israelites predicted Pharaoh’s response. After all, they still had those three signs. Perhaps they expected that after a little resistance, the signs God gave Moses would shock and awe him enough to relent and let them free. They might have to repeat the signs a few times for Pharaoh’s officials, since of course he would have to consult with them, but all told they should have this wrapped up in a few…weeks?

That’s not what happened. Moses and Aaron marched into battle, with God and His angels going before and behind, armed with amazing signs and wonders and what happened? Things got worse. Their work got harder. Pharaoh doubled down. And God did not rescue His people at all. All the excitement and assurance from their first meeting completely evaporated. In its place grew anger, disappointment, and feelings of betrayal. How could they trust God now?

Only that was the point. God had promised to save His people and He always keeps His promises. But the Israelites needed to learn to trust God unconditionally, even when things around them seemed to be getting worse. Why? Because that’s when faith gets real. The same applies to us today. If we asked God to save somebody, heal someone, give us a job, or turn our lives around and instead of our prayers getting answered, our circumstances get worse, how would we act? Would we continue to believe in God? Would we continue to believe that He was all-powerful and unconditionally loving? Or is our faith dependent on our results? If it is, God wants to fix that. So He tests us. He allows things to get worse. And He does this because he knows that if we do not leave Him, if we decide to believe in Jesus no matter what, then our faith will come out of this trial pure as gold and strong as iron.

God’s Message To Us:

“I want to have a real relationship with you.” Anyone can claim to be a Christian and many do. It’s easy to say we love God. It’s easy to say we know Him. It’s easy to say we trust in Him. But as we saw in this chapter, those statements are proven true or false by how we live. Do we obey God or do we pretend not to know Him by sinning? Do we give up on God when He doesn’t immediately answer our prayers or do we continue to trust Him even when it looks like He’s failed us? The answer to those questions is how we know if we really are Christians or not. They are difficult questions to answer. The strengthening of our relationship with God is a painful process. But God wants us. The Creator of the universe, the richest and wisest Man in the world wants you. Do we want Him too?

There Are Always Questions:

  1. Why, in verses 1 and 3, did Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh if the Israelites could go into the wilderness for a festival? Why not simply ask for full freedom? According to Exodus 3:18, that was the plan all along, but why? Why start with this? Was it just to prove how impenetrable Pharaoh was that he wouldn’t even grant this simple request?

What do you think? How would you have reacted to the worsened circumstances? What did God teach you when you read this chapter?

4 thoughts on “When God Fails (Exodus 5)

  1. I think this time of rejection was also about preparing Moses and Aaron for the fierce rejection from his own brother along this 40 year journey. Prior when Moses killed the Egyptian, he ran away for 40 years at that rejection. Sometimes, God has to prepares us for the famine, droughts and desolations…the complaints, the fierce rejection and murmuring that accompanied this exodus.


    1. That’s a very good point! Learning to trust God at this point would prepare Moses, Aaron, and all the Israelites for the struggles and faith tests that they would come across in the years to come. They really went through a lot!


  2. I agree that all the troubles were about preparation. That is how it is in our lives also. Also, the reason why God had Moses only ask to go 3 days into the wilderness to conduct a festival of worship to God was because Pharoah would not even grant this request. There was no need to ask for more because God knew that Pharoah would pursue the Israelites and the Egyptians would be destroyed.


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