From Lydia Buchanan
Exodus 5—if we can close our eyes to the story most of us know is coming—is a cliffhanger.
The Israelite overseers realize, in a meeting-gone-wrong with Pharaoh, that he, not their Egyptian masters, has decided to stop providing them with straw to make bricks. When the Israelites catch on that Pharaoh is the one making their work more difficult, they see, as they text says, that “they were in trouble.” They take it out, as I think I might, on Moses and Aaron, blaming them “you have put a sword in their hands to kill us.”
Who in Egypt is above Pharaoh? Who, if Pharaoh will not, will lighten the workload of the enslaved Israelites? Moses was supposed to help them, and he has only made their lives worse. Moses, too, suffers a crisis. He asks God, with admirable bluntness, “Is this why you sent me?. . . you have not rescued your people at all.” It is bold, to speak so to God. But it is also Moses’, and the Israelites’, frank assessment of the situation they’re in: it’s worse, now that God is involved. Pharaoh, the source of all power, is punishing them for listening to God. Who is stronger than Pharaoh?
It’s easy for me to say how silly they’re all being. God is stronger than Pharaoh! He is about to come—in just one more verse!—to save them. He will keep his promises; God always keeps his promises! But if I’m being honest, it is so challenging to look around the immediate, earthly, powers when I live here, on earth.
God is about to show them—and all of Egypt—that he doesn’t need Pharaoh. It is a truth I could do with remembering also.
Lydia Buchanan is ready for a real snowstorm.