We invite you to worship with First Presbyterian Church every day by reading the lectionary and a brief reflection. Let us worship God!
1Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.'” 2But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.” 3Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.” 4But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!” 5Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!” 6That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 7“You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”
10So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.'” 12So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. 13The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw.” 14And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?”
15Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.” 17He said, “You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, “You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks.” 20As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. 21They said to them, “The LORD look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
22Then Moses turned again to the LORD and said, “O LORD, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? 23Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”
1Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.”
We know that God sent Moses to Pharaoh to plead for Israel’s freedom. But sometimes we forget how Moses really asked for it. Here Moses tells Pharaoh to let the people go so that they can go into the wilderness and worship God. This doesn’t suggest that the people will flee across the Red Sea—not yet, at least. The choice given to Pharaoh is whether he will let the people worship. Pharaoh doesn’t do this; instead he asks that the people work more. Now they are to gather straw to make bricks instead of having it provided for them. Even the suggestion that there may be something else to life—worship, freedom—means the Pharaoh makes the people work harder. Maybe more work will prevent Israel from thinking about God. In this way of thinking, there can be nothing more important than work. We know this isn’t true, but sometimes we act like it is. It recalls the well-known Mary and Martha story in the Gospel of Luke. Martha works hard to prepare her house for Jesus. Mary is content to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen—to which Jesus says, “there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part.” What is the one thing we need? At this time of distancing much of what comprises our regular life has fallen away. Commitments are gone. Activities have been cancelled. The calendar is startlingly empty. For some this is a tremendous challenge, along with the attendant loneliness of the time. But there can be part of this that is liberating, too. When our lives are so concerned with busyness, sometimes we leave out the better part. We absorb the lessons of Pharaoh from our jobs thinking that our production and our busyness is the most important thing about us. We learn how to do more with less, making bricks without straw, or gathering straw ourselves (maybe that’s what it feels like to work from home, snatching hours of productivity from a place that should mean relationship and rest). But now much of what we have has fallen away, and it’s time to realize that there is one thing necessary. Now we have been led into the wilderness to worship God.
Gracious God, we worship you, we praise you, we thank you for your gifts of life and freedom. Help us to use these gifts, that we might grow in your grace and love, and rest in your presence always, wherever you lead us, in Jesus Christ. Amen.