Everyone experiences conversations that do not go as well as we wish. If we evaluate such disappointing talks objectively, which is a difficult task, we might able to realize that our own motives and/or expectations were incorrect concerning the outcome we desired. Usually we are left with less than pleasant thoughts about the other person. We can end up feeling rather dissatisfied.
This passage in the story of God’s glory (the Bible) is about a man who was in a conversation with the Lord God and walked away dissatisfied. I think that it is a fair evaluation, because he ends the discussion with a complaint that ties in with a previous dialogue that wasn’t satisfying to him also. The man was Moses, but not the heroic Moses of the pretend world of “God does nice things for us that make us happy”. Instead, it is the real Moses who was beginning to find out that living God is not someone that we people get to order around. The Lord patiently led Moses through this discovery process.
Moses began the conversation with a complaint that the Lord had let him down. 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” (Exodus 5:22-23 NIV). Since Moses is human like us, it might be beneficial to consider how many of our prayers are complaints. (I’m not implying that Moses usually prayed this way, but simply asking a question.) It is a rather doubtful method to build your friendship with God by constantly complaining about something. Do you want to a friend that incessantly complains? Moses had a lot to learn, but he had enough insight to recognize a couple points:
- He saw that the Lord God was in charge of the unpleasant events. Seeing God as in control of all that happens is almost a prerequisite to prayer. Since God is God, he is sovereign over all.
- Moses saw that Pharaoh was one of the responsible agents in oppressing God’s people Israel. Everyone is not “nice”, some are very evil and destructive. There is no “spark of goodness” in human hearts. Moses could evaluate Pharaoh and call him out as wicked. Moses was telling the truth at this point.
- He was disappointed about God’s schedule. If he had listened carefully to the Lord (in Exodus 3-4), Moses would have known that God planned to rescue his people from Pharaoh and Egypt over a period of time. The rescue would be a process, not a single act. God works the story of his glory out in time. We want him to do everything yesterday, naively forgetting that there are plenty of people yet to be rescued today and tomorrow. We need to accept that the Lord works out the rescue or salvation of people from sin to glory over time. We must be willing to wait calmly as the rescue happens.
Next, we hear the first of the Lord’s answers to Moses’ complaint. God didn’t dismiss Moses for his failure, but used it as a teaching opportunity to make more of himself known to Moses and to us. God’s answer is to reveal some of the most important truths about his relationship with his old covenant people, Israel. But first, he decided to answer Moses’ complaint. 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” (Exodus 6:1 NIV).
- The Lord told Moses that his rescue operation was on time; in fact, now was the time. For his own wise purposes, the sovereign God allows people to reach the full measure of their sins before he steps in (cf. Genesis 15:16). God’s people must be patient during those times. We wait and trust and look for the dawn of salvation.
- God said that he would act against Pharaoh. He knew the identity of the oppressor and would bring him to justice. The sovereign Lord sees and he will act at his appointed time. Anyone who comprehends this will not dare to oppress other people.
- God planned to use his mighty hand to accomplish the rescue of his people. As we will see in future articles, the Lord had a good and wise purpose in this method. He used the whole situation to demonstrate his glory.
I don’t know what unsatisfying conversation you might be in with God. But I know that his word, the story of his glory, reveals his ways to us, and that he invites us to be a partner in this great story. You may enter into it through the gate, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:9-10). If you are a partner, let God’s story transform the way you look at your life. Let your complaints become humble questions to your Father in heaven.
Grace and peace, David