When Things Just Get Worse

When we are in the middle of the darkest times of our life, hope can feel impossible, even foolish. We long for God to intervene. We may even question whether God notices, cares, or is as good as we know we should believe He is. Maybe you can automatically think of a time in your life when the dark was so thick you couldn’t see a way out. Maybe you’re living it now, whether personally or sharing in our whole world’s collective groaning.

For countless generations, people across eras and cultures have found solace in Exodus, a tale of a people suffering under the boot of a cruel ruler. Though Exodus ultimately tells a story of triumph, it didn’t start that way. Moses and Aaron’s first visit to Pharaoh was a failure, at least on the surface.

The plan seemed clear. Moses was given two signs to show God’s power to Pharaoh. When the Israelite elders saw these miracles, it was enough to rekindle their hope. Finally, God answered them! And “when they heard that the LORD had paid attention to them and that he had seen their misery, they knelt low and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31). Of course, Pharaoh would be impressed too, right? Maybe even afraid of a bigger, truer God he couldn’t dare defy?

But after Moses and Aaron’s first meeting with Pharaoh, things only got worse. They weren’t asking Pharaoh to free all the enslaved people just yet. They asked for a few days off, a festival reprieve for the Israelites (Exodus 5:1).

Instead of believing, Pharaoh mocked. Instead of seeing weary fellow humans, he saw lazy, whining slaves. Instead of compassion, he heaped more impossible demands on them. It’s calculated, astonishing cruelty, meant to break their spirits and keep them in their place. And for a time, it worked. After moving his family to Egypt for a mission he barely felt qualified for, Moses found himself questioning the point of it all, asking God, “Why did you ever send me?…You haven’t rescued your people at all” (vv.22–23). 

And still, God sees. God’s response is an appeal to the past, a reminder of the covenant He made with their ancestors—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob—even before they knew His name. God saw exactly what was happening. He heard their pain, He saw the violence, and He hadn’t forgotten His promise.

“Therefore tell the Israelites: I am the LORD…[I] will rescue you from slavery….I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.” —Exodus 6:6

We know how this story goes, how it extends and echoes throughout the narrative of Scripture. We can now see it as a preamble to the ongoing story of redemption, a story with places in the middle where God seems slow and absent and silent. And in those middle places, in the brutal days and dark nights of their labor, God is still working. The rescue is only beginning.

J. Yokel

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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