Exodus 5:1-2 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ ” (2) And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”
God’s work in Egypt stands as a testimony of His power over men. The story begins a few hundred years earlier with God’s promise to Abraham. (Gen. 12:1-3) Abraham’s seed would multiply as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore. They would conquer and possess the land of their enemies as an inheritance. (Gen. 22:17) God provided all of these blessings through the power of His might and wisdom.
As wonderful as these blessings were, the greatest promise involved the coming of the Christ. God chose Abraham to be the one through whose seed the Messiah would come because he obeyed the Lord. (Gen. 22:18) The Exodus account ushered in the Old Law and God’s provision for fulfilling these promises.
God sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh with a simple demand from God, “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.” Pharaoh’s answer typifies the response many give to God. They don’t know who the Lord is and they mock His call for obedience. (Matt. 27:41-43)
To ask “Who is the LORD” is a fair question for why would anyone serve a God they don’t know. Pharaoh did not know Jehovah or remember the deeds of Joseph. (Exodus 1:8) His only dealings with deity were the lifeless and powerless gods of Egypt. He did not know the power of the true and living God.
Many today ask the same question when they don’t like God’s Word. They have never known the true God of the Bible, but only distortions spread by false religion. (Acts 17:23) So when you state the Bible’s teaching about abortion or homosexuality they respond, “Who is this God you’re talking about.” Talk to them about obedience and they mock as did Pharaoh. They don’t the God of the New Testament. (Acts 17:32)
Not only did Pharaoh refuse to let the people go, he made life more difficult for them. He accused them of not having enough to do because they wanted to go and worship God for three days. As punishment he no longer provided the straw for them to make bricks. The Israelites had to find their own while keeping their quota of bricks. (Exodus 5:5-18)
Christians also face trials and persecution for seeking to serve God. (John 15:18-20) Worldly people cannot stand the light of Christian living. (John 3:19-21) They want to make matters just as difficult as possible for God’s people.
Pharaoh thought he could defy God, but his effort was vain. In this moment in history no nation was greater than Egypt and no ruler stronger than Pharaoh. People may think they can challenge God, but in the end they will comply or pay the price.
God was willing to answer Pharaoh’s question by displaying His Divine power. It began with Aaron casting down his rod before Pharaoh, and the rod turning into a serpent. Pharaoh’s magicians did the same, but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. (Exodus 7:8-14) God’s power thus demonstrated should have been enough, but Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord and would not let the people go.
The Lord continued His display of power with various plagues, ending in the death of the first born of Egypt. (Exodus 11:1-7) Each time Pharaoh promised to let the people go, but he hardened his heart again when God removed the plague. (Exodus 8:8-15) There was no need for Egypt to endure these hardships.
Jesus proved Himself in many ways, and yet people still reject Him. The Father announced, “”This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Mark 17:5) Christ performed miracles and arose on the third day, all of which testified to His Deity. (Acts 10:38-41)
When we rebuff the Lord and His Word we suffer harm and difficulty. Marriages suffer because of infidelity and children endure hardships when their parents fail to bring them up in the way of the Lord. Many ignore the warnings of God about alcohol and bear the price. Some dismiss His words of life and salvation, and they will pay an eternal penalty. (Heb. 10:28-31)
Pharaoh appeared to have learned his lesson after the death of the firstborn of Egypt. He sent the Israelites out with their flocks and herds to go and worship God. (Exodus 12:31-36) Once again Pharaoh changed his mind and chased Israel to bring them back. God did this to “gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 14:1-9)
There are still people who come to realize the truth, do what God commands only to turn their back on Him again. Such action results in one’s final destruction. (2 Peter 2:20-22) “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice?” He is the One whose word must be obeyed or we will suffer the effects of rebellion.
By Terry Starling