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When Deliverance Feels Like Death

I am currently making my way through the book of Exodus in my Hebrew Bible. Or perhaps a better way to describe it is creeping my way through! Nevertheless, I just finished chapter five today and was struck by the last phrase.

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A very literal translation of 5:23 says, “Delivering, you have not delivered us!” This is a Hebrew way of making the statement emphatic. That’s why the ESV says, “You have not delivered your people at all,” and the NET says, “You have certainly not rescued them!”

HAS OUR DELIVERER COME?

The context is this. The Lord appears to Moses and promises to deliver the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. So he tells Moses to go back to Egypt and command Pharaoh to let the people go. So Moses goes back. Reluctantly.

When Moses shows up on the scene, the people are slaves. They are forced to work long hours making bricks out of mud and straw. But their hopes are high. Is God going to fulfill the promises he made to our fathers? Has our deliverer finally come?

When Moses goes to Pharaoh, however, and demands he let the people go, Pharaoh does something ruthless. Not only does he refuse to let the people go. He makes their lives worse. As a punishment for Moses’ arrogant demands, Pharaoh forces the people to produce the same amount of bricks. Only now he won’t provide any straw. They have to go gather straw themselves. And they’re beaten when they can’t produce the same amount of bricks as they did before?

NOT THE SALVATION WE HAD IN MIND

Understandably, the people are upset. This can’t be God’s deliverer. He’s brought nothing but trouble on us. So the blame game begins. First it starts with the people toward Moses. In verse 21 they say, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

But then Moses joins the game and blames God. In verses 22-23 Moses turns to God and says, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

“Delivering, You have not delivered us!”

Can you feel the pain in Moses’ voice? The confusion? This is an incredibly tense moment in the narrative. God is in the process of redeeming his people. But the characters in the story don’t really like the way the author has written the book. The people don’t like God’s deliverer. So they want God to judge him, which by the way, is an interesting parallel to Christ. And even God’s deliverer doesn’t seem to be too happy with God. He’s wondering why God even told him to go to Egypt at all.

This wasn’t the salvation anyone had in mind. We thought God was saving us, but it feels like he’s killing us.

But when you read this story in the context of the whole narrative you know that God wins, the people are delivered, and Pharaoh is crushed. So the moral of the story is this: Deliverance often feels like death. But God is still at work.

Question: When has deliverance felt like death and your life? And how did you come to find God at work in the midst of it all? 

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