These are the words of Moses in response to Pharaoh’s first display of rebellion against God’s command. Actually, the full quote is “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 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” (Exodus 5:22-23). You can hear the despair in Moses’ voice, the hopelessness in his prayer. It almost sounds like “I quit!” But would you or I respond any different in this situation? Remember what has happened up to this point.
Moses came to Pharaoh, requesting a weekend worship get-a-way for God’s people. Pharaoh’s response? “You Hebrews must have too much time on your hands if you want to take a weekend trip to the desert for worship. Instead of wasting my time providing you with straw to make bricks, since you have all this free time, you can go find your own straw!” This was no little thing. The daily life of these Hebrew slaves was no walk in the park and now, because of Moses’ request, their daily struggle went from difficult to impossible. You can see their broken spirit as first they respond to Pharaoh (Ex. 5:14-16) and then they unload on Moses (Ex 5:21).
So, we can understand Moses’ heart. He was asking the question most anyone would be asking: “Why?!” But let’s take a moment and look a little more closely at what is going on and what Moses missed.
Moses entered this mission with certain expecations and here they reveal themselves. He expected a quick deliverance (although God had told him it would take time and that time had a purpose-Ex. 4:21-23). When those expectations were dashed upon the rocks of God’s providence and plan -when God’s people went from waste deep to neck deep- Moses stopped trusting and started challenging (“you have not delivered your people at all”). So, what did Moses miss?
Let’s look at this scene through the question, “What if Moses had got his way?” What if he walked into Pharaoh’s palace, dropped the demand: “Let my people go!” and Pharaoh said, “OK. Have a good trip. Be back on Monday.” What then? Wouldn’t be much of a story, would it? How much would God’s strength and power and wonder be on display if things had worked out that way? Yeah, it would be an easier path for Moses and the Hebrews short term to be sure, but would there be Psalms written about it (like 105, 135, 136) or would it serve to support the faith of generations as they reflected on the Almighty I AM Who can deliver His people? I think the answer is obvious.
Yet, Moses couldn’t see the long term outcome from his position of frustration. He didn’t really know where all of this was heading and how foundational this event would be in the life of the nation. Only God ultimately knew His design and end. But Moses should have known one thing- God knew what He was doing. God always does, and His way is always good and never “evil.”
But here is the rub- sometimes it might feel that way. Some days it might feel like God is doing evil to His people, doing evil to us. We, just like Moses, have our own expectations and sometimes the rocks of God’s providence do serious damage to them. However, the next time you find yourself standing there, holding the shattered pieces of your plans in your hands, remember good old Moses. Remember his example of the danger of being “short sighted.” Remember that God is good and His plan is never evil. And then realize that when you truly see His entire plan unfold, when you see His design and end and how He brought you to it, you’ll probably want to write a song or two yourself.