It was not a matter I discussed in last Sunday’s sermon, but I’ve always wondered about it.  I’m referring to the request that Moses presents to Pharaoh, “We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.”  This reflects God’s initial revelation to Moses at Mt. Sinai (see Ex. 3:18).  “But wait a minute,” you reply.  “Was God really expecting the Israelites would leave Egypt for just three days and then return after a worship service in the desert?”  This question has been debated for years.  Was God resorting to a ruse to get Pharaoh to release the people and then keep going until they reached the Promised Land? Was God instructing Moses to lie?  Given our current Sunday school discussion regarding Ethics this is a valid question.  In his book, “Hard Sayings of the Old Testament, follows the explanation of Augustine and gives this rationale, “God deliberately graded his requests of Pharaoh by first placing before him a fairly simple pleas that the people of Israel be allowed a three-day journey into the wilderness after which they would return.  True, this first plea would lead to requests increasingly more difficult for Pharaoh to grant; however, they would each prepare Pharaoh to do what he might otherwise be unprepared to do.  Had Pharaoh complied with this request, the Israelites could not have exceeded the bounds of this permission.  After returning to Egypt they would have needed to present a series of such pleas leading to the final request for full release.  Here we can see God’s tender love and concern for Pharaoh.  This king is more than just a pawn in the plan of God.  And Israel was responsible to honor the “powers that be.” (Kaiser pg. 64)  It makes me think that for all of us, obedience and submission to God’s will is a learned skill.  We need to take small steps of compliance as a prelude to larger steps which require more faith.  Also, as we interact with those who have been living in submission to God, we should demonstrate patience.  What may look like incomplete obedience may in fact be a small, but significant step toward obedience.  A three-day journey may be just the right place to start, but not the end of the process.

Pastor Mark

Leave a Reply.