Greetings in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Egyptian slave drivers continued to push hard. “Meet your daily quota of bricks, just as you did when we provided you with straw!” they demanded. Then they whipped the Israelite foremen they had put in charge of the work crews. “Why haven’t you met your quotas either yesterday or today?” they demanded.
So The Israelite foremen went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him. “Please don’t treat your servants like this,” they begged. “We are given no straw, but the slave drivers still demand, ‘Make bricks!’ We are being beaten, but it isn’t our fault!! Your own people are to blame!”
But Pharaoh shouted, “You’re just lazy! Lazy! That’s why you’re saying, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to God.’ Now get back to work! No straw will be given to you, but you must still produce the full quota of bricks.”
The Israelite foremen could see that they were in serious trouble when they were told, “You must not reduce the number of bricks you make each day.” As they left Pharaoh’s court, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who were waiting outside for them. The foremen said to them, “May God judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!”
Hearing the Israelite foremen, Moses immediately lost all his strength. He grabbed Aaron not to fall. It was the last thing he wanted to hear from his own people.
Because of his own people, Moses had to live a completely different life for forty years. Moses risked everything, but his own people rejected him. Moses was an Egyptian prince, and he gave up his position to liberate the enslaved Israelites. Then his own people exposed Moses’ murder of a cruel Egyptian slave driver who was about to beat and kill one of the Israelites. Moses, who was highly skilled and trained as one of the top-tier warriors in Egypt as a prince, was able to easily kill the Egyptian slave driver. However, his fellow Israelites did not understand Moses’ motive and heart to save them from slavery and treated Moses as a common murderer and even a threat to their safety. Moses fled to the Midian wilderness to save his own life. Then he spent forty years till his prince’s life became Moses’ forgotten past. The forty years made Moses a humble shepherd in a remote area known as the Midian wilderness, far from Egypt.
Before the above reason, Moses resisted God’s calling to send Moses to Egypt again from the wilderness of Midian. Moses was fully content with his life as a shepherd, and he did not want to involve in the painful business of liberating the Israelites. To Moses, his past forty years were enough. Thus, Moses begged not to send, but God convinced Moses. Then Moses asked someone to speak for him to his people. Moses knew seeing the same people again alone would bring a mental block to his mind. God gave his older brother Aaron as Moses’ spokesperson, who still lived with his enslaved fellow Israelites. Then God left Moses, and Moses accepted God’s calling. It was why Moses was here with the Israelites, but Moses again heard yet another complaint from his fellow Israelites.
“May the LORD judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!” (Exodus 5:21b)
How harsh criticism from Moses’ fellow Israelites! Again, Moses had done everything he could. He took courage, led his fellow Israelites’ elders, and visited Pharaoh to demand freedom. It was not all. Moses confronted an unexpected huge obstacle. The Pharaoh was his old rival prince. When the current Pharaoh was a prince like Moses, he was always the second to Moses. Moses was the first, and the current Pharaoh was the second. The current Pharoah had never been able to be a true competitor to Moses. The Pharaoh was only the best among the princes in Egypt except for Moses. The Pharaoh did not know the shepherd standing before and boldly requesting freedom was Moses. Indeed, there was no way the Pharaoh recognized Moses, who looked exactly like a lowly shepherd from a far remote place.
A quick thought passed through Moses’ brain, “I should have been the Pharaoh, while the current Pharaoh should have had served me still as a prince.” Moses had to fight hard against his feeling coming with this really shocking and confusing fact. Moses endured and proclaimed God’s word as God demanded – “Let my people go.” Then Moses thought, “What did I do wrong? It is not my fault. But what’s going on?”
His people rejected Moses again. For this time, they cursed Moses while asking God to punish Moses. Moses immediately felt God also rejected Moses. God did not protect Moses against Pharaoh and his fellow people speaking evil against him with a true condemning voice. Moses’ patience completely ran out. He was about to explode or collapse. However, his brother Aaron grabbed Moses tightly at that moment.
Aaron knew Moses well, including his heart and feeling at the moment. For the last forty years, Aaron lost his brother Moses and found. Now, Aaron was about to lose his brother Moses again. As the Israelite foremen complained, Aaron was also equally suffering along with his fellow Israelites because of the new added unbearably harsh requirement from the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh intended to punish all Israelites because Moses demanded their freedom. And those slave drivers who blindly executed the Pharaoh’s cruel order. However, Aaron also felt an issue with the Israel foreman, who did not care about what Moses did but only thought about themselves. Yes, the statement reflected their pain, but they should have had limited what they said. Such a harsh, condemning statement can easily destroy anyone who hears it.
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)
If we were Moses at that time, what would be our response? Are we fighting back to be even by making the same condemning statement? Yes, it is how the world does. The fairness of the world is eye to eye and ear to ear. This getting-even fairness is built-in nature in us. We love to execute it in the name of fairness. And all nodded. However, as we try to make even, we tend to inflict more pain on the other party, although we think we have done fairly to be even. In other words, we give back more and inflict a bigger pain than what we have gotten, although we did it fairly. Why?
Human behavioral researchers conducted experiments on how we accurately perceive other person’s pain inflicted on us and reciprocate the same pain to the other under a controlled environment. The scientists asked one human subject to grab the other person’s hand and squeeze it hard to cause pain to the other person. Then, the other person was asked to squeeze the first person’s hand with equal force to give the same pain level. It was a very simple experiment.
From this experimentation, the scientists could see how one person perceives another person’s pain and gives back the same pain level. The result was rather surprising. The researchers found that the pain level reciprocated by the other person was always greater than what was received. However, the human subject said, “I reciprocated what I got as accurately as possible to the other person.” In other words, one’s fairness is quite subjective. Although we try to be fair, we tend to inflict more pain on the other person than we get when we reciprocate because we overestimate our pain while underestimating the other’s pain. The result reveals our very nature in us. We tend to put more weight on our pain while discounting others’ pain, although we want to be fair by being even with the other person. This is one of the sources of our sinfulness that we do without thinking. In short, our fairness is not so fair, which is quite distorted by our fallen nature favoring ourselves over the other.
Therefore, when we get a harsh statement, we should be calm first and carefully examine ourselves. If not, we will surely give back more than we’ve got. Then what would we expect next? The other person would return “fairly” by giving back more pain. Then we judge the other, “Why does this person unreasonable and behaving unfairly to us?” Then we will give back the same pain to demonstrate our superior mortal being fair under the unfair situation. Then what’s the result? Both parties will quickly escalate the situation to be fair and get even with each other. Then both parties feel, “I am the victim. I am fair, but the other person is not fair and unreasonable. Then should I continue to be patient with this person?” The situation could go even to a real extreme. In fairness and justice, one person physically harms or sometimes even kills one’s annoying, unfair, unreasonable, and evil opponent.
Then how to stop this vicious cycle of escalating the confrontation in the name of our own perceived fairness and justice? We now know that our effort to be fair cannot be a solution. Our brain is not wired to be fair because we are self-centered and have a distorted mind.
The concept of fairness is deeply rooted in all living beings, including both animals and us. Therefore, the simplest answer to stop the escalating hostility is abandoning “fairness” in our hearts and minds. Surely, it is very hard. Even chimpanzees, elephants, and dogs know what’s fairness (in their own centric view) and demand their own “perceived” fairness. Some animals refused to eat when they felt unfair. Getting rid of this deeply rooted “perceived” fairness is practically impossible, which means denying who we are as living beings.
Let’s see how Moses responded at this time. Did Moses throw his staff received from God, which was packed with God’s miracles, on the ground to the Israel foremen who did not appreciate at all what Moses did but harshly criticized Moses? Surely, Moses could turn his staff into a vicious snake to bite the Israel foremen to be fair and get even with them. Moses also kept hearing what his mind said, “If I turn my staff into a vicious snake, it will teach the lesson that they never forget. There will be no more complaints from them anymore.” Indeed, it is not just Moses’ mind telling to Moses, but the world teaches and tells what we should do. Let them pay first and give a strong message to prevent any future retaliation is the world’s wisdom.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. (Romans 12:14)
No! Moses did not retaliate against the Israel foremen in the name of fairness, although Moses was capable. Moses was tempted to give a strong message by teaching a lesson to the Israel foremen. Moses stared at his hand, holding God’s staff tightly, for a while, whether he played God or not. Moses kept hearing his own voice in his head, “Oh, no! Yet again! I have to be even with them and teach them a lesson so that they follow me from now on rather than oppose me. The best defense is a decisive offense. By demonstrating my power, I will eliminate all future possibilities of being rejected by them.” This voice rapidly circled in his head a thousand times (a figurative speech) in a split second.
Moses had a choice, and the Israelite’s foremen complained mindlessly without truly appreciating what Moses did. While Moses was struggling, Aaron kept holding Moses tight and even tighter, which led Moses to start to feel God, who held him firmly through Aaron’s hand. God was with him throughout the disastrous moment. Moses thought that he was on the verge of getting again the same most painful experience in his life, which happened forty years ago. Moses’ brain kept telling, “Once is enough, isn’t it?” However, God’s hand was even stronger. Then Moses was able to hear yet another subtle but powerful message from God, “I love you, Moses.” Then it was getting louder and louder.
Moses’ hand was already halfway up and was about to cast God’s staff to throw it to the Israel foremen. Moses stopped raising his hand and slowly lowered it As lowing his hand, Moses’ past forty years went through his brain quickly: the killing of the Egyptian slave drive, his people’s rejection, fleeing to the Midian wilderness, meeting the Jethro family, getting married to Zipporah, living as an ordinary shepherd, many sleepless nights analyzing and reanalyzing his failure, and most of all the rejection from his own people, meeting God, receiving God’s mission to freeing the enslaved Israelites, meeting the ex-rival prince Pharaoh, being frustrated, being overpowered by the Pharaoh’s majestic power, fear induced by the solemn look of the Pharaoh, inability to delivery God’s message intact, backfire of his partially delivered God’s message being tainted by his own worldly wisdom and cowardness, his people’s suffering, and the condemning message of his own people’s foremen. Then all of these were quickly reduced to a whisper, but God’s voice was getting louder and louder to fill up entire Moses’ heart and mind.
Moses, then, looked up to Heaven instead of the Israel foremen complaining and cursing at Moses. They were getting smaller while God was getting bigger in him. Yes, Moses was firmly and fully with God again as God was with Moses through the burning bushes. Moses clearly heard God, “I will be with you.” Moses, then, truly felt God’s presence. Moses’ heart and mind again tell God’s mission, received through the burning bushes:
Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9,10)
Moses then looked at the complaining people. They were the people he had to save and care for. They were the people whom God loved, and God sent Moses to take care of them in the name of God, not to be even and to be fair with them, although they acted badly to Moses. Moses felt sympathy for them rather than the burning heart of getting even with them, who poured out curses at Moses. Moses also appreciated God’s patience with him while being always good to him for the last forty years.
As Moses’ heart was cooling down quickly, Moses was able to see his sin. He finally questioned what the message he gave to Pharaoh was? Moses recited in his heart the message. Moses was able to hear what he said.
“The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.” (Exodus 5:3b)
Moses realized how cowardly he was! As a part of his message to Pharaoh, he made God a monster who would kill His own people if His own people did not obey God’s order. It was not intentional, but he said it out of his good intention: allowing Pharaoh to be a hero who would save the Israelites from the monster God. Then Pharaoh would get the credit, and God would get what God wanted – freeing the Israelites out of Egypt. What a brilliant strategy! A small sacrifice of God’s name would temporarily return a huge success. It was a brilliant strategy of getting two birds with one stone.
However, it was a sin. Moses found that he sinned against God. Why had he made such a sinful statement before the Pharaoh and asked Aaron to deliver the message? At the core of the message, there was Moses’ fear of the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was a mere human, and although the Pharaoh set high on his majestic throne.
Additionally, when the Pharaoh was a prince like Moses, he was not even close to matching Moses. Moses was the first, and the Pharaoh was always the second. Moses feared the Pharaoh because he saw the Pharaoh’s splendor and majestic power. After all, Moses was a mere human, weak to the world and sinful. As soon as Moses found his sin committed before God, Moses knew what to do next.
First, Moses said thank you to his brother Aaron who held tight Moses when he needed God most. Moses could not even stand after the shocking cursing complaint from the Israelite foremen. Now, Moses regained his strength and posture. Moses gently responded to the Israel foremen with smiles.
Moses realized that it was a matter between God and him, not with the foremen and even his brother Aaron. Moses immediately returned to God, and prayed. He prayed first for God’s forgiveness. God gladly accepted Moses’ prayer and forgave Moses’ sin. God then removed the barrier between God and Moses, which was originated from Moses’ fear of the world, including the Pharaoh and his own people.
For this time, Moses made a firm determination not to fail again but to succeed. Thus, Moses had to use all kinds of means. For success, Moses reckoned, “It should be ok if I slightly modify God’s message to make easy to the Pharaoh.” What a disaster outcome would be if Moses took the worldly choice and succeeded! It was not the case. Moses learned the hard way. The aftermath was returning to the same failure. He was about to lose his fellow enslaved Israelites again.
Moses did not choose worldly fairness against the complaining Israelite foremen, although they cursed at Moses, and God also did not intervene and upheld him when Moses needed God most. However, if God sided with Moses, it could have had completely ruined Moses. Instead, God patiently waited for Moses. God had already waited for forty years. God waited again for Moses to see whether Moses truly overcame the sinful human nature of being fair to Moses’ satisfaction or not.
God became extremely happy with Moses because Moses returned to God although Moses could have had gone away from God forever. It was a truly scarcely moment of losing Moses forever. Even so, God waited for Moses’ return. And Moses returned to God. The forty years’ special lesson of God worked! Moses proved his faith in God. God heard Moses’ prayer, and God poured God’s spirit on Moses. Moses could continue God’s monumental mission of saving God’s people from the Egyptians.
Yes, God is good. His goodness is unfathomable. His goodness is second to none. He always gives the best. He had never given the second-best. Then God always waits for us very patiently. As long as we are on the earth, we surely will meet a heartbreaking situation as Moses experienced. Then let’s not forget God is patient, infinitely good to us. Even at this moment, God is waiting for our return. He is good, and His goodness is unfathomable. We will praise His name forever.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the LORD.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12:19-21)