The Taskmasters

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The Taskmasters

Exodus 5:1–6:13

Bricks without Straw

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’ ” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.” But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!” Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!” That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”

So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.’ ” So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw.” And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?”

Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, “Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.” He said, “You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.” The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, “You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks.” As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. They said to them, “The Lord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”

Israel’s Deliverance Assured1

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.”

God also spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name ‘The Lord’ I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’ ” Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.” But Moses spoke to the Lord, “The Israelites have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me, poor speaker that I am?” Thus the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them orders regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, charging them to free the Israelites from the land of Egypt. “

Revelation 3:7–13

The Message to Philadelphia

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of the holy one, the true one,

who has the key of David,

who opens and no one will shut,

who shuts and no one opens:

“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

Do you ever wonder where your taxes go? Here is one assessment I found based on the 2015 fiscal year.

One of the big differences of opinion in the US, as well as many other nations is the function of taxes. Some perceive taxes as being contracted payments for services rendered, such as military defense, infrastructure, and other services shown above. One question about this perspective has to do with percentage based taxes. If Bill Gates has payed 100 times more taxes than me, should he receive 100 times more service? This may seem a bit of an abstract an impractical way of looking at it when it comes to defending the nation from foreign threats, but what about local ones? Should the rich receive preferential treatment from the local police because it is the rich that pay most of their wages? What about the poor who cannot afford to pay them much, if anything? Should they be protected by the police as well?

Others perceive taxes as a particular duty required to be part of society, sort of like dues owed a union or or subscription to a network. Amazon Prime is a good example of this. For $100/year you get access to movies, music, and free 2-day shipping – an assortment of somewhat unrelated services outside of the connection they have through Amazon.

Still others believe you pay taxes not for present or future services, but out of gratitude for past services and loyalty to leadership. It is also an investment in the future to be sure that leadership can continue. This comes as support for political parties and/or political leaders.

What do these perspectives on taxes have to do with Moses? The fact that in Egypt, during the events of the Exodus, there were multiple perspectives on their slavery and the work they were doing. Remember Moses, who was one of their own, but raised in the palace instead of in the work fields, did not oppose slavery on principle. His initial act of defiance was against the mistreatment of slaves. The Egyptian royalty certainly were in favor of and dependent upon slave labor to varying degrees. But the people we often forget in this story are the middle management… the taskmasters.

One day they’re told to let the slaves go, the next day they’re told to get them back. Then Pharaoh changes his mind and tells them to let the slaves go again… Until the next day… And so on, and so on. With the slaves off work, guess who takes their place? The taskmasters and their families. It is Labor Day in Egypt, and business owners are left doing all the work themselves. The owners are trying to seat people, take orders, cook the food, and collect the bills themselves. You can imagine the chaos this would cause happening across an entire nation over the course of several weeks. This chaos is probably part of how the Hebrews got out so easily and managed to take so many of their positions on the way. Those taskmasters and their families, many of whom were probably guilty of mistreating the Hebrews, suffered through the 10 plagues because of decisions made by their bosses. In the end, they lost their firstborn children because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness, and their unquestioning loyalty following his orders to kill all the Hebrew children decades before.

The message to the Church in Philadelphia was a reminder that, like the Hebrew slaves, God had chosen them to be honored in His kingdom and had noticed their patient perseverance in waiting on Him. God’s favor was not something that could be bought like services through taxes. Nor is it favor earned through loyalty. It is a gift. We cannot earn it, we can only choose if we want to keep it or reject it. We have the choice to go through the doors that God opens for us. God is making all things new, and if we get hung up on the past we will miss out on the great gift He has for us today.Tweet: God is making all things new, and if we get hung up on the past we will miss out on the great gift He has for us today.

Those Egyptian taskmasters were so ingrained into Egyptian society that they could not pull away, repent, turn to God, and be saved. They, like Pharaoh himself, felt they had too much to lose because they did not know what they stood to gain. In the end, they lost it all.

What do you stand to lose by following God?

What do you stand to gain?

Are you trying to manage your life with God or are you trusting him enough to follow where He leads?

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  1. (Ex 3:1–4:17)

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