And I was surprised by something.
I was expecting, because we all know this story, to find Moses walking up to Pharaoh and saying "Let my people go!"
But that's not quite what you find in the first encounter between Moses and Pharaoh as recounted in Exodus 5. What you get is this:
Exodus 5.1Yes, we get the demand "Let my people go." But it's not a demand to leave Egypt. It's a demand for liberation and freedom to worship.
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
The demand is this: "Let my people go worship."
Pharaoh, we know, refuses and makes the Israelites work harder. They have to continue making bricks and make the same quotas but they have to gather their own straw.
All overworked people know the refrain.
More bricks, less straw.
And what's interesting to note in Pharaoh's reaction is that he assumes that a request for worship is symptomatic of laziness:
Exodus 5.8, 17-18What I find interesting in all this is how the worship of God is perceived to interrupt the work and quotas demanded by Pharaoh. The tension, at least here in the beginning of Exodus, isn't the clash between slavery and liberation but the clash between worship and work.
[Pharaoh said to the Israelite overseers:] "Require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’"
Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”
I don't know about you, but that conflict seems extraordinarily relevant to our time and place.
Will not the worship of God interrupt, disrupt and interfere with the constant demands for more and more work?
Will not the worship of God interrupt, disrupt and interfere with the constant demands for greater and greater productivity?
Will not the worship of God interrupt, disrupt and interfere with the quotas demanded by the Pharaohs of capitalism?
And will not the worship of God in our time and place be ultimately perceived as laziness?
"Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.'"