The question ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey him?’ lies behind every sin. Only in Scripture is found the knowledge that will make one wise to salvation (2Tim.3:15). God took on flesh (1Tim.3:16), and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil.2:10).
Exodus narrates in spectacular colour how Yahweh revealed his sovereign presence in the historical deliverance of his people from Egypt, and in eventually tabernacling among them. The history of redemption tells us a lot about the Lord, particularly in the way he saves. It reveals much about who he is, but only his words provide the meaning of his works, and his Spirit the grace to understand to profit.
Despite initial encouragement from the leaders of Israel (Exod.4:31), things got worse before getting better for the Hebrews. Moses is rebutted by Pharaoh (Exod.5:1-2) and the people are in serious trouble (Exod.5:19). The divine purpose behind this dark providence, for the Egyptians, the Hebrews, and the modern world, is that his power would be revealed (Exod.9:14-16), and be seen to transcend the created order. The text cannot be clearer: all need to know and fear the Lord. And the Hebrews would be witnesses to what God would do to Pharaoh to make him drive them out (Exod.6:1) and draw them to shelter in him. The antithesis begun in Eden (Gen.3:15) is designed to display God’s glory. And Pharaoh’s city-building stands in contrast to the temple-city God is intent on establishing. Two cities are depicted: the city of man and the city of God.
In the furnace of affliction, Israel was to learn to trust the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, trust his word, his ways, his time. This was his drama. He was setting up for a showdown, and at this point even his servants are portrayed as the ones deluded, their reputation in tatters. God’s Church has had many heroes, but it is in God she trusts, not men. Not Moses, but God, saves. Both Pharaoh and Israel’s leaders would learn this. When God’s Word and the dictates of mortals clash there is only ever going to be one result.
Moses statement that the Lord desired Israel to worship him in the desert (Exod.5:1,3) is formative. The text leads one to see Pharaoh choose a collision course as he responds with a defiant ‘Thus says Pharaoh’ (5:10). Pharaoh’s response hold’s no surprise. He is god of Egypt, Lord of the Two Kingdoms! But the Hebrews appear neither to know or trust Yahweh either. Their ignorance of him along with the cares of this life, left them faithless, hopeless, loveless. They too were silently echoing Pharaoh’s question, “Who is the Lord?” Their concern was racial, circumstantial, not theological. Yet their deepest problem was a theological one.
As in the Old Testament, true worship today can only begin with a right view of God, his greatness, his goodness, his Word, his call to service. He alone reserves the right to demand the worship and service of mankind, and determine the worship and service that is pleasing to him. God prepares his people to receive the grace of Christ by making them look up. And if persecution should arise, and one’s reputation end in tatters, the Christian must not lose heart, but burrow into the book of divine revelation, and respond in faith, hope and love in the One who has chosen the Church through whom to reveal his manifold (multicoloured) wisdom (Eph.3:8-13). And all unbiblical attempts at State meddling in the divinely ordained institutions of Church and family do not pass unnoticed, and sooner or later, will be addressed by God’s king (Ps.2).
Let us not be among those outside the Church, or inside the Church, who ask, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice..?’ but, rather, let us be numbered among those devoted to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord (Phil.2:8) and making him known.