Sometimes, in the midst of discouragement, it’s hard to see the blessings of God.
As an example, consider this morning’s Scripture reading.
For all the blessings God had given Abraham (an eternal covenant), Isaac (spared from death on a sacrificial altar!), and Jacob (sons who would be the patriarchs of Israel), there was something He withheld from them. His unique, covenant name of Yaheweh was not revealed to them (Ex. 6:3). They knew Him as God Almighty. They knew Him as Creator. But they did not know Him by His special, covenant name.
But Moses did. And Aaron did. And the Israelites in Egypt did. In fact, notice all the times and ways that God identifies Himself as their covenant God in chapter 6 —
- “I have remembered My covenant” (v. 5)
- “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (v. 6)
- “I will deliver you from their bondage” (v. 6)
- “I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments” (v. 6)
- “Then I will take you for My people” (v. 7)
- “I will be your God” (v. 7)
- “you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (v. 7)
- “I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (v. 8)
- “I will give it to you for a possession” (v. 8)
- “I am the LORD” (v. 8)
In ten distinct statements, God identified Himself to Moses in unique ways and affirmed His promises to the nation — and all of those declarations were summed up in the concise statement “I am the Lord.” And having identified Himself in these ways to Moses, God told Moses, “Tell this to the sons of Israel (v. 6).
And Moses did tell them — “So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel…” (v. 9).
Now you would think that such a message and sermon would bring great encouragement and hope to the people. You would think there would have been much rejoicing and gratitude. “God is the Lord and He is our Lord and He will save us!”
Instead, “they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage” (v. 9)
They did not listen to Moses. They could not (no, would not) hear him because of their despondency. This word “despondency” is more literally “a short spirit,” or “an impatient spirit.” It came from a word that reflected inability, powerlessness, decline, listlessness, when “short” was used in combination with another word like “spirit” (as here), it came to mean distress, anxiety of spirit, impatience, anger, or despondency.
Why did they respond this way? Because of their “cruel bondage.” At the moment of Moses’ message, all they could “hear” was the cruel message of Pharaoh that they not only had to keep making their quota of bricks, but they were also now required to provide their own straw for those bricks. And when they couldn’t meet the standard, the people were beaten and threatened with death.
In other words, they were impatient and angry with Moses (and God) for their admittedly horrible circumstances — so angry that they were unwilling to hear of the gracious provision of God. They were unwilling to look to God for help. As Philip Ryken has noted, to the seven “I wills” of God’s salvation, the nation responded, “I won’t.” He continues,
They were not impressed with God’s mighty power or his ability to remember his covenant. They were unmoved by his promises of deliverance and conquest. They reused to believe that he was their Saviour and their Lord. They didn’t even care what his name was; they just wouldn’t listen.
In foolishness, the Israelites allowed their short-sighted spirit and disposition taint their understanding of a clear declaration of God’s person and provision. Their situation was not being resolved in a time frame of their choosing, so they decided their trust had been misplaced and betrayed. And depression and anger overtook their hearts.
Here is a gracious warning for believers today: when circumstances prove difficult, listen for the Word of the Lord. When circumstances are tiresome, do not listen to the ungodly inclinations of your heart. When circumstances are fearful, do not look at the circumstances, but look to the Lord of the circumstances, who is using them for His good purposes to conform you to the image of His Son.
In the case of Israel, their hardship was part of God’s means to free His people from the bondage of Egypt. But difficulty may not always result in freedom — sometimes it may result in even greater hardship and even death (think, “brought safely into His heavenly kingdom”). But every trial is an opportunity for us to see afresh the provision of God and trust the One who has given the ultimate “I will” of salvation in Christ so that no man may ultimately hurt us.