ciwlogo_sm.gif Making Bricks Without Straw

Sermon Text: Exodus 5:1-23

1 Then afterwards Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so they may celebrate a festival to me in the desert.’ ”

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go either.”

3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us go, please, a three days journey into the desert and sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with the plague or with the sword.”

4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you causing the people to leave their work? Go to your labors!” 5 Then Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you are making them cease from their labors.”

6 On that same day Pharaoh commanded the slave-drivers over the people and their foremen, saying, 7 “You are no longer to give straw to the people to make bricks as before. They themselves must go and gather straw for themselves. 8 And the number of bricks, which they were making before, you will impose upon them; you will not reduce that number. Because they are lazy, therefore they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let the labor be burdensome upon the men, and let them labor at it, so they will not care about lying words.”

10 So the slave-drivers of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I am not giving any straw to you. 11 You yourselves go, fetch straw for yourselves from wherever you can find it, but none of your labor will be reduced.’ ”

12 So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 And the slave-drivers were pressing them on, saying, “Complete your work, the daily number of bricks in its day as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom the slave-drivers of Pharaoh had set over them, were beaten, saying, “Why have you not completed your appointed tally for making bricks yesterday and today, as previously done?”

15 Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, “Why have you done thus to your servants? 16 There is no straw given to your servants, yet they are saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold your servants are being beaten; and it is the fault of your people.”

17 But he said, “You are lazy! Lazy! Therefore you are saying, ’Let us go, let us sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 So now go! Work! For straw will not be given to you. Yet you must make the appointed tally of bricks.”

19 The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in a bad situation as a result of it being said, “You shall not reduce your daily tally of bricks on its day.” 20 And when they went out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who were standing there to meet them. 21 And they said to them, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you! For you have made our scent stink in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.”

22 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why then have you sent me? 23 For since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have surely not delivered your people.”

Sermon:

How did your last week go for you? Good? Bad? The same old thing? Whether you are a student or hold a job or are a full time homemaker, how did your work week go for you? Were you eager to rise in the morning to get started? Or, did you dread getting up to have to go to work?

Some people dread their work. They hate their job. They would love to get out of it. Often they cannot. They feel they are stuck there until they can retire. Maybe this describes you. Maybe you feel like the fictional character in Dante’s Inferno, whose torture on his level of hell was having to roll a large boulder up a hill. Whenever he finally had rolled it up near the crest, however, he ran out of strength. The boulder then rolled back down over him to the bottom of the hill. He then had to go down and start rolling it up all over again. He had to do this endlessly.

Work can be hard and torturous. We all may have felt this about our work at times, even when we have a job that we like. We should be able to sympathize, then, with what we can learn from this sermon text. “Building Bricks Without Straw: Increases Our Burdens and Makes Us Ask ‘Why?’ ”

The details of this text are well known. After standing in the presence of God at the burning bush, Moses returned to Egypt, obedient to the Lord’s command to lead Israel out of slavery. Moses went with the Lord’s promise that he would deliver his people from bondage in Egypt.

Moses, together with his brother Aaron, went to Pharaoh. He told him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so they may celebrate a festival to me in the desert.’ ”

In that ancient age every nation had its own gods. The Lord was not the God of Egypt. The gods of Egypt were the powers and forces within nature, like the sun and moon. Pharaoh did not recognize the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, as the God to whom he owed obedience and honor. The Lord meant nothing to him. With contempt Pharoah said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go either.”

Then Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us go, please, a three days journey into the desert and sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with the plague or with the sword.” Moses and Aaron asserted that the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, was commanding that they be released to worship him in the desert.

But Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you causing the people to leave their work? Go to your labors! Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you are making them cease from their labors.”

Pharaoh became angry. If Moses and Aaron stopped all those Hebrew slaves from working, all of Pharaoh’s manpower would be lost. The production he wanted out of them would fall to nothing. No way would he allow this to happen. He told Moses and Aaron to get back to work.

Outraged, on that same day Pharaoh commanded the slave-drivers over the people and their foremen, “You are no longer to give straw to the people to make bricks as before. They themselves must go and gather straw for themselves. And the number of bricks, which they were making before, you will impose upon them; you will not reduce that number. Because they are lazy, therefore they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let the labor be burdensome upon the men, and let them labor at it, so they will not care about lying words.”

Pharaoh commanded his slave-drivers to order the Hebrew foremen to make the Israelite slaves make bricks without being given the straw with which to make those bricks. The slaves would have to go out to gather up their own straw to use as the binder to strengthen the bricks. This additional work load would be laid upon them while they must still produce the same quota of bricks they had previously produced.

Needless to say, Pharaoh’s demand was unreasonable. There was no way the Hebrew slaves could produce the same quota of bricks with double the work load. Following Pharaoh's orders the slave-drivers of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I am not giving any straw to you. You yourselves go, fetch straw for yourselves from wherever you can find it, but none of your labor will be reduced.’ ”

So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. And the slave-drivers were pressing them on, saying, “Complete your work, the daily number of bricks in its day as when there was straw.” The Hebrew foremen pressed them to make their daily quota, but their slaves did not. And the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom the slave-drivers of Pharaoh had set over them, were beaten. The slave-drivers asked, “Why have you not completed your appointed tally for making bricks yesterday and today, as previously done?”

The Israelite foremen appealed to Pharaoh himself. They came and cried out to Pharaoh, “Why have you done thus to your servants? There is no straw given to your servants, yet they are saying to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold your servants are being beaten; and it is the fault of your people.”

The foremens’ appeals to Pharaoh netted them nothing, however. Pharaoh told them, “You are lazy! Lazy! Therefore you are saying, ’Let us go, let us sacrifice to the Lord.’ So now go! Work! For straw will not be given to you. Yet you must make the appointed tally of bricks.”

Pharaoh typified the heathen of this world. The Lord means nothing to them. They hold him in contempt. They are hostile to him and refuse to obey him. They can also be quite hostile to the Lord’s Christian people, taking their contempt for the Lord and his Word out on the Christians.

The Christians’ situation is made even worse when they must work for such ungodly, contemptuous heathen. In the work place such heathen employers and managers do not care a fig about the Lord, his Word, or his people. The only thing that matters to them is having warm bodies on the job to do the work. All they care about is their production and profits, and that there is no waste, losses, or loafing on the job. When competition is keen, or there is a recession, and their profits are at stake, they down-size their personal and double the work load on the employees still remaining, expecting those left to produce double the amount of work--without giving them double the wages to compensate them. Should a Christian tell his heathen boss he can’t work overtime because he intends to go to church to worship the Lord or to attend a Bible class, the boss becomes angry, thinks the Christian is lazy and unco-operative, and he gives the Christian a hard time.

Many of you work for companies and corporations that have down-sized their personal and doubled the work loads on those of you who are left. You now must produce twice as much, and work double the hours, even on week ends, without receiving any more pay to show for it. The eight hour a day job has generally vanished. Long gone are the days when husbands supported their families themselves and worked only an eight hour job to do it.

If you are working for a heathen slave-driver who insists you make bricks without straw, your situation is anything but enviable. Your stress level is up to the peak of Mt. Everest. Your patience is down to the level of the abyss. Your hope of relief has vanished like a ship in the fog. You perhaps find yourself asking, “Doesn’t the Lord know what I am up against?”

Yes, the Lord knows. And he cares, just as cared about the Israelites oppressive slavery and having to make bricks without straw. Trust that the Lord will help you and uphold you and bring you through it. He says in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not look fearfully about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; what is more, I will help you; moreover, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

As for yourself, what can you do? Well, if you are a believer in Jesus, remember that you are a redeemed child of God. Jesus Christ has bought you with his holy, precious blood, cleansing you from your sins, and making you an heir of heaven. In heaven there are no slave-drivers and no having to make bricks without straw. Remembering this, give yourself to the Lord and do your work for him, who loved you so much that he gave his Son Jesus to save you from your sins and all the troubles and wretchedness that we suffer in this world. Don’t work to please the slave-driver or to gain recognition for yourself. Rather, as Paul wrote in Colossians 3:22-24, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in all things, not just when they are watching you, as ones who are trying to please men, but with sincerity of heart, giving reverence to the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it from the depth of your soul, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance – salvation. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Working under a slave-driver who demands you make bricks without straw is discouraging, as it was for the Israelites and their Hebrew foremen. The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in a bad situation as a result of it being said, “You shall not reduce your daily tally of bricks on its day.” And when they went out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who were standing there to meet them. And they said to them, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you! For you have made our scent stink in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.” The foremen were so discouraged and despairing of their situation that they called on the Lord to judge Moses and Aaron for making their work and lives so miserable.

Moses himself became discouraged over the turn of events. He returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why then have you sent me? For since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have surely not delivered your people.”

Notice that Moses asked, “Why, Lord? Why have you brought this trouble on your people? Why did you send me to Pharaoh in the first place, if trouble was all that was to come of it? Why have you not rescued the Israelites from this oppression?”

Why? Why? Why? Does this question sound familiar? Don’t we ask the same question of the Lord and demand an explanation when times for us are hard? I know I have fallen into asking the Lord why he has allowed this or that to happen to me. I hear Christians as well asking, “Why?” “Why doesn’t the Lord do something about my suffering?” “Why does the Lord allow me to remain incapacitated?” “Why doesn’t the Lord bless my work and give me a chance to get ahead once, instead of allowing me to slave only to get further behind than I was?” “Why?”

While “why” is a question that our sinful human nature wants to ask, “why” is a question that we should not ask. Faith is trusting the Lord, not doubting him and his reasons and not demanding an explanation that will satisfy us. He is the Lord God almighty. He does as he pleases and what he knows is good and right. Who are we to demand that he answer to us? By faith we will accept the fact that the Lord’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. By faith we will trust our Lord knows what he is doing and why. By faith we will believe that he knows what is best for us, even though it may seem contrary to what we think is best for us. By faith we will accept what is his will for us, rather than demand that our will be done.

Theologically speaking, there are two wills of God: his revealed will, which he has made known to us in the Bible; and his unrevealed will, which is hidden from us and which he keeps to himself. We ought to content ourselves with exploring his revealed will in the Bible without trying to peer into his hidden will, which is really none of our business. He is the Lord God, and we ought to allow him to be such and to keep his own will and reasons to himself. If he wanted us to know what is in his hidden will, he would have told us.

We are all guilty of asking, “Why?” and doubting the Lord’s good and gracious will for us when his will is that we suffer hardship. Jesus died for our doubts and sinful demands on the Lord, as he died for all our sins. In his blood they have been purified. We can thank Jesus that we will not have to suffer the eternal punishment for our doubts and for our challenges to the Lord’s will for us.

Grateful for the Lord’s forgiveness of our sins, the next time we are tempted to ask why we are experiencing this hardship or suffering that tribulation, we will remember that the Lord chastises those whom he loves. He uses afflictions to prevent our straying from him and to draw us closer to him. David wrote in Psalm 119 that before he was afflicted he went astray, but afterwards he obeyed the Lord's word. David said that it was good for him to have been afflicted so that he might learn the Lord's decrees. Let us also remember that the Lord uses suffering to test our faith to see if we will doubt him and his goodness, or that we will rely on him and his better judgment of what is good for us. Will we complain? Or, will we trust and wait on him to deliver us?

Whether we find ourselves having to make bricks without straw or suffering some tribulation, our burden is increased. On those occasions let us resist asking why and simply trust the Lord is leading us for our own good. His ultimate reason for whatever we are up against is to keep us on the path to heaven, where we will never have to suffer or make bricks without straw again. Amen.



Unpublished work. Copyright 1998 JCS of Christian Inconnect. All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced for distribution or publication without prior permission from Christian Inconnect.

All Scripture verses on this web page, unless otherwise indicated, are a translation of the pastor of Christian Inconnect and are a part of the Christian Inconnect Version (CIV), on which he is working. He reserves all rights to his translated verses and to their copyright ©. They may not be quoted without his prior permission.
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