Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, ‘This is what Pharaoh says: “I will not give you any more straw. Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.”’ So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, ‘Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.’ And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, ‘Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?’ Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: ‘Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, “Make bricks!” Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.’ 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.’
The Israelite overseers realised they were in trouble when they were told, ‘You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.’ When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, ‘May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’
Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.’
Exodus 5: 10-23
Standing up and speaking out on behalf of a group of people can be a difficult task to take on. Especially when speaking up against a powerful leader and not everyone appreciates why you are doing so. I find myself reading this passage after a week considering and reflecting on the effects of the Holocaust and that gives it, for me, a very particular slant. Often it can seem as if the better thing to do would be to put up with oppression, keep your head down and avoid what you know to be right. However, if we do that, then oppression and abuse of power will always continue and persevere. Moses doubted his role and yet, finding strength in God, continued to speak out, eventually leading his people out of Egypt. We too can take our strength from the Lord, enabling us to speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves.
May we always find the courage
not to stand by and take the easy path
when we see injustice and oppression.
May we find that strength and courage
in your loving protection.
Lucy Cooke is an Elder in the Northern Synod, a worship leader, and supports her synod with safeguarding work.
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