In our study of Exodus chapter five, we look at how the devil uses busyness to distract God's people from worship. We will see how this tactic was used against God's people in Egypt as well as in our world today.
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, 'This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: "Let my people go, so they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness."' Pharaoh said, 'Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.' Then they said, 'The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.' But the king of Egypt said, 'Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!' Then Pharaoh said, 'Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.'
As we saw in chapter 4, Moses and Aaron had met with the leaders of Israel. As a result of that meeting, the people turned back to worshiping God. As we see here, they went back to observing the Sabbath day of rest. Before this, they had probably been working seven days a week and accomplishing much for the king of Egypt.
That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 'You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But 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." Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.' 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.
Instead of allowing the people to continue to worship God, Pharaoh increased their workload so that they would not have time to worship. This is the same thing that Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Sower. There, Jesus spoke of a seed falling among thorns being choked out. He went on to explain that the thorns were the worries of this world. In the last days, the same tactic is used as a man must work an entire day just to get enough food to feed himself (see Revelation 6:6).
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?'
The slave drivers were responsible for getting the work done and had to answer to Pharaoh. They had appointed overseers to get the slaves to do their work but they could not keep up and gather the materials that were required. The overseers would have been the equivalent to the tax collectors of the New Testament. They were a part of the system that exploited their fellow Israelites and were probably despised in the same way.
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 realized they were in trouble when they were told, 'You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.'
The overseers appealed to Pharaoh but it was no use. That reminds us of the fact that, we all must make a choice of whether we are a part of the world or a part of Christ. There is no room for people sitting on the fence like the overseers or tax collectors.
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.'
As we have seen, the devil uses busyness to attempt to draw God's children away from Him. It leads to a lack of faith and worship of God which in turn creates conflict with those who are trusting in the Lord.
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.'
Lack of worship not only divides God's people but it also creates distance between God and His people. The strife between Moses and the leaders of the Israelites led Moses to question God and His motives. Moses displayed a lack of faith (trust) in God as he said that God did not rescue His people. God had already given Moses the details of what He was going to do but, with the conflict between him and the Israelite leaders, he questioned God's timing. We all must admit that, even as Christians, we sometimes wonder about God's purpose and timing.