16 ¶ Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: 17 And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. 18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 19 And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. 20 And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty: 22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.
God gives Moses instructions. Imagine the thoughts of the elders of Israel as this fugitive from Pharaoh’s court, wanted for murder, having disappeared for years not only returns but announces that Jehovah God, the God their fathers worshipped appeared to him and is intent upon delivering them from the bondage of Egypt and returning them to Canaan. It is a bountiful land and a land in which they will prosper. He and the elders are to go to confront Pharaoh, the most powerful man in their world with the power of life and death over them from whom there is no appeal, and demand that the people of Israel be permitted to go three days journey into the wilderness to engage in an act of worship to their God. God also tells him that Pharaoh will not let them go until a magnificent display of power from God forces him to do so. In fact, the Egyptians will be glad to get rid of them and will bestow on them much wealth and personal property in the form of precious jewels and valuable things.
You can imagine Moses’ consternation. You want me to what?!?! Here is an encounter between a finite, frail human being and the God of the universe. See things from each of their perspectives, not knowing versus all-knowing. Moses, in a movie setting, might be looking around for a rock to hide behind.
This brings up a valuable point. Notice that God tells Moses to lie to the Pharaoh. Even though it is highly unlikely that Pharaoh would release his slaves to wander into lands that are the possession of city-states subordinate to him and dependent on his army for protection, in the land of Canaan, the demand is only to let them go three days journey into the wilderness to worship God. This clears up the age-old nonsense question that philosophers and skeptics ask, “would a Christian hiding a Jew in their house be committing a sin if he lied to the Nazis and said he was not hiding a Jew?” When life is on the line and great injustice is being opposed what do you think? Are you justified in self-righteous smugness at saying, “I have not lied,” when you have allowed someone to suffer or die because of your feigned Godliness? This is not situational ethics, but simple common-sense. A lie told to save an innocent person’s life, to keep from crushing a person’s sense of self-worth and value, or to generally prevent a greater evil from taking place may be necessary at some point in your life.
As an example of hyperliteralism there are many heartless Christians who will say that since God has ordained marriage and proscribed divorce, except in very narrow circumstances but where the privilege of remarriage is denied, would tell an abused woman who is beaten down and whose life is in danger and even the lives of her children that she is sinning if she divorces her abuser. This way of looking at God’s word is clearly not the way God looks at it. Religion, like all systems of living and philosophies, does attract people who are rigid in their thinking and liberal in their self-righteousness. By focusing on such strict understanding of what God says He wants they can then overlook greater sins in their own lives.
Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Do what you know is right but as you form the way your convictions interact with your daily decisions keep in mind God's greater purpose.
But, back to the text, God knows what this Pharaoh will do. In fact, He has prepared this Pharaoh for this purpose.
Exodus 9:16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
Paul refers to this in Romans but reveals to us the power of the written word of God giving us more to think about regarding the book we hold in our hands;
Romans 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
But, God will set up a scene for the display of His power and of His identity to the world of that time and for the future.
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
In God’s ministry of reconciling man to Himself He has prepared a time when He will reveal who He is through His power over reality to the world at that time and to all of history.