But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?”
One of the great challenges for God’s people is listening to God’s voice. As we deal with the warnings about the spread of the corona virus, I can’t help thinking back to times in the Old Testament when God’s people struggled to hear the voice of God through the prophets. I have a certain anxiety even bringing this up or making too much of a direct comparison because even though our global pandemic is reflective of “end times” events in the Scriptures, that is NOT what I am suggesting in this particular article; that topic is another discussion. What I am suggesting is that it is one thing for us to read the pages of the Old Testament and scratch our heads in wonder that God’s people seemed so ignorant about obeying God’s voice. How in the world would they have such doubts when God spoke to them? Their struggle hardly seems justified. Unfortunately, even when God spoke loud and clear (through Moses) God’s people had all kinds of problems accepting the veracity of his claim to speak for God. It seemed that their hearts were not ready to receive this good news. They ignored, rejected, and made excuses why this was not reasonable even if it was from God.
My point in this article is not to suggest anything other than that observing the various ways people hear and process the warnings of the corona virus reminds me of the similar struggle God’s people often had when God spoke through His prophets to warn them or lead them to do something. I am not suggesting that God is speaking to America through this corona virus – God spoke through Moses and he warned people based on God’s Word not his own interpretation of the events. That particular issue is for another discussion.
In the case of Moses however, he brought good news to Israel and a series of warnings to Pharaoh. The problem, as stated above, is that Israel struggled to believe him and would not listen; they had a hard time buying into his message about how they could protect themselves from the coming judgements which included some plagues, sickness and (ultimately) death. Moses’ concern was if God’s people would not accept this “good news,” then Pharaoh would certainly not listen. He was dealing with both the skepticism of Israel and the ego of Pharaoh who would not cater to the voice of the prodigal son who abandoned his Egyptian home long ago. There were all kinds of (seemingly) justifiable reasons why Israel would not listen to Moses. Pharaoh was above all these warnings about impending disasters and took no action at all to prepare for the upcoming disasters. Israel was extremely skeptical because this news, in their mind, could not really help them.
The doubts and skepticism of Israel and Pharaoh reminds me how hard it is to believe messages like this will really affect our lives where we are living now. Both Israel and Pharaoh refused to accept that they had to do anything different and is typical of the nature of the struggle to figure out how God is speaking to us or not.
For us this may still seem distant. In the Bible we are actually told that “God spoke to Moses” so we already know who is giving the instructions. But the struggle of Israel and Pharaoh is how to believe that God is actually the one giving the instructions? They only had the privilege to determine if Moses was credible. While much is different in our context we often face the similar struggle to determine exactly how God is speaking to us and what we should be doing. Everyone is trying to figure out how we should think about this pandemic and how we should respond. Some believe our best act of faith is to keep meeting and not succumb to the fear of our culture. Others believe our best response is one of demonstrating love for others by making temporary sacrifices to give preference to those who are vulnerable.
This global pandemic has many voices telling us how to prepare, make adjustments, how to mitigate infections, how to take precautions to avoid getting infected and infecting others; none of which is inherently wrong or not credible. The key for God’s people is always to make sure we hear God’s voice and what He wants us to do; not surprisingly we often draw different conclusions and courses of action depending on how we interpret the circumstances. Maybe the goal is not just interpreting the circumstances but making sure we hear the voice of God and act accordingly, even if it is not the majority view (like Israel) or what the present earthly authorities conclude (like Pharaoh). The goal of this article is not to propose a solution but to keep challenging us to keep looking up and listening to the voice of Him who must guide us to do His will above all else.