Today, during our family scripture study we were reading in Exodus 5. This is the first time Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh about letting the children of Israel go three days into the desert like you have some time on your hands, Israelite slaves, if you want to just go traipse off into the desert for three days! You must need more to do. So now, instead of just making bricks for me all day, you’ll have to go find the straw wherever you can, by yourself, and then make the bricks. Oh, and by the way, you still have to make the same number of bricks as yesterday.”
As we were reading this passage, it struck me that I use that same tactic with my own kids. “Let’s see, I asked you to take out the trash, but you went outside to play football. So since you have soooo much time on your hands, you now also have to clean up the family room.” I wondered if that was such a good idea for me to be emulating wicked Pharoah who held the Israelites as slaves.
The immediate response of the people to Moses and Aaron was “Look what you’ve gone and done now! Since you came, things are much worse than before!” Yeah, the people were none too pleased with Moses and Aaron. And Moses and Aaron sounded pretty surprised, too. They take it up with the Lord and say, “Now things are worse than before and you haven’t delivered anyone at all!”
That’s the chapter we read this morning. When we were done reading, I commented to the kids that what I found really interesting was that BEFORE Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh, the Israelites didn’t seem to have it very bad. I mean, it seems to me like they were slaves—sure. But they were comfortable slaves. How motivated would they be to leave their comfortable homes, their fairly easy work and leave Egypt to follow Moses into the desert? So what’s really happening here in this chapter is that the Lord is beginning to separate His people from the Egyptians. He’s helping them find their own cultural identity. He’s helping them to really understand that even when you are living the life of a comfortable slave, you are still a slave. He’s taking away some of that comfort to motivate the people to want to leave Egypt, to want to follow their prophet into the desert, to be able to endure hardships, to engender faith.
So in the end, I still feel okay about playing the part of Pharaoh with my kids. My purpose, after all, isn’t to make them do my slave labor. My purpose is to teach them how to be self-motivated, responsible, hard workers who don’t need constant supervision. I want to make it very uncomfortable for them to need to be closely monitored all the time. I want them to be able to leave their bondage of only doing things because Mom said and reach the freedom of doing things because they need to be done and they are the ones there to take care of it. And playing Pharaoh accomplishes that.