Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart:
Exodus 5:10-6:1 (ESV)
10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”
15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.” 20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”
God Promises Deliverance
6 But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”
We continue hearing about Pharaoh’s reaction to Moses. Bible scholars point out that our modern economy, where workers are often expected to produce more and more, but with less and less time and help, is just like Pharaoh, who reduced life to two words: “Make bricks.” (5:16). This dehumanizes people, reducing people to what they can produce. God’s economy will be entirely different, based on sharing and a humane balance of work and rest. That’s the point of Sabbath. It isn’t a religious burden; it is a sign that we are free from the pressure of always having to be producing something for somebody else. Of course, just like Pharaoh, many people consider worship to be “idleness” (5:17), because we don’t seem to be producing anything in worship. But something far greater is happening: in worship, we are remembering that life isn’t about how much we produce; life is about enjoying the gifts that God has produced, and giving praise and thanks for these things! Every time we stop working and take time to praise, and take the time to invest in real community with others, we are proclaiming that the false god of “work, work, work” and “more, more, more” will not have the last word, and it will not rule our lives.