Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt. So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’”
God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh “God has met with us and we want to be allowed to go three days’ journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to our God.” This instruction presents me with an ethical dilemma. Was God telling Moses to lie to the Pharaoh, to be deceitful? Or, do I simply not understand the text?
As I studied this, I learned that perhaps I did not fully understand the mind and character of a loving God. Let me explain. Wayne Jackson, in an article entitled “Did God ask Moses to be deceitful?” on his website, “Christian Courier” suggests that of course God knew that Pharaoh ultimately would refuse the Israelites permission to go into the wilderness to worship, and eventually stubbornly resist their leaving Egypt.
“But one must bear in mind that knowing is not the equivalent of coercing. Second, Jehovah allows man the freedom of choice — to obey or to disobey (Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:15-16; John 5:39) — even though he knows what course the person will pursue. God’s love for humanity provides options of obedience — even in the face of resolute disobedience.
Thank goodness for men and women of God who have been given insight into some very difficult passages. Once again, we can see why while Scripture may sometimes appear to be contradictory – as in God never lies and He never expects us to, yet it ‘seems’ like here He is – through prayer and further study, the answer to our confusion emerges. The lesson for us here is to have kept our trust in God’s Word through the exercise. My prayer is that it be so for us.
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