Exodus chapter 2:
Setting: Israel...in Egypt.
Problem: God's people...slaves, being treated cruelly.
Response: They begin to pray.
Exodus 2:23,24, "During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them."
Sounds good, right?
You might think the story's over. I mean God heard their prayer. Isn't he going to deliver them right away?Not quite.
For one thing...it takes awhile.
For another, when God does send Moses, things don’t get better right away. In fact, Exodus chapter 5, Moses and Aaron go up to Pharaoh to deliver the people and Pharaoh says No way! "Who is the Lord that I should obey him and let Israel go?" I don’t know God and I am not going to let Israel go.
Some answer to prayer, huh?
But it gets worse. Pharaoh, instead of letting the people go, makes their situation more difficult.
"That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and foremen in charge of the people: ‘You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy, that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies."
The Israelites in charge of the work get so mad about all this that they go to Moses and say, ‘May the Lord look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his servants and put a sword in their hand to kill us."
O.k., let's recap.
Setting: Israel...enslaved in Egypt.
Problem: The Egyptians treating them cruelly.
Response: God's people begin to pray.
Result: Their situation gets worse.
What? Why doesn't God answering their prayers the way they want Him to? Why does God allow Pharaoh to deny their requests? Why does God go through this whole thing with the ten plagues?
Answer: Exodus 7:17,18 "Thus says the Lord, ‘By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it shall be turned to blood…"
Exodus 8:10, Moses says to Pharaoh, "May be it according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God."
Exodus 8:22, "But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people are
living in order that you may know that I, the Lord am in the midst of the land…"
Exodus 9:14,16, "For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth…But indeed, for this cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth."
Exodus 10:1,2, "Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and your grandson, how I made mockery of the Egyptians, and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord."
The reason God didn’t answer His peoples prayers right away, i.e. the way they wanted, is because He had a plan to exalt His name among the nations.
"Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Thy wonders; they did not remember Thine abundant kindnesses, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea, nevertheless He saved them…" why? "for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known."
God’s mercy to the Israelites was grounded in God’s desire to glorify Himself. Romans 9:17, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." As I think John Piper puts it, "The point of the ten plagues and miraculous Red Sea crossing was to demonstrate the incredible power of God on behalf of His freely chosen people, with the aim that this reputation, this name would be declared throughout the whole world."
If you look over at Joshua 2:10,11 you see one example of how this happened, even as all this was occurring. You remember Rahab. She lived in the city of Jericho. She was a harlot. A great sinner, but she ended up converted. The reason? Joshua 2:10, "For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt…and when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath."
When you are struggling with unanswered prayer, when things seem bleak, when it seems like you are talking to the ceiling, remember this, God will glorify Himself. If you or don’t understand how God is going to do that, that doesn’t mean that He is not going to do accomplish His will.
We've got to trust Him.
If God is in control, which we know He is, and if God is doing what He is doing for His own glory, what do we know when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want? One - He’s going to use our unanswered prayer for His glory. And two - if He doesn’t answer our prayer the way we want, it must be because He being the all-wise God has a better way to glorify Himself. He has a goal – His own glory. And He knows how to accomplish that goal better than we do!