“The king of Egypt said, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labour? Get back to your work!”
Ex 5:4 NIV
We all have to balance our priorities, especially when it comes to the use of our time. We find a need to allocate time to work – usually it has to take top priority. But we have a need for recreation, sleep, holiday, eating, family socializing and worship. Modern people have many competing priorities, some more than others.
For the Pharaoh in Moses’ time, his priority was getting his big building projects completed. For this, the Hebrew slaves were his labour force. The command of God came cutting right across this building programme. It was addressed to the Israelites and initially it was just for a three-day festival of sacrifices. Pharaoh smelt the rat and, flouting God’s command, ordered the Israelites to get back to work. In one sense he was right to do this! Where there is a big project the person in charge has to “crack the whip” or nothing gets done. In another sense he was merely delaying what, under God, was going to be the inevitable – the departure of the Israelites for the desert and ultimately, Israel. Two forces were at work which it is important to notice. There was God, whose scheme was to bring salvation. And there was Pharaoh, who, by his hard and cruel attitude, was reducing the labourers to a half-life which stifled community and creativity in them all. The “Work harder” order left them half-dead from heir toils.
Christian employers will take heed of this situation, and the injustice and oppression involved, and will maintain humane working conditions in their work-places.
Lord, help me to be just in all my dealings with workers.