Moses was on a roll. Aaron had committed to help him, the elders of Israel were on board, and the Lord had promised to free His people. Riding a wave of victory, Moses gained an audience with Pharaoh (we are not told how, but we can assume that Moses’ former status in Egypt opened some doors).
“The God of Israel said to let His people go” was the blunt demand Moses opened with. The Egyptians considered Pharaoh to to be a god. No wonder he didn’t acquiesce to the challenge from an unknown deity. His response went something like this: “Your God is not the boss of me! I’m not letting Israel go.”
When Moses pressed him, Pharaoh retaliated, increasing the oppression and exploitation of the slaves. He enacted a harsh, new policy: no more straw would be provided for making bricks, but the brick quota would remain unchanged. [Note: in Egypt bricks were made by soaking clay in water, mixing it with straw or other plant matter, shaping it with a wooden mold, and then drying it in the sun. The process would be much more difficult and time-consuming without the straw to make the clay stronger and more pliable.]
The policy had the desired effect of making life harder for the Israelites. The slower pace gave their taskmasters an excuse for beating them. When the foremen complained to Pharaoh, he obnoxiously accused them of laziness and ordered them back to work.
The foremen took out their frustration on Moses and Aaron. Like every spiritual leader must do from time to time, Moses absorbed their harsh criticism and then immediately “turned to the Lord” (v.22). Moses is a great example for us here. When his leadership, integrity, and motives were challenged, it did not drive him to defensiveness or retaliation — it drove him to prayer.
Who is bugging you today? What is keeping you distracted and anxious? Whoever or whatever it is, take it to the Lord. HURRY, before you do something crazy!