After the following events recorded in Exodus 1-4, the reader begins Exodus 5 expecting to find an account of the plagues, the exodus, and the songs of praise for deliverance. Instead, the text reports further suffering and misery for the Israelites. It seems that there was an unexpected divine delay during which time Israel suffered and witnessed God’s glory.
During the events of Exodus 5, perhaps none suffered more than Moses. With bold speech he approached Pharaoh with God’s demand, only to be shunned with the mocking query: “Who is the LORD that I should obey Him by letting Israel go?” (Exod 5:2). After Pharaoh rejected Moses, his fellow Hebrews rejected him as well. Israel’s leader was to deliver God’s people but instead finds himself being accused of multiplying their despair (Exod 5:20-21).
Yet it is not as though God refused to help His people while they waited for His decisive intervention. In Exodus 6, one recognizes a glimpse of God’s motive for being so patient in redeeming the Israelites. Before He initiated the plagues, God wished to clarify two essential points for both Moses and Israel: His sovereignty and His call upon them as His people. Exodus 6 provides two lessons for faithful living in periods of divine delay:
(1) Remember the character of God (Exod 6:1-13). These verses are arranged to magnify two characteristics of God. First, He is sovereign over the chronological experiences of our lives. It is interesting that Exod 6:1 begins with a temporal conjunction, “Now…” Even a brief study of Exodus reveals that God is operating on a sovereign clock. At the beginning of the seventh plague, the Lord will say to Pharaoh: “By now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with a plague, and you would have been obliterated from the earth. However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you My power and to make My name known in all the earth” (Exod 9:15-16). Second, God is faithful to redeem His people. In Exodus 6 there are two occurrences of the patriarchal sequence, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…” (Exod 6:3, 8). God was reminding Moses that He was going to fulfill the promises of land and lineage for His people—but it would happen in His time.
(2) Remember God’s plan to call a people for His own glory in the world (Exod 6:14-27). On the surface, these verses may not seem significant, but in the storyline of Scripture this genealogy serves to fix Aaron and Moses in the family line of Levi (1 Chron 6:1-3), the priestly tribe of Israel. Though the Levites mediated Israel’s religion in the old covenant, the author of Hebrews noted that Jesus Christ serves as high priest and mediator of the new covenant. And the new covenant is not like the old. Jesus descended from the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:11-22), offering just one sacrifice to forgive the sins of His people after which He ascended to the true tabernacle in heaven and sat down at God’s right hand (Heb 7:26-28; 9:11-25; 10:11-18; 13:20-21). The author of Hebrews concluded his epistle by exhorting his readers to join him in identifying with Jesus, bearing His reproach in the world and confessing His name (Heb 13:13, 15).