Matins Devotion: March 31, 2023
In this morning’s reading, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and speak God’s demand that his people be given the freedom to leave Egypt and so that they might worship Yahweh in the wilderness. Pharaoh’s response is as swift as it is condescending. First, Pharaoh asks, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey his voice?…I do not know him. And I will not let Israel go.” Note that Pharaoh has no trouble understanding what God demands. Rather, Pharaoh’s objection is that God’s word carries no authority in his kingdom. In Pharaoh’s mind, Yahweh is just like any one of the many territorial gods that the Egyptians serve. Inside Egypt’s borders, Yahweh has no claim.
But not only does Pharaoh deny the authority of God’s word, but he hatches a scheme that will scatter the Hebrew slaves and keep them so busy that they won’t have a moment’s rest to hear and meditate on the word. The comment is made that “the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt” at the “urgent” orders of their taskmasters. The result of Pharaoh’s plan, of course, is that the people become angry—not with their taskmasters—but with Yahweh’s servant. They begin to look upon the word of God as the true burden that is filling their lives with misery.
This is always the way that the devil tries to attack the word of God. First, the devil will challenge God’s authority. We see this in many areas of our society today. The Pharaohs of our age ask, “What gives God the right to define the nature of marriage? What gives God the right to determine what I do with this life growing inside my body? What gives God the right to fix my gender? Who is God that I should obey his voice? I do not know him.”
But the devil is not content to stir up rebellion in the world. He will also attempt to scatter and isolate the sheep so that he can convince them that the true source of their misery is not his lies, but the unyielding truth found in God’s word. He loves to see families scattered to the four winds trying to fulfill the unrelenting demands of work, school, sports, and whatever else he can convince them they need to be happy. He will do this in order to convince them that having devotions together, praying together, and coming to church together is an undue burden. This is also why we see so many individuals fall away during times of persecution. The devil will convince them that the word of God is a threat to their financial future, or their career goals, or their social flourishing. This is why we see entire church bodies abandoning the clear teachings of Scripture in order to fit into the world’s definition of loving.
Be wise. Be watchful. Be wary. As Paul instructs us in Ephesians, dress yourself in the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against these schemes of the devil and resist his lies in these evil days. (Eph 6:10-13) They are only going to grow worse. The pressure is going to continue to increase. The lies are going to continue to magnify. Why? Because the devil knows that his time is short.
And so, as we wait patiently for the day on which we will see the Lord’s mighty hand eviscerate and destroy the armies of darkness, we hold fast to the Word. For, as Luther teaches us in the catechism, God’s Word is the true holy thing above all holy things. The true treasure that sanctifies everything from corruption and that gives us light and life to overcome the darkness. Though we suffer light and momentary affliction on account of the Word—it is through that same Word the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens us by giving us the forgiveness of sins that the Word promises us on account of Christ. Therefore, let us not despise it as did Pharaoh or doubt it during times of persecution and hardship as did the Israelites. But let us hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.