7 min read
Making Bricks Without Straw

Written by Thomas Kilian, Program Manager & Chaplain

Exodus is a book that every Christian has heard of and studied. When we hear Exodus, we think of the Hebrew's slavery in Egypt, the plagues, the great exit, and the wilderness. In fact, many know how the interactions between God and people in the Exodus record were a foreshadowing of a greater interaction He was planning on having with His Church.

That's where you and I come in as Christians. If Hebrew history was a shadow of what we are now experiencing as God's people, we might do well to look at that history. In the narrative of Exodus, there are familiar themes that Christians will immediately identify with: redemption, the making of a holy people, forming a family into a nation, and the journey into God's presence. These themes are in the Christian experience.

So, let us talk about Exodus for a vivid image of the spiritual life that we share as Christians.

This week’s Scripture (Exodus 4:30-6:2) is found after the narrative of Moses' preparation as a leader and his hesitancy to be God's man. In our chapters, we begin to read about the Hebrews' preparation to leave slavery and their resistance to God's man.

Both the sinner and God's people will be against God's plan in this text. And our job is to identify with the Hebrews, but use their example to avoid their sinful ways.

Let us begin at Exodus 4:30-31:

Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people.
And the people believed;
and when they heard that
the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped
— Exodus 4:30-31 (ESV)

The word of the Lord was spoken, and His glory is before the people. Because God had visited them. And they worshiped upon hearing and believing the good news.

This is a lot like the Gospel we know as Christians: Seeing our affliction, the Word of God dwelt among us, and now all nations worship Him.

Naturally, hearing the good news, we worship God.

Lesson #1

Our purpose is to worship the God who meets with us.

When we view our sole purpose as worshiping God, it no longer feels that life’s circumstances change our life’s value or direction. In every problem, we see an opportunity to meet with God a little more closely. Look at the Hebrews’ situation when God showed up. They were enslaved in a pagan nation with burdens. Likewise, for the Christian, a time of burden becomes an invitation to know God more intimately.


Afterward, Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” — Exodus 5:1 (ESV)

In short, God says: My plan is for my people to worship me.

Lesson #2

God is always speaking His plan

Consider the following series of Scriptures:

In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” — Hebrews 1:1-5

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me,”
— John 10:27-28

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” — 2 Timothy 3:16

God’s people are always listening to how God is speaking, and joining Him in what He says.


Lesson #3

God demands our participation in His plan.

God’s word is, “may they hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”

This is God’s demand: “Worship me. Take rest in what I offer when I lead you away from the world’s labor.”

Participation is our obedience to God’s plan.


But Pharaoh said,
Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” — Exodus 5:2 (ESV)

If you are angry at Pharaoh upon reading this, your anger is just. The king of the land denies the authority of God, the King of all kings.

Some scholars say that this Pharaoh was Thutmose III — a king strong and boastful. In this passage, we see boastfulness and a hard heart.

Lesson #4

Men of hard hearts demand disobedience.

The pharaoh said, “God’s plan is not my plan… I will not let His people go to obey Him.”


Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” — Exodus 5:3 (ESV)

Lesson #5

Spiritual death occurs when we don’t meet with God.

The Hebrews essentially say, “We must go down to worship God, or surely we will die.”

Jesus says in John 15:1–17, that He is the True Vine, and if we are His branches, we must remain attached to His life-giving presence or face destruction.

The Hebrews knew this, and thus they did not see their worship of God as optional. They knew the truth of how to worship is to be with God, our Life.


But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.” — Exodus 5:6-9 (ESV)

Lesson #6

Spiritual worship is idleness to society.

When we rest as the churches of Christ on Sunday it is in memorial to Christ. In the same nature of the Sabbath, Sunday is set apart for God to give pause to our lives to reflect on how well we walked with God last week, and how we might walk better next week. It is our worship to rest in this way.

Just as Pharaoh saw the Hebrew’s rest as idleness, our societies, too, see our worship as idleness. Idleness is nothing that contributes to life or society.

Many Christians show themselves to be in agreement with Pharaoh whenever they operate their businesses on Sunday. Or when they decide not to meet with the saints because it is a market day or a day like every other.


So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.””— Exodus 5:10-13 (ESV)

Lesson #7

Sin creates burdens we were never meant to carry.

We look around and quickly find burdens that we are afflicted with not because life is hard but because there is sin. It is really easy to see. Look at politics… it takes a sin of few — sinful policies — to put a nation as a whole into greater suffering! Too many beers regularly may bankrupt one’s household or cause death.

Sin makes things worse. Pharaoh laid more burdens on the Hebrews because of his sin. This serves as our warning.


And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.
— Exodus 5:14-15 (ESV)

Lesson #8

Sin weakens society.

The Hebrew foremen — appointed by Pharaoh’s taskmasters — were beaten. Why? Because Pharaoh wanted to punish the Hebrews for demanding to worship God.

The foremen said… “WHY, PHARAOH, are you beating us? We work for you, building buildings for your nation. Even more, we have no straw which is because of your decision, not because of our request!”

The whole idea here is how sin weakens society.

Pharaoh’s act of disobedience not only weakened the physical strength of his workers (by beating them and tiring them) but made the bricks of his city weaker (Straw in bricks makes bricks stronger and lighter.)


But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.
The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said,
“You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.

— Exodus 5:17-19 (ESV)

Lesson #9

When we comply with society’s demands, we join men in their plan.

When they felt the pressure, the Hebrew foremen complied with Pharaoh’s demand. They decided to demand the Hebrews through the same command given by the sinner, Pharaoh! They demanded God’s people to work more instead of worshiping God more. For the foremen, there were no other options but to comply with the word of Pharaoh. Because of that, they joined Pharaoh’s plan — A plan to build an earthly kingdom, not God’s spiritual kingdom.


They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” —- Exodus 5:20-21 (ESV)

Lesson #10

Where there is sin, there is blame-shifting.

Up until this point, the foremen blamed Pharaoh for their suffering. Now, that has changed after obeying Pharaoh over God.

They now shift the blame onto Moses, God’s spokesman!

Where there is sin, there is blame-shifting.

Often, we do the same. When we do this, we make our own people suffer. Remember the last time you were blamed for something that wasn’t your fault? It hurt, did it not?

Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?
For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.
” — Exodus 5:22-23 (ESV)

One good thing Moses does in these verses is his turn to God before turning to the people to respond. However, Moses does fail here within this passage. Moses says: Why Lord? Why Lord”! Lastly, Moses says, “You haven’t delivered on your promise at all, God.”

Moses is blame-shifting.

Lesson #11

Do not listen to negative people, or you will join them.

After the people turned towards Moses to blame him, Moses appears to have turned to God to blame Him.

He becomes just as demanding and blaming as the sinful people became. WHY? WHY!! Why!! This was the same sinful attitude of Pharaoh and the foremen.

The words of Proverbs 14:7 serve as a warning to us:
Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.

Remember in verse 8, Pharaoh calls the Hebrew’s desire for worship a “lying word.”

Pharaoh was a fool with no knowledge on his lips.
However, the foremen listened to his words, and then Moses listened to the foremen. This is a demonic cycle.


But the Lord said to Moses,
“Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.””

— Exodus 6:1 (ESV)

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”
— Exodus 6:6-8 (ESV)

God affirms and recommits to His promises to the Hebrews.


God never comprises His promises, only men do.

Consider these Scriptures:

Numbers 23:19…
“God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?”

Hebrews 13:8…
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

James 1:17…
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”


The Main Thought:

We join God’s plan when we rebuke society's expectations and rest in God’s promises.


13. Missing Ending

Many passages of Scripture are written with tools to form linguistic structure. These devices reveal the development of the thought of the passage, discussion, or narrative. The form of our Exodus passage is structured by a mirrored pattern [ABCD-DCBA] called a chiasm—poetic parallelism. A chasm is a typical storytelling device. I have done the work of outlining our Exodus passage according to its chiasm:

Exodus 4:30 - 6:1

A. Hebrews Believe and Worship
B. Word of God to Pharaoh
C. God’s Demand
D. Pharaoh’s Demand
E. Message to the Hebrews
F. Instructions to the Hebrews
G. Egyptians Punished
H. Foreman’s Rebuke
H. Pharaoh’s Rebuke
G. Hebrews Published
F. Instructions to the Hebrews
E. Message to Aaron and Moses
D. Moses’ Demand
C. God’s Demand
B. Word of God to Moses
A. (Missing Ending)

Notice how the story’s end is missing. This is done purposely. Just as the Hebrews began the narrative with worship, the structure of the story implies a question. Will the Hebrews end the story with worship regardless of their burdens and rebellion? The question is for the Hebrew, but also to the reader.

It is the same question God asks of us: "How will you end this chapter of your life? Will you end with a resolve to worship? Or will you decide to comply with the world’s ways? The choice is yours, and I won’t decide that for you.”

We thank our Lord for His patience with us! As it is written:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9

* The email will not be published on the website.