In the situation in which we all currently find ourselves, crushed spirits may indeed be a dominant personality trait. It was fun for awhile being able to sleep in on a weekday morning, or not have to get dressed to impress. But for many the second mortgage payment has been missed, the business has had to shut down and maybe that will be permanent, the weight is adding on exponentially and we just want life to be normal. Spirits get broken.
6 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. 7 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. 8 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.’” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.—Exodus 6:6-9
So, Moses had his burning bush experience. He has heard the very voice of God. He has seen his shepherd’s staff become a snake and his hand become leprous. He has been told by the God who can make bushes burn and not be consumed and who can turn inanimate objects into living creatures and who can cause a withering disease to come or go at His will, that He is going to liberate His people from slavery and that He is going to use Moses to do it. Seems about right. What could possibly happen that Moses wouldn’t like? It is clear from Exodus 3 and 4 that despite the assurances from God that Moses is the man, Moses does not want to go. So God gives him his brother Aaron to act as a mouthpiece for Moses. And off they go together into Pharaoh’s chamber to let Pharaoh know that God wants the Hebrews set free.
What was Moses expecting? What did he think would happen from this first encounter with Pharaoh? (“I sure hope Pharaoh doesn’t know that I am wanted for murder”, might have been on his mind, but I wander.) We do not know what he was expecting. Perhaps a miracle or two? Maybe later. Perhaps an edict, right there on the spot, liberating the Jews? In any case, Moses makes the demand that the Israelites be let go and Pharaoh responds by ordering the Hebrews to continue making the same number of bricks they have always made, but this time they must find their own straw to make them. Twice the work with the same result required. Nice. Perhaps not the response Moses was expecting. And most certainly not the response that the Israelites wanted.
The people are so crushed in spirit by their slavery and the new rule for gathering straw that was initiated in response to Moses’ first encounter with Pharaoh, that they will not listen to Moses and are more demoralized than they were before Moses hit the scene. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of their response to Moses, the fact remains that a broken spirit is a powerful thing. Break the spirit and it simply doesn’t matter how well all the other parts are working. It is a powerful obstacle to getting up in the morning. It is a powerful obstacle to just about everything that we are called to do. And it is a glory beyond description to see that the Holy Scriptures, authored by God Himself, recognize this truth. God and the Bible never condone the behaviour of those who sin because of crushed spirits, but it is a comfort of grand proportions to be told that while not condoning our sin, God does indeed understand the kind of things that lead to it.