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."
Two observations about Moses’ response to God in this first “crisis’ of leadership are noted today. First, Moses seems really focused on himself. The people he worried about leading were upset and turned on him when their first request resulted in more hardship from the Egyptians. God had warned Moses that Pharaoh would not be favorable at first (Exodus 4:21-23). But this did not stop Moses from turning the people’s accusations to God.
A second fact to notice is the meaning of what the ESV translates as “you have done evil”. This is theologically impossible, so we are left to debate what Moses’ complaint means. Was Moses being disrespectful at worst, or just theologically sloppy when he seemed to accuse God of being complicit in what was wrong? I don’t think so. The Hebrew word that is translated as “evil” in verse 22 is the same word that is translated as “trouble” in Exodus 5:19. The idea behind the word includes hardship. This softens the accusation considerably when we realize that God’s moral uprightness is not being questioned. But Moses is questioning God’s sovereignty. That is a big difference. Moses knows God brought this trouble in His plan. He also knows Pharaoh has brought trouble. The tension between God and the strongest ruler on earth will be driving subplot of the Exodus story.
So a good view of God needs to include a healthy perspective on trouble, difficulty, trial, and basically “the bad stuff” in our lives. It is one thing to see God as sovereign, with even difficulty under His control. It is another to accuse God of being unfair or bad for not eliminating struggles, difficulties, pains, and outrageous sins. I think Moses just questioned his experience, but did not lay moral blame on God.