After almost 430 years of slavery, the Israelites finally reached their breaking point. The ESV goes so far as to describe them as having a “broken spirit” (Exodus 6:9). As if building bricks wasn’t difficult enough, Moses’ antics resulted in the Israelites being forced to supply their own straw. Their labor conditions had sunken to an entirely new level.

According to the Bible, God had not once communicated with His people during their captivity. The last time God had spoken to Israel, the person, was almost five centuries before when God met him in Beersheba after he had set out for Egypt. Since then, God had been silent.

Given the context, imagine the emotions shared by the Israelites. From the text, we can only suppose that they included frustration, bitterness, and sorrow (see Exodus 5:15-16, 20-21). After not hearing from someone (God) who originally engineered their presence in Goshen, Moses shows up and claims to have had a conversation with Him that now almost certainly guarantees their demise. Additionally, Moses was absent for 40 years and, before that, enjoyed the benefits of Pharaoh’s house while they labored under their Egyptian tormentors. In short, Moses lacks their experience, and he’s an outsider. It’s not too hard to empathize with the Israelites at this point. And where does all of this eventually lead? To the Israelites refusing to listen any longer to God or His prophet.

Sometimes, the greatest lessons are learned from what seems to be the most insignificant passages. This is, perhaps, one of those instances. After knowing nothing but the brutality of Egypt their entire lives, the people of Israel lost hope. One thing we are not sure of is whether this was all they lost or not. Not only do we not have a record of God speaking to the Israelites, but we also have no record of them worshiping God. It may be safe to assume that they talked about God whenever they discussed the “good ‘ole days”—as if they knew what those were like. But Israel lost the elemental truth that they were His people.

There are times when we, too, may feel this way. Life becomes hard, and our discouragement has grown too burdensome. Then, in our depression, we make two mistakes. First, we refuse to listen, believing that God no longer cares. Second, we pick ourselves up and, with determination, attempt to survive on our own. We convince ourselves that we are capable of enduring without a loving Father, and whatever may come only makes us stronger. What is the outcome? Not only a stronger resilience but a hard heart. Our brokenness leads to separation.

Israel refused to allow themselves any further joy and discounted God’s faithfulness. Furthermore, it took another 40 years of wandering in the desert for God to rebuild the relationship. What about you? When was the last time you listened? How long has it been since you’ve allowed God to encourage your heart?