How do you motivate teenager? Tell them they absolutely can’t do something. It works with most humans actually. Tell them they can’t, and it spurs them on to rebellion!
God’s plan was for Moses to tell Pharaoh that the children of Israel had been instructed by God to journey three days into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to him (Exodus 5:3-5, Exodus 3:18-20). My first thoughts about this was that it was because they only had faith to ask the three days. But whilst this might have been true, it didn’t quite add up. God had told them that Pharaoh would definitively say, “No!” So this was no faith building exercise. God was much more cunning! He knew that some of the Israelites would be ambivalent, secure in their slavery, and not sufficiently motivated to push for their release. Pharaoh’s “no” was the goad to provoke them into action.
Apparently the way to train a young elephant is to put a ring around its leg which is tied to a very stout pole. The elephant learns its limitations. Eventually the pole can be removed – the elephant will conform to the same limitations so long as the ring is round its leg.
Often in humans slave mentality is harder to break than slavery itself. We believe in our own limitations, simply because we’ve got used to them. “I’m overweight because I enjoy my food too much,” or “I just can’t get into the habit of spiritual disciplines, it’s too hard for me,” or “I just keep finding myself on porn sites, I can’t help it,” or “I just don’t have enough willpower…” What well-trained elephants we are! We are no longer slaves to sin – Jesus has paid our ransom – but we behave as if we were!
The Israelites needed the iron fist of Pharaoh and sheer misery in their working conditions to raise them out of their complacency. What will it take for me to strike out into the freedom that is mine?