I grew up hearing the stories of Lewis & Clark, Daniel Boone, Davey Crocket and other great pioneers of the American west who explored their way through the wilderness in search of new discovery. Early on, I learned the difference between settlers and pioneers -- those who homestead vs those who trailblaze. A settler has a calling to steward the land, while a pioneer explores it and follows unknown paths.
Moses had settled for nearly 40 years working for his father-in-law Jethro. He was tending sheep and providing for his wife and children when God interrupted his settled life calling him to pioneer. In Exodus 4, we see Moses trying to break free of the cement of settled living. He was still shaken by 80 years of loss and disappointment, and he didn't want to go and do this thing God was calling him to. But rather than destroy Moses, God saved anyhow by accommodating Moses' weakness and providing Aaron to help him.
When Moses finally mustered enough courage to head back to Egypt, it didn't go to well for him. Pharaoh's immediate response was to tighten his grip on the Hebrew people, increasing their suffering. Moses thought it all backfired, and he blamed God for it all (Exodus 5:22-23). Despite Moses' accusations, God saved anyhow by making a way for him.
The LORD is always way ahead of his people [you need to be encouraged by this!]. No person, no government, no king, no limitations, no fear can stand in the way of God accomplishing what He is determined to do. It's important for us to remember that where we are today is not where we will always be when we trust in God.
In Exodus 9, we see the LORD beginning to break Pharaoh's grip on God's people. These 'plagues' were not random acts but were a direct assault on the gods of Egypt by the One True God. Egyptian religion was rooted in Babylonian polytheistic rebellion, and this was a contest of wills. The plagues were strategic hits to shake Pharaoh's faith in his false gods.
Let me show you what I mean [starting in Exodus 9]:
Plague of Nile Turning to Blood: this was a judgment against the Egyptian gods Apis & Isis, the god and goddess of the Nile and fertility. The Nile River was the lifeblood of Egypt and was believed to be the bloodstream of Osiris.
Plague of Frogs: this was a judgment against the god Heqet, the frog-headed goddess of birth. Frogs were sacred to Egyptians, but now there were thousands of them piled up and rotting in the streets.
Plague of Lice/Gnats: this was a judgment against Set, the god of the desert, storms & violence. It's as if God was saying, "You've never seen a storm like this!"
Plague of Flies: this was a judgment against Uatchit, the fly goddess. She was also the god of papyrus (paper-making), so this was a judgment against Pharaoh's decrees.
Plague of the Death of Livestock: this was a judgment against the goddess Hathor and the god Apis, both depicted as bulls. Not only did this affect the Egyptian economy, but it was a direct hit at the Egyptian belief in reincarnation and the afterlife.
Plague of Boils: this was a judgment against the god Sekhemet, the god of plagues, destruction, and healing. Even Egypt's religious leaders were afflicted and powerless to appease their god and end their suffering.
Plague of Hail & Fire: this was a judgment against the goddess Nut who was said to provide the protective covering over the earth. Hail and fire devastated the land and cities.
Plague of Locusts: this was a judgment against Osiris, the god of death and the afterlife. With the wheat and rye crops decimated, famine and death would soon follow.
Plague of Darkness: this was a judgment aimed right at Pharaoh himself! Pharaoh believed himself to be the reincarnation of Ra, the sun god. The reincarnation of the sun god was powerless to make the sun shine, and it terrified the people!
What do we learn from all this? Our weakness, our fear, our setbacks, and even our idols and false trust are powerless to stop the One True God. The LORD promises us that if we go with Him, He will go with us.
He breaks chains, ends slavery, accommodates weakness, and equips us for the journey. He is already ahead of us, preparing the Way.