The party’s over
“They made their lives bitter with hard labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labour the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.“ – Exodus 1:14 NLT
When we last left the family of Jacob (or Israel), they had just moved to the land of Egypt to be with Joseph, Jacob’s long-lost son, who was now second-in-command to the Pharaoh himself. When they had arrived on the scene, they were treated well by Pharaoh, as an honor to Joseph. In fact, Pharaoh told Joseph, “Now that your family has joined you here, choose any place you like for them to live. Give them the best land of Egypt––the land of Goshen will be fine. And if any of them have special skills, put them in charge of my livestock, too” (Genesis 47:5-6 NLT). And that’s exactly what Joseph did. “So Joseph assigned the best land of Egypt––the land of Rameses––to his father and brothers, just as Pharaoh had commanded” (Genesis 47:11 NLT). When they had arrived there were only 66 of them (not including their wives), but in the years that followed, the family of Joseph would grow. Exodus 1 tells us “But their descendants had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so quickly that they soon filled the land” (Exodus 1:7 NLT). God was with them and He was blessing them, in keeping with the covenant He had made with Abraham many years before.
But even in blessing there can be difficulty. In fact, their fruitfulness would lead to conflict with the Egyptians. There was a new Pharaoh in charge now and Moses tells us that he “did not know Joseph.” Joseph was dead and this Pharaoh had no recollection of who he was or what he had done to help save the nation of Egypt during the time of famine. All he knew was there were far too many Hebrews living in his land and he was going to do something about it. This is the first in a long and sad line of attempts by men to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the earth. History is replete with case after case of men trying to wipe out the Hebrew people. Hitler wasn’t the first to come up with the idea.
But this conflict was going to set the stage for the rest of the story. God had a plan. And His plan was bigger and greater than that of Pharaoh. The persecutions and pogrom of Pharaoh was not going to get in the way of what God had planned for His chosen people. As a matter of fact, it was going to be the very thing God would use to set His people free. Slavery and persecution would become the backdrop for His plan of redemption for them. But to set them free, they would have to be enslaved. Had they never been persecuted by the Egyptians, the Israelites would never have wanted to leave. They had nothing to go back to. They had no land, no home, no gardens, no farms. They were content living in Egypt. But things were about to change. The situation was about to heat up. Because God had a plan for them. He had a promise He was going to fulfill.
Chapter 1 sets up the great redemptive plan of God for the people of Israel. It is act one in the play that God has written. Things look bleak. It seems as if everything is going wrong for the people of Israel. But we see that God is there. He is blessing them and multiplying them. He is working behind the scenes with the midwives, giving them courage and conviction. And He is getting ready to raise up a deliverer.
Father, thanks for the reminder of Your sovereign plan in the lives of men. I am so short-sighted. I can only see so far, and then I begin to panic, because I don’t see You at work all the time. I concentrate on the circumstances and forget that You are working behind the scenes in ways I can’t see. Let the story of Exodus remind me once again of Your unstoppable plan. You are in control and I have no reason to fear – even in the face of overwhelming odds and unexplainable circumstances. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men