Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Time of Darkness, for Egypt - Exodus 1

Exodus 1, A Time of Great Darkness

It had started out so well...

At the end of Genesis, we see that Israel's children escape certain starvation through Joseph, who although sold into Egypt as a slave, according to God's plan had risen to a position of great influence and power, and had wisely saved not only himself and his family, but all of Egypt.

Exodus begins with a recap of who among the children of Israel had made the journey, and tells us that those mentioned, that whole generation, lived the rest of their lives in Egypt and had all passed away, leaving their descendants to thrive and multiply in Egypt. 

I'm sure to those children of Israel who had traveled to Egypt, it seemed that the future of their descendants was secure.  They were in Egypt, fed, and taken care of.  They had been given the entire land of Goshen as their own.  Their family was well acquainted with, and friends to, the family of Pharaoh himself.  When that generation passed away, they probably did so without worry for their children and grandchildren, they were leaving them well taken care of and set for the future.

An adversary rises up, out of fear...

In verse 8-10 we read, "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.”

The people of Israel had not done anything wrong, they were not acting as enemies of the Egyptians.  Their ancestor Joseph had in fact, saved Egypt from ruin and famine. Yet this new Pharaoh didn't know their ancestor Joseph, he looked around his land and saw a people, larger in number than the native Egyptians.  A people with different customs, different beliefs, a different language.  A people with a different God.  A people who wouldn't have believed, as the Egyptians did, that Pharaoh himself was a god, or in the other gods of Egypt such as the sun god, the god of the Nile, or even the god of fertility, who took the form a frog.

Statue of Heqat, the Frog Goddess,
about 2950 BC, Predynastic Period,
 Late Naqada III Period to early Dynasty 1,
 travertine - Cleveland Museum of Art

Seeing a people so different from his own people, the pharaoh feared, he feared that these people who had never threatened him in any way, would continue to grow and take over his country, and at some point would turn on him and his people.  He was motivated and controlled by one of humankind's strongest emotions... fear.

The preemptive strike...

In the grip of his irrational fear he did what people with irrational fear often do, he struck out at them first, before they had a chance to strike out at him.  He took a preemptive strike. He set taskmasters over the people of Israel "to afflict them". He made life extremely hard for them, put them in bondage, made slaves of them.
While their ancestor Joseph had risen from a position of slavery into a position of power and influence, his descendants now fell rapidly from a position of security and safety into a position of slavery and hardship. It probably seemed to them as if the were spiraling into a abyss of darkness, but it is doubtful that even they knew just how dark it would become.

Total blackout...

As things grew darker for the people of Israel, God continued to bless them. They grew stronger, their numbers grew larger, in fact it seemed to Pharaoh, that the more he afflicted these people, the more they multiplied and grew... and with their growth, the power of Pharaoh's fear grew as well.  This fear prompted him to take a terrible course of action.

This Pharaoh hardened his own heart against all that was decent, and ordered the Egyptian midwives to murder the Hebrew sons at birth. We'll read later about how God hardened the next Pharaoh's heart, but make no mistake, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first as well. How do we know this? We know this because he continued in the decrees that this one started.  He hardened it to the point of murdering helpless newborn babies. He hardened his own heart against the cries of the babies and the wails of mothers' lamenting their little boys. Later, God would finish the hardening of his heart, but only after Pharaoh had made the choice to reject all that was decent and good, only after Pharaoh had ignored his own conscience until finally, God let it be seared and stopped speaking to Pharaoh through it. The book of Romans speaks of this kind of hardening, of how as man repeatedly suppresses the truth of God and ignores the wisdom freely offered to them, God eventually turns them over to a debased mind, basically telling them that since they choose over and over not to know God, He will allow them to continue not knowing Him, and will seal and finalize the deal of their hard, rebellious hearts.

While this order of the king seemed like a total blackout of hope for God's people, God had a plan in the works to free them.  The real shadow was in the heart of Pharaoh, because he chose not to know God or be thankful toward Him, Pharaoh's foolish heart was darkened to the point of total blackout.  Meanwhile, God's deliverance of his people was at hand.

Point of Action

God speaks to everyone in their conscience, even those who don't actually know Him still hear from Him in general terms of right and wrong.  It is a frightening thing when one continues to ignore this voice. Dear reader, do not harden your heart against God.  He loves you.  If you are already a believer, He will speak to you about what he wants you to do in your walk with Him, heed Him do not harden your heart.  If you do not yet know Him, He is speaking to you that He wants you to welcome Him into your life, He is reaching out to you, calling to you.  All you need to do is respond, ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you, tell Him that He is welcome in your life.  Don't harden your heart like Pharaoh did, because it is short trip from the choice to harden your own heart to the point of total blackout, where you won't hear Him anymore.

Don't harden your heart against the love of Christ, revealed in His word.

Be sure to check back Saturday February 4th for the next post.

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