Take just a moment as you transition from Genesis to Exodus to consider a couple of things. First, time has passed. A lot of time. When Jacob arrives in Egypt, his family totals 70, including Joseph and his sons. When this scene opens before us we will find out that Israel has a standing army of over 600,000, meaning the people as a whole were much more populous than that. Also consider that the favour Israel had in Egypt had long passed away and Israel is now an enslaved nation. The problem, from Pharaoh’s point of view, is that Israel was too large and Pharaoh was afraid of two possibilities: 1) that Israel would just one day get up and walk out OR 2) Israel would side with Egypt’s enemies and fight against Egypt.
Either way, Egypt loses its workforce and Pharaoh loses face.
Also consider that Israel has been among a foreign people who worship foreign gods for about four generations (according to God’s prediction to Abram in Genesis 15). While it is clear that at Moses’ birth the midwives still feared God, we get the impression when Moses returns to Egypt in Exodus 4 that the Israelites have to be reminded of who God is. Living in a land of foreign gods would have most certainly affected Israel’s religious practices.
Finally, consider the overall theme of Exodus, the theme of deliverance and freedom. The whole book concentrates on what it means to be free, what it costs to be free, and the responsibilities that come with freedom. All through the book you will see Israel struggling to understand that freedom is not license to do whatever you please, and that discipline (law) is not bondage. The book of Exodus teaches us what it means to have freedom in God’s will, something many modern Christians need to learn.
The theme of deliverance begins right at the beginning of the book. In chapter 3, God declares to Moses: “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers…So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians.” God was paying attention to their suffering and was seeking to bring them freedom. I bet it didn’t feel that way to the Israelites. I bet they didn’t feel God’s attention in the midst of their oppression.
There is an important lesson in this for us. God is always paying attention, and God’s desire is bring us freedom. But it may not always feel that way and we may feel like our cries for help are lost into the cosmos. We have to be willing to trust that God is working out our deliverance. Plus, we may have some lessons to learn on our way to freedom, just as the Israelites did.
Deliverance. The preciousness of freedom. The responsibilities of freedom.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 4-6