FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM: A Study of the Book of Exodus
The Difference Fearing God Makes
Exodus 1 SCC 6/3/12
††††††††††† Absolutely nothing and absolutely no one will ever get in the way of the fulfillment of the plans, promises, and purposes of God. Many will try to thwart these promises by any number of means but will end in utter failure. God is going to do what God is going to do and you will not be able to stop it. Your wisdom wonít stop it. Your violence wonít stop it. Your ingenuity will not stop it. Your anger will not stop it. Your efforts to stop the progress of the promises of God will only end up frustrating you and contribute to fulfilling Godís promises. He will use your efforts against Him, against you. We, as Godís people, have the wonderful encouragement from this chapter that God will fulfill His promises to us no matter what men may do to us to stop that. Israel faced this under the Egyptís oppressive hand.
GODíS PEOPLE CAN COUNT ON GOD FULFILLING HIS PROMISES TO THEM 1:1-7††††††††
††††††††††† First, is the record of the names of the sons of Israel who entered Egypt. Including this information indicates that the Israelites living in bondage had retained knowledge of their ancestry, and with it, of their faith and Godís promise to them via Abraham. This listing revives that memory. But, of course, this entire generation had died v 6. There was death in Egypt for sure and death is a constant theme of the entire book but it did not work against the promises God had given his people. In spite of that the people still flourished in a foreign land eventually to become a great nation. Death was a constant threat to this. In Genesis 15 God had said the Abram would die and his descendents in bondage for 400 years and yet these promises were sure and true. Death would not hinder this.
††††††††††† Second, verse 7 sets up the contrast as well as stating the theme for this chapter. In spite of this death of the founding fathers and the generations who entered, the descendents were flourishing. Notice the description: fruitful; multiply; swarm; strong; and replenished. These are descriptions of Israelís growth and prosperity in terms of the first commission God gave in Genesis to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. The blessing of God enables this fruitfulness. So these allusions to the Genesis creation account reveal that Israelís prosperity in Egypt was also by divine blessing. Godís divine plan for mankind to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth and subdue evil is being channeled through Abrahamís seed. Neither death nor oppression can frustrate the will of God for His creation. Israel was as much a creation of God as was the universe. So this section goes out of its way to report that the people of Israel flourished in Egypt.
NB: So the people of God owe their existence to at least two major works of God: (1) Godís election of us; the fact that God has chosen us. The mystery of election is that God can choose unconditionally, yet our wills are not coerced. We are persuaded by the Holy Spirit to believe. Further, we have the sense of free will in the process. The biblical doctrine of election is that it is unconditional, irresistible, and irrevocable. All this to the glory of God--without in any way diminishing the dignity or responsibility of man. (2) Godís creation of us as His people. We become the people of God by means of the work of God to save us and to make us His own. All of this was done through the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have great and precious promises as a result.
GOD PROVIDES FOR US AS THE WORLD OPPOSES THE OUTCOME OF THE PROMISES
††††††††††† First, this section opens with the news that a new king has risen to power v 8. One who did not have knowledge of Joseph or the founding fathers v 6. We are going to learn that he was insecure in his power not wishing that the Israelites grew larger and become a threat to the regime from within by joining forces with surrounding enemiesí v 9-10. This created the circumstances for their being oppressed. Interesting, that while this Pharaoh did not know Joseph, he will also claim not to know who the LORD is which highlights a major theme of the first 15 chapters. The LORD will work to make sure that Pharaoh and all Egypt will know that He is the true God. The bottom line is that the policies acted upon by the Pharaoh toward Israel are motivated by fear that the Israelites will become a threat.
††††††††††† Second, to counter this threat the King institutes a series of policies to prevent their further multiplication. A Ďskillfulí decision is required to prevent the Israelites form multiplying anymore. The answer was intense slavery v 11-14. The descriptions include Ďafflicting them with hard labor, v 11; to labor vigorously v 13; lives bitter with hard labor v 14; labors imposed upon them v 14. This king was trying to crush the spirit out of Israel by oppressive slavery. This, of course, represents the wisdom of the world at work opposing that which God is blessing. The world will always do that. If the plan was designed to keep the Israelites from growing in number, it was doomed form the start. We learn that as this policy was instituted by the regime, the more they oppressed the more they multiplied v 12!
NB: Understand that there was nothing about the oppression it self that caused this. It was that the oppression was part of the plan of God for His people. Genesis 15 told of both Abeís seed becoming a great nation and the oppressing slavery. Why? Because God wanted Israel to know that their growth, in fact their survival was a work of God. We can expect this opposition today whenever we pursue righteousness in this world. Continue on with that work anyway even if the effort seems small. God is working in spite of bondage and oppression. His people can count on His promises even when threats.
FEARING GOD PRESERVES HIS PEOPLE FROM THE OPPRESSION OF THE WORLD
††††††††††† First, here the opposition and oppression intensifies. Again, it is connected to the regime, maybe a new king now with a new tactic v 15. In the meantime, Israel has filled the land. It was teeming with Israelites v 6. Something had to be done. The king thought he could control the population by killing the males as they were born v 15-16. This was a ruthless policy, similar to the one instituted by King Herod after Jesus birth. Again, this is the worldís solution to this dilemma in the land. The narrative is portraying for us a wicked fool bent on destroying Israel.
††††††††††† Second, faithful people will act based on a fear of God even when circumstances are threatening. What these midwives do is the exact opposite of Pharaohs command to kill the male babies. The midwives obey God rather than man. Fearing God is a basic element of true faith that leads to an obedient course of action and is not terrified by worldly threats. It is a calculated decision that obeying God is in our best interests even if it means potential hardship and oppression. Twice their fear of God is emphasized v 17 & 21. The point then, is that they followed a higher authority that prohibited killing these babies. When they answer the king v 18-19 there most likely was an element of truth to it but they also had no intention of honoring the king by participating in murder. They saw no reason to give him a straightforward answer and God honored their actions.
††††††††††† Third, their actions were honored by God v 20-21. They were rewarded in two ways. (1) The people of Israel continued to multiply, as this murderous policy was thwarted v 20. (2) The midwives had their own households established. Go blessed them by giving them familiesí v 21. The women simply followed a higher authority one that prohibited the taking of life and promised the seed of Abe would multiply. Here was genuine wisdom at work indeed contrary to the worldly wisdom of the king. V 22 the king now commands the throwing of males into the Nile. Another evil worldly solution murderous plans to consolidate and protect his regime. This sets the stage for Chapter 2 and Moses!
1. The world evil system is antagonistic and seeks to destroy Godís people and their work.
2. We must fear God rather than men for here lays our obedience and our security in oppression.
3. While expecting opposition to righteousness get on with its work as it often takes great faith to do so.
4. God wants to build a great people to represent him on earth but necessary with great faith to stand up.