This week we are diving into the beginning of Exodus as we take a closer look at the first chapter. This is not meant to serve as an exhaustive or exegetical bible study, but I do hope these thoughts encourage and challenge us as we engage with God Himself and with the world around us.

As I have been thinking and working on this post throughout the week, my heart has been so heavy and saddened by the state of the world around me. Feelings of anger, helplessness, guilt, and weariness have all coursed through my veins as my eyes have been inundated by headlines and hashtags. I have caught myself squeezing my little one tighter, rocking him longer, and praying with greater fervor for the wisdom to know how to raise a Jesus-loving, people-loving, fearless world changer. As I have wrestled, I have found the context and the message of Exodus even more relevant and reassuring. I believe there is something here for us within this chapter. So with that being said, let’s dive in!

God blessed the growth of the nation of Israel tremendously during their time in Egypt. They moved to Egypt as a family of seventy, but in the introduction to Exodus we see that “they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” {Exodus 1:7b ESV} We catch a glimpse of the fulfillment of the promise God had made to Abraham back in Genesis 15:5; that he would be the father of many, that his offspring would outnumber the stars in the sky.

We also see a change in the leadership of Egypt. Joseph and all of his brothers had died, as well as the Pharaoh who had valued Joseph so highly. A new Pharaoh was in charge and he did not know Joseph (1:8). This Pharaoh began to fear Israel when he saw how quickly and strongly they were growing as a nation, and he allowed that fear to begin to drive his decision making. Rather than treating Israel well and working to maintain friendly ties with them that would continue to benefit both nations, Pharaoh began to harshly oppress Israel. He believed they would be unable to rise up against Egypt in a future time of war if he could limit and weaken them in oppression, but he was mistaken.

But the more they [Israel] were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians lived in dread of the people of Israel.” {Exodus 1:12 ESV}

The greater the oppression, the greater the multiplication. The greater the multiplication, the greater the oppression, until Pharaoh was willing to murder the newborn sons of Israel. Unfortunately for Pharaoh, the midwives he ordered to do his dirty work feared the Lord more than they feared him:

“Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiprah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live…..So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” {Exodus 1:15-17; 20-21}

What Pharaoh intended to thwart the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in hindering the growth of Israel, God used to bring His promise to pass. God raised up two women who feared the Lord and valued the lives of the next generation more highly than their own to rescue many. They understood that fearing the Lord was more life-giving than fearing a paranoid man, and God used their courage and faith to preserve His promise.

The midwives are not the only women that we see God raise up to act boldly in the story of Exodus. We will explore this further in a future post. For now, I want to highlight a few takeaways from this first chapter:

  1. A forgotten history leads to a fear-driven future.

This change in Egypt’s leadership came with a ruler who had forgotten the history of his country. He did not know Joseph, nor how God had used Joseph to spare Egypt and grow its economy tremendously during a severe famine. Rather than seeing the presence of Israel as a benefit to Egypt, he saw them through a lens of paranoia and fear. We are given no indication that Israel was unhappy in Egypt, or evidence that they would side with Egypt’s enemies in a time of war like Pharaoh had feared. Instead, they appear to be growing, fruitful, and satisfied in the land. Fear and paranoia drove Pharaoh to make some oppressive decisions, decisions that would have devastating consequences for his country and his family.

  1. God wastes nothing in bringing about the fulfillment of His promises.

I firmly believe that God is not a God of fear (1 John 4:15-18 ESV). The oppression of Israel came from a decision based in fear, not based in the heart of God, so I think it would be hard to argue that God willed Israel’s oppression. While I do not believe He willed it, I do believe He remained sovereign over it because He did not waste it. God used that which should have broken Israel to make them stronger. God used that which should have limited Israel to make them greater. God used that which should have resulted in death to give way to life. God redeemed all that was meant to crush His people by raising up women whose faith was greater than their fear.

If you spend any time observing the life of Jesus, you will quickly see that oppression is not in God’s character nor His nature. In fact, the opposite is true. God is always working to bring about genuine freedom. I look at the world around me, as it falls to pieces, and it is entirely too easy to identify the consequences of fear and oppression. Fear will always lead to oppression but oppression does not have to perpetuate fear. Perhaps this is a rare instance when Israel gets it right; they did not allow oppression to hinder their life. In the midst of great oppression, of days full of heavy burdens and exhausting slavery, they continued to grow in relationships and in family. They continued to usher in new life in the hope of a better future. They did not accept nor adopt their oppression as their identity.

I do not know a whole lot, but I do know that there is a calling, an anointing, and a destiny on your life that the Enemy of God would love to crush through means of fear and deceit. I know that you exist as a unique reflection of God’s image that no one else ever has nor ever will express; that the world desperately needs to see. I know that Satan would love to squash that expression through means of oppression. I also know that you were created by the Living God; whose plan for your life cannot be thwarted by schemes of evil nor the fear of man because He is greater, He is faithful, and He wastes nothing.

Father God, we are so thankful for the example You have given us in the lives of these women who chose to trust you as they stood against fear and oppression. We are so thankful that you are faithful to Your word and to Your promises; that You are the God of freedom. Would you continue to show us more of who You are as we continue to participate in Your story? Would you help us to walk boldly, eyes fixed on you, and empower us to make decisions from a foundation of faith rather than fear. We ask that You would have Your way in us, for the sake of Your glory and our good.

-a

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