Stepping Out: Living God's Plan
The narrative begins in the Book of Exodus with the new pharaoh assuming power, around the time of Joseph's death. The Children of Israel (descendants of Jacob) are flourishing in Egypt – they are exceedingly mighty and numerous and doing very well. In fact, they were hard to ignore as the land was filled with them. Despite the fact that their predecessor (Joseph) had saved Egypt, they were still treated as foreigners. They were not Egyptians.
The new king of Egypt saw the Israelites as a threat because of their strength and large numbers. The king saw them as a potential threat because he was afraid that they would join the enemies of the Egyptians and overthrow them.
The king was obviously mightier than the Israelites but he was afraid of them and decided to subjugate them. God had truly blessed the Israelites and these blessings turned out to be their undoing in the eyes of the Egyptians. The flourishing of the Israelites was a signal to the evil Egyptian king that there would be trouble from the Israelites.
Lesson: When God blesses you, you should not be surprised when others get envious of your success, regardless of their position! I suppose that the king of Egypt didn’t want the Israelites to enjoy the same measure of success as the Egyptian people.
So the king hatched a plan to subdue the Egyptians by afflicting them with hard labor. The plan in one sense paid off as the Israelites built storage cities. Yet, in another sense, the plan backfired because the Israelites multiplied even more as their afflictions grew. “THE MORE THEY AFFLICTED THEM, THE MORE THEY MULTIPLIED AND THE MORE THEY SPREAD OUT, SO THAT THEY WERE IN DREAD OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL” (EXODUS 1:12)
The Egyptians continued to make their lives bitter and harsh.
In response, God continued to bless the sons of Israel so that they grew even more of a force in Egypt. The Hebrew midwives were blessed by siding with the sons of Israel and God blessed them on account of this.
In Exodus chapter two, Moses was raised by his mom and then grew up in the palace of the pharaoh. Nothing is mentioned about the kind of life he lived before he escaped into Midian but clearly he was not treated as the other children of Israel. He didn’t work outside in the similar harsh conditions of his fellow Hebrew countrymen. Whether or not he actually lived in royalty, we can assume his life appeared so in contrast to the others.
Moses settled down in Midian and was presumably living well until God stepped in.
Before the intervention, God took notice of the plight of His people and made a plan to rescue them from the harsh Egyptians. God could have spirited them away from the Egyptians or sent a wasting disease among the Egyptians and then opened the way for the His people to march out of Egypt victoriously. Rather, God used a man to get His people out. God had the option of suddenly spiriting the Hebrews away from Egypt and rescuing them from their tormentors. God had other plans and intended for this to be a learning experience for the Hebrews. He wanted them to really see and understand the personal dealings of God in their lives. Significantly, God decided to use Moses, a flawed individual, to get His people out of Egypt. Think of this: God intervening to get His people out of Egypt, doable, easy, quick. He who made the heavens and earth and all in it, is able to do anything, including subduing the Egyptians with one look! God intervening to get His people out by using a man, not easy, fraught with possible failure, frustration on both the Hebrews and God, apparent madness!
It would seem as if God abides by rules which He is afraid to break! If I were God, I would destroy the Egyptians in one twitch of my finger and free my children. That is not always God’s way. The fact that God includes us as key players in the fulfillment of His plans is incredible!
This is where Moses’ life is turned upside down. God’s will for our lives is not necessarily the most comfortable life!
The concept of the American dream: lovely house, two cars in the garage, hot and sexy wife, 2-3 children, and a white picket fence. This is rarely the picture we get when God steps into our lives and decides that we will be the conduit through which He fulfills His plan for some segment of humanity. Rather, our lives are thrown into disequilibrium, confusion, fear, hardships, challenges….all for the advancement of the Kingdom of God!
I am almost sure Moses’ comfort level was the last thing on God’s mind when God commanded him to go and do His will.
In Chapter 3, verse 7 onwards, the narrative gives the order of how things unfolded in God’s plan:
- I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt
- I have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters for I am aware of their sufferings
- I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land
- Furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them
In this, God has decided that Egypt is not good enough for His people. He has prepared something better for them. Yet God is not going to just magically whisk them away from Egypt into the Promised Land. No! The relocation of His people is a process! It did take a day for His people to leave Egypt but there were lots of things that God did to strengthen them and gain their confidence and trust and Moses’ confidence and trust.
In addition, implicit in this is that God also has a plan for the Egyptians who oppressed His people. He simply says that He has seen what the Egyptians are doing! That did not escape the notice of God!
When God finally punished the Egyptians, everyone in varying degrees felt that punishment. I am sure that everyone did not agree with the way the Hebrew slaves were treated but I am wondering if they attempted to do anything about the treatment that was being meted out to the Hebrews. Did anyone speak out and try to prick the consciences of the Egyptians in authority? Many Egyptians may have been in serious disagreement with this arrangement but they did benefit economically from it. Seeking justice for the oppressed is an active thing that requires more than just a quiet, heartfelt sympathy. We need to speak out against it and rail against it and make efforts to eradicate it. Is this a warning to our evangelical Christians in our land that they too will feel the wrath is this great nation is punished because of the way the treat the downtrodden and the outcast and those in need?
Keith Yearwood, Storyteller