We started a new series at our church in the book of Exodus. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the stories in this book and listening to what God is teaching through them. It should be exciting!
In preparation last week, I was reading the first couple of chapters of Exodus and a couple of thing stood out to me. These two things have never really impacted me before. But this time around, they were key to my understanding of what God was doing in His people at that time… and ultimately, it has shown me what I think God does now.
First, we need to understand a bit of the background leading into Exodus. Way back, God called out a guy named Abraham and made a promise to him. Genesis 12:1-3 says, “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” Over the next few chapters, God begins explaining and defining His promise. In chapter 13 He tells Abraham, ” I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.” Later God says to him, ““Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”” God promises that Abraham’s family will have a country of their own. A few chapters later, God really solidifies His covenant (promise) with Abraham and says that it’s not just about Him and Abraham, but also about Abraham’s descendants (the Israelites). God will be with them, give them their own land, and make the entire family a blessing to all nations.
Well years go by, and a few children are born, but they are still a relatively small family. Abraham dies and eventually his grandchildren all end up living in Egypt. This is where Exodus opens. Living in Egypt was not really the ultimate goal for the family of Israel. Part of God’s promise was that they would have their own land and it wasn’t Egypt. But there they were- all waiting around for something to happen. And something did happen. But not exactly a good something.
Egypt did not like this group just living there and not really being part of their kingdom. So they enslaved the people. They did not want the people to grown in number because they may soon outnumber the Egyptians and take over. So they worked them into forced labor.
I have always thought about this opening chapter of Exodus as just setting the stage to answer the question: How is God going to get the people out of here so he can fulfill His promise? But this last time around, I saw something different.
Exodus 1:7 says, “But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” Then again, in 1:12, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.”
This is when it hit me: It seems like nothing good is happening… that God is not present. Yet right here is God fulfilling the first part of His promise. God is actively bringing about His promise. The people are becoming numerous. They are growing! When it seems like God is not doing anything special, God is actually fulfilling His promise. (We learn a bit later that the people really didn’t think God was active. That God had forgotten about them.) But here in the everyday, in the years of waiting, God is active. God is being faithful to God’s promise.
Things where not exactly rainbows and butterflies, but God was working. Even in their great oppression, God was blessing. The more they were oppressed, the more God blessed… The greater the oppression became, the more we see God being faithful to God’s promise- the people grew in number. This wasn’t the absolute fulfillment of God’s promise, but God was active and God was being faithful.
It got me to thinking. There are times when we don’t believe God is doing anything. Or our situation in life feels oppressive and overwhelming. But what I learned from the beginning of Exodus, is that these may be the times that God is actively working to fulfill His promise. God is being faithful. God is blessing! I just may have need to change how I look at the situation. It doesn’t mean I like the situation or the circumstances of life, but I should remember and hold to God’s promise. Because God is working. He has not forgotten. He is faithful and blessing….