The Book of Exodus relates the history of the forming of the children of Israel into a Church and a nation. In the Book of Genesis, we primarily saw true religion at work in the lives of individuals and families; but now we begin to trace its effects upon entire kingdoms and nations. The word Exodus means “departure”; and indeed, the chief event recorded in this Book is the departure of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The Book plainly shows the fulfillment of several promises and prophecies that were given to Abraham concerning his offspring; and it gives a picture of the spiritual state of the Church as she travels through the wilderness of this world, until she arrives in the eternal rest of the heavenly Canaan.
During the 215 years (1921-1706 BC) that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived at liberty, the Hebrews increased slowly. When Jacob went down into Egypt, his descendants only numbered about 70 persons. There in Egypt, however – over a period of another 215 years (1706-1491 BC) – they became a large nation, despite the cruel bondage under which they suffered. This wonderful in-crease was according to the promise that was made to their forefathers. The performance of God’s promises is sometimes slow, but it is always sure!
After Joseph and his brothers died, there came a change of dynasties in Egypt. The new Pharaoh did not know Joseph or the things he had done for the good of the country. It is best to not count too certainly upon the lasting gratitude of the people whom we try to help. However, the possibility of ungrateful treatment should never hinder the outflow of our kindness. Even if all people do forget us, there is still one place where our labors of love are kept in mind. Every tear, every sacrifice, and every smallest service – Christ remembers it. If we learn to do all our work for Him, then we shall not fail to receive our final and lasting reward, even if everyone else forgets us and does wrong to us. The world can never rob us of the true reward of faithful service. It may withhold gratitude, but no earthly ingratitude can intercept the Divine benediction! Consider Joseph. He is no poorer now because of the ingratitude of the Egyptians. Indeed, he helped shape the history of the world. Think of the countless thousands of lives he preserved from starvation! His beautiful character has been one of the world’s brightest ideals for many centuries. His influence is felt wherever the Bible is read. What does it really matter, then, that the new Pharaoh sought to blot out the name and memory of Joseph? Today he is one of the most honored names in all of human history, and the effects of his work in the world will abide forever.
The new Pharaoh set to work to stop the amazing growth of the Hebrew population. He feared that this growing people would eventually become a formidable power if they were allowed to continue increasing in number. But he shut his eyes against the fact that he was contending with the Almighty One! Tyrants refuse to see the invisible Being Who stands behind the frail people whom they seek to crush and destroy. They are continually resorting to crafty and cruel schemes to try to out-maneuver God and carry out their own plans. They convince themselves that they are dealing wisely, but the outcome always proves their endeavors to be the most wretched folly. Instead of hindering the increase of the Hebrews, Pharaoh’s oppressive mandates only made them grow even more! This has been the history of all persecution among the Lord’s people. It has only served to strengthen the Church and multiply her members. It has proved to be as vain as if someone tried to quench a fire by pouring oil on the flames. It has truly been said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Such is the case with all trials in a believer’s life. Grace in the heart cannot be crushed out by afflictions. It is like a root which has grown deep into the soil, and cannot be exterminated; rather, the more you beat it and dig it and try to get it out, it grows all the faster and thicker. This truth shows how utterly futile it is for tyrants to contend with God; for when they oppose Him, they are really only helping to carry out the purpose which they are trying to defeat. But this should also bring a sense of wonderful security to the Christian who is exposed to any wrongs or trials. No one can ever really injure him, if he clings to his Lord. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”
Let us not conclude our study of this chapter without remembering that we are all naturally in bondage to sin. Until our chains are broken and we are set free by Christ, we are under this terrible taskmaster. Sin’s slavery is hard, and it makes our lives bitter. It grows worse, and never easier, every day. And unless we are delivered from it while we are in this world, it will end in eternal misery. But God has mercy upon souls who are suffering in this cruel slavery, even when they have no merit in themselves. He has compassion upon those who are bound and crushed by Satan’s taskmasters; and in the Person of Jesus, the Deliverer, He comes to them so that He might give them true freedom and liberty!
Lord, here we see another example of the deadly enmity that exists between the Seed of the Woman and the seed of the serpent. Give us grace to choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. May we learn a lesson of grace and patience from this chapter; for however slow Your promises may appear in their fulfilling, we may rest assured that they are sure to come to pass! Amen.
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