Our Need for Redemption Is Ancient

In Egypt, the Israelites were immigrants. They came to Egypt as refugees. Things started out favorably, but as the text says, the new ruler in Egypt “had not known Joseph” (1:8). Now the Israelites lived in fear because they were discriminated against. Pharaoh said, “Let us deal shrewdly with them” (v. 10). As a result of discrimination, God’s people had no political freedom. Because of the rising Israelite population, they were perceived as a threat to Pharaoh, and this prompted his evil actions. Pharaoh’s harsh treatment would soon come to an end, however, and God would eventually make Israel into a great nation.

Pharaoh used Israel for slave labor. Notice the language: “heavy burdens” (v. 11 ESV), “oppressed” (v. 12), “worked the Israelites ruthlessly” (v. 13), “bitter with difficult labor,” and “They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them” (v. 14). These phrases describe their enslavement. The Egyptians used the Israelites for construction projects (e.g., building Pithom and Raamses) and for agricultural projects.

The injustice we read about here bears some resemblance to our day. People of power continue to abuse the weak for their own devilish reasons. Some report upwards of thirty million slaves in the world today. Tragically, human trafficking is now the second largest organized crime in the world. What motivates this atrocity? Two of the main roots of this evil include sexual perversion and financial greed.

As the story goes on, we see how the Egyptians acted brutally and violently against the Israelites. This began with Pharaoh’s evil decision in (15-16). He initiated a state-sponsored genocide that demanded the killing of all the male Hebrew babies. This reminds us of the Deliverer who survived the ruthlessness of another dictator. Just as Moses lived in spite of the genocide, so Jesus lived through the baby-killing leadership of Herod (Matt 2:16).

Now they lived in constant terror. Think about it. Nine months of dread. Remember, ultrasounds did not exist. On delivery day, the “It’s a boy” report devastated parents.

However, God would deliver them out of this eventually. The final, most devastating act of judgment that God would inflict on Egypt was the death of their firstborn sons (4:23). The Passover would forever remind God’s people of God’s redemption. And later, when Israel would become a new society, one of the things that they would emphasize was social justice and the sanctity of human life—the latter being something our culture still does not embrace.

After Pharaoh’s decision, look at the two midwives’ decision (1:17-22). These two women heroically did not listen to the king. Instead, they “feared God” (17, 21). While they did fear the king, they feared the King even more! Pharaoh realized what they had done and called them in for questioning: “Why have you done this?” (v. 18). They told him the Hebrew women were “vigorous.” Essentially, the Hebrew women gave birth before the midwives could even say, “Push!”

Next observe God’s decision regarding the midwives. We read in Exodus 1:20, “God was good to the midwives.” To what extent did God deal well with the midwives? He blessed them with families (v. 21).

We should remember that these women did something for us. Because they rescued the babies, we will be raised from the dead! How so? If you do not have these women, you do not have Moses, the exodus, David, Mary, or Jesus. The women are so important that Moses even mentioned them by name, yet you do not see the name of Pharaoh anywhere in this text. Pharaohs wanted their names remembered. They built pyramids to be remembered. Yet the only names we remember are those who feared God and protected life.

In hearing the midwives’ response, Pharaoh became infuriated. He demanded that all boys born to Hebrew women were to be thrown into the river. He likely chose the river for two reasons. First, it was convenient. Everyone lived on the Nile, and the clean up would have been easy. The Nile was a source of water and a conveyance for sewage, for the mighty current took away waste. Second, the Nile was viewed as a god, so this shifted the blame. Egyptians viewed the Nile as a giver and taker of life; thus, they might have thought they were doing the will of the gods.

Pharaoh appears in archaeological records with the snake on his crown. It makes us think of the promise in Genesis 3:15, where we read of the enmity between the triumphant seed of the woman over the opposing seed of the serpent. Pharaoh lived out the serpent role by killing boys. Egypt was the enemy of God, and God must deliver Israel so that “they may worship [Him]” (Exod 9:1). This story shows us a cosmic, spiritual battle, not just a battle between Moses and Pharaoh.

God’s goal, then, included more than simply getting His people out of Egypt. He wanted to get Egypt out of His people. Luke underscored this truth in Acts 7:39. Stephen, in recounting the exodus and the events thereafter, said, “In their hearts [the Israelites] turned back to Egypt.”

God’s desire extended beyond liberating Israel from political, economic, and social slavery. He desired worshipers. He wanted Israel (like Adam) to know Him for who He was. Further, He wanted to use Israel to make worshipers from all nations. Therefore, God responded to all of the dimensions of Israel’s slavery. He did not just free them from social economic-political oppression and let them worship any god. Neither did He just free them spiritually without changing their awful situation. God continues to be concerned for physical freedom, and especially spiritual freedom. Wright says, “Although Exodus stands as a unique and unrepeatable event in the history of Israel, it also stands as a paradigmatic and highly repeatable way God wishes to act in the world, and ultimately will act for the whole creation” (Wright, Mission, 275).

Some of us have not experienced the enslavement of these first three forms (political, social, and economical); but everyone understands this last form (spiritual slavery). We need spiritual deliverance. But some around the world, victims of human trafficking for example, continue to be enslaved. We must seek to deliver them in every way open to us, beginning with faithful prayer.

Pray for them just now!

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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