I read an inspirational quote this week, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” That’s good, but not entirely accurate. I’d like to change that. “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who God is and His plan for your life.”
We see this all through the book of Exodus. The overall theme of the book is redemption – God redeeming His people. Revealing Himself and His will through difficult times. Taking something ugly and making something beautiful.
Before God saved His people from Egypt, God actually saved His people through Egypt…
1. God’s people saved through Egypt (Exodus 1:1-6)
Exodus is a continuation of Genesis. And Genesis ends with the story of Joseph, the favored son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery, but eventually becomes 2nd in command in Egypt. Because of his high position, he was able to provide food for his father, brothers and their families, and eventually bringing them to Egypt. God used the extreme trials and injustice and pain of Joseph’s life to save many.
That’s how the “sons of Israel” wound up in Egypt. But the good pharaoh died and eventually a bad pharaoh took his place, one who “did not know” Joseph.
Why is this text here? At the time Moses wrote this, they were most likely wandering in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. Moses wants to preserve an accurate record for generations to come. In addition, much of this history was new information to the original audience, not knowing how they got to Egypt in the first place. After 400 years, (which is about 10 generations), that’s plenty of time to forget.
God wanted them to know that even in the midst of great suffering, He knows how to deliver His people. That reminder would be very timely and needed, especially as the faced what was about to come…
2. God’s people enslaved by Egypt (Exodus 1:7-10)
Verse 8 marks a major political shift. Under Joseph, the pharaoh was friendly to Israel. But now, this pharaoh hates them. And he begins to make the case with his people the growing foreign population of Hebrews as a threat (vv. 9-10) although they have only been a blessing in the land. But Pharaoh wants to get rid of them, so he’s building a political case against them.
But pharaoh’s conflicting motives are revealed in his own words. He first says he’s worried the Hebrews will become a military threat and they need to defend their country. But then he says he doesn’t want them to “escape”, as if his plan was to use the Hebrews as slave labor all along. It seems that Pharaoh was a politician as well, saying what he needed to say to get the masses to agree with him.
Over a slow process of removing societal standing and economic status, while also having Egyptian leaders publicly plant seeds of suspicion and fear, God’s people become enslaved in Egypt as hated foreigners.
God knows His people are suffering. But He has a plan. Before He rescues them, God is at work behind the scenes…
3. God’s people preserved in their oppression (Exodus 1:11-14)
The next phase of the Pharaoh’s plan would be to reduce the Hebrew population through hard labor. And if that was the end goal, this is a plan that should work. After all, logic would say that slavery, heavy burdens and hard work, poor health care, all of this would naturally cause the population to decline sharply. Killing off the living, and making them spend all their time working in the fields, couples would have no time or inclination to have other children.
That’s what should have happened according to man’s plan. But that was not God’s plan. Instead of population control, just the opposite happened.  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.
In the middle of their adversity and suffering, God blesses them. He blesses them with more children, with growing numbers. Man’s plans fail. God’s plans succeed. Every time.
God is using this time to prepare His people for their freedom: He’s is preparing them physically, by multiplying and growing in number to be a nation, to be able to take the promised land. And God is also preparing them spiritually, to know what it means to serve and worship the One True God. He’s preparing their hearts for the wilderness wandering, and for life beyond slavery, to prepare their hearts to depend on God, not on themselves.
Let that be an encouragement to our hearts today. No matter what man tries to do, God will always prevail. Whether it be the situation you’re in right now, a problem you’re facing and you can’t see the answer, or if it is the fear of the unknown in making an important decision. God wants to remind us today that He is sovereign over our circumstances. For those who have submitted their lives to Christ, He is the one guiding you. You may not always see it, His hand is not always obvious, but God is at work. He is with you, preserving you and preparing you. He is working things out to be better than you could even ask or think.