I am reading through the book of Exodus and am just struck by how often we end up enslaved to things and situations that were originally given for our good. Exercised under the authority of God, these things or situations can give Him great glory and us great joy. But our hearts are idol factories, and we make love to give away God’s authority in our lives to just about anything and everything besides Him. When that happens, we become voluntarily enslaved to idols of our own making.
At the end of the book of Genesis, the nation of Israel (the family of Jacob, whom God renamed Israel) are living in Egypt. They are in Egypt because Jacob’s sons sold their next-youngest brother Joseph into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt, where he ascended to the second-highest position in the land. Then there was a famine in Canaan (where the rest of his family lived), and Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to get food. Joseph hooked his brothers up with some great land and plenty of food, because he had the favor of Pharaoh. This was God’s provision for His people.
The book of Exodus picks up after the death of Joseph, his brothers, and their generation. (Exodus 1:6) There is a new Pharaoh, and apparently his Egyptian History teacher didn’t fill him in on Joseph. This Pharaoh decided that the Hebrews (who had become a large ethnic nation at this point) presented a threat to him due to both their size and their strength. So he forced the Hebrews into slavery. (Exodus 1:8-14) Further, the Pharaoh is so fearful of a potential rebellion that he orders that every male Hebrew child be killed at birth. (Exodus 1:15-22)
It is into this genocidal environment that Moses is born. Remember, that God has not called his people to live in Egypt. They were never supposed to live in Egypt. Abraham was called to the land of Canaan. (Genesis 12:1-9) They are in Egypt because of the sin of Jacob’s brothers. They lived there for a while because of the famine (an act of faithlessness and disobedience that Abraham himself committed immediately after God called him to go to Canaan, in Genesis 12:10-20.) Now, they have become comfortable and multiplied in a slavery of their own making.
The Bible is not a collection of random stories about God. The Bible is one unified story about God’s relationship with his creation with the following plot: CREATION, FALL, REDEMPTION, RESTORATION. (Sometimes also stated as GOD, MAN, CHRIST, RESPONSE.) Simply put, GOD CREATED the world, MAN screwed it up in the FALL, REDEMPTION is accomplished ultimately through CHRIST, and those who RESPOND to Christ’s gift of eternal life through faith in Him can experience RESTORATION – both now and after this life is over. CREATION, FALL, REDEMPTION, RESTORATION is the big picture story of the Bible, what theologians call the “meta” (big) “narrative” (story). GOD, MAN, CHRIST, RESPONSE is how we tend to describe how this story affects us personally.
This meta-narrative is clearly demonstrated in the narrative of Exodus, with the particular theme of redemption from slavery. In fact, the Exodus narrative is really an object lesson that God put His people through to teach them how they (and we) fit into this larger story. Fallen man is living in slavery to a pagan and idolatrous foreign country, and God will redeem them into freedom.
Moses was born into the priestly tribe of Israel, the tribe of Levi, during the Pharaoh’s genocidal spree, which put his life in immediate danger. (Exodus 2:1-2) Feeling she had nothing to lose, his mom went to great lengths to hide him and attempt to save his life. Ultimately, through some crazy circumstances, Moses was taken into Pharaoh’s own house Pharaoh’s daughter – along with Moses’ mom, who served as his nurse. (Exodus 2:3-10) Here we see a similar theme to Joseph’s story in that God’s man (Joseph/Moses) receives favor in a foreign land (Egypt) and ultimately saves his people from destruction (famine/slavery).
While Moses was able to grow up in safety and luxury in Pharaoh’s house, he identified with the struggles of his countrymen living in slavery. But in his immaturity and sinful anger, he killed an Egyptian taskmaster and was forced to flee the country. (Exodus 2:11-22)
God heard the cries of His people living in slavery. God knew and understood their suffering. And he would not allow the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be defined by their years of slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 2:23-25) God has a covenant relationship with His people, and He is going to send a redeemer to bring them out of their slavery and, eventually, back to the land He promised to give them.
The Bible says that God is faithful even when we are faithless. (2 Timothy 2:13) I am grateful that God sees me where I am, hears my prayers when I cry out to him “I’m tired of all this”, and has redeemed my life for His glory and my extreme joy!