Exodus 1:6-14 (NIV)
6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
There was a famine in Canaan. Jacob and his family left and went to Egypt. There was famine in Egypt as well but God had given Jacob’s son, Joseph the prime minister of Egypt, the wisdom to put grain aside so there was food in Egypt. Today’s Scripture begins after Joseph and those of his generation die.
God had promised Abraham that his seed would grow and be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sands on the shore. We see God’s faithfulness for there were many Israelites in the land of Egypt at this time. Some theologians believe that the numbers had grown from 70 to 2 million. This is based on Numbers 1:46 when a count of men ages 20 years and older was taken, “all who were numbered were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty.” When you allow for wives and children, the Hebrews have grown from Jacob’s family of 70 to somewhere around 2 million people.
There is a new king in the land. Verse 8 tells us that he did not know Joseph and obviously doesn’t care and has no appreciation for the great blessing Joseph had been to his nation.
When I read verse 9, I hear the voice of a leader who is concerned and fearful of the alarming increase of Israelites. He sees their growth as a threat in two ways:
- If a war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us
- The Israelites will leave the country [they were needed to do the work]
In an effort to control this circumstance, the king established forced labor, oppressed [afflicted] the Israelites, and put slave masters over them.
The Israelites were forced to build the royal store cities of Pithom and Rameses as slaves…and thus begins what God had spoken to Abraham in Genesis 15:13, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.”
As I read these Scriptures, I am impressed by what fear, jealousy, envy will cause a person to do and I understand why God repeatedly teaches us ‘not to fear.’ Fear will bring destruction if not Spirit-controlled. When fear comes upon us, we should not work our own plan but seek the Lord.
Pharaoh worked his plan but it was doomed to failure for he was working against God’s plan of blessing and increase for the Israelites. Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” The Lord had/has purpose for the Jews.
Pharaoh’s plan did not work because no amount of persecution, affliction, oppression can destroy God’s people or block His plan. Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.”
As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to know that God has warned and encouraged us to not operate out of fear. His plan for us is greater, it is the life of faith. 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Many of us would quickly say, “Amen, Sister!” as if this encouragement is not meant for us but for others. I would lovingly submit that in any part of our lives that we feel the need to humanly oppress, afflict, control, manipulate, fight or experience continual anger has an element of fear.
We are called to walk by faith and true faith requires more than easy words out of our mouths. It requires absolute trust, confidence in God…that He is Who He says He is in His Holy Word, that He does all that He says, and that all His ways, plans, and purposes are perfect. He is the Sovereign God who rules and reigns and so loves us that He is watching over and keeping us even in the midst of the storms. Faith realizes that God is in control and says I trust you, Lord! I will walk in your plan and purpose.
The Lord encourages us to bring every fear to Him. “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).”
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).”
We know the end of this story, Pharaoh’s fear, envy, and jealousy brought great harm to himself and the Egyptians as a whole as God brought plagues and death in the Red Sea. Surely, our desire is for blessing and not curses for our families, churches, communities, countries, and the world.
Let’s look the enemy in the eye as the Liar and Deceiver He is and refuse to make any decision out of fear. Let’s defeat the enemy by drawing close to God, cast down everything that exalts itself over His Word, wait on the Lord to guide us in every step of life and image forth Christ as we do it!