GOD BLESSED ISRAELITES ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISE
Exodus 1:1-22, Key Verse: 1:7
“…but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.”
Thank God for blessing our discipleship Bible study with 12 lessons and two testimonial messages. This is our prayer offering for us to raise 12 disciples, and through them 1200 Bible teachers for this nation to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Amen.
Now, we are moving into the study of Exodus. Exodus is the second book of the Bible. The first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, were written by Moses as one book, called the Pentateuch in Greek and Torah in Hebrew. Therefore, Exodus is the continuation of Genesis, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3. In God’s promise, there are three parts: making Abraham a great nation, making his name great, and making him a blessing for all people on earth. Later in Genesis 15:13-21, God prophesied how Abraham’s descendants would be enslaved and come back to take possession of the specific land. Exodus is the exact fulfillment of the prophesy, revealing God who keeps his covenant promise faithfully. God saved the people of Israel from the bondage of slavery with his mighty power in order to raise them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for world salvation, thus making them a source of blessing for all people of all nations. Amen!
Through studying Exodus, I pray that we may learn of God’s work and vision on a national and a personal level. On a national level, may God help each us to see why God raised America. On a personal level, may God bless each one of us to see how God has been fulfilling his sovereign plan and vision, thus building a personal relationship.
I. God’s Blessing Upon the People of Israel According to His Promise (1-7).
Look at verses 1-5. In order to understand how 70 descendants of Israel went to Egypt, we need to go back to Genesis, especially the life of Joseph. It reveals God’s great and sovereign plan in Joseph’s life of suffering, fulfilling the dreams God gave him. Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, but he did not give into hatred but lived with God. His boss, Potiphar, made Joseph the manager of his household. Then he was falsely accused of rape and put in a dungeon, but he again was with God and the prison warden put him in charge of the other prisoners. In the dungeon, he became a shepherd for all prisoners. One day he saw two prisoners who looked downcast, so he offered to help, interpreting their dreams. Joseph’s interpretation came true; one of them was restored in three days and another died in three days. The one who was restored was the cup bearer of the king of Egypt and recommended Joseph to interpret the dreams of the king when no one else could interpret them. When Joseph appeared before the king, God revealed to Joseph not only interpretation of the dream but also a wonderful plan, preparing the seven years of famine after the seven years of harvest. After the king heard Joseph, the king made him the prime minister of Egypt. After helping his brothers to repent of their sins wisely, Joseph said to them, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save many lives that God sent me ahead of you.” Joseph not only saw his life of suffering as a slave and prisoner from God’s great and sovereign perspective, but he also helped his brothers to overcome their sense of self-condemnation.
Joseph invited all his family members to come to Egypt to be provided for during the time of famine, but Jacob prayed to God at Bethel, where he met God first time, and received God’s confirmation, saying, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” With God’s vision, Jacob and all his family members came to live in Egypt. Yet making 70 people into a great nation was not that simple. How did God execute his promise?
Look at verses 6-7, “Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.” The first generation who came to Egypt through Joseph enjoyed provision and protection through Joseph and they prospered. But they passed away and had no more influence, which could mean they were going downhill without any provision or protection and became uninvited guests. Yet the people of Israel were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly. As increasing in number is the sign of God’s blessing according to Genesis 1:23, they were blessed abundantly. Why did God bless them exceedingly? It is because of God’s covenant promise to Abraham. Genesis 12:1-2 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” God promised him to make into a great nation, make his name great, and make him a source of blessing to all peoples of all nations. As Abraham believed and obeyed God’s command, God had to keep his promise. Again in Genesis 13:16, God made his covenant promise to Abraham, saying, “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.” In order to build one person into a nation, Abraham’s descendants had to stay in one place. In order to make them a nation, God brought them to Egypt. Though about 400 years passed, God was keeping his promise to one person. God was fulfilling his promise, blessing his children, exceedingly multiplying them, in order to make them a nation in the womb of Egypt. Here we learn that God keeps his promise down through generations. God is fulfilling his covenant promise whether the descendants recognize it or not. Amen!
II. God’s Blessing and Protection Under a Godless Ruler (8-22).
But the situation changed. Look at verses 8-10. A new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 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.” God’s blessing does not only bring joy to the Israelites but trouble to the king of Egypt. The most powerful king of the earth at that time fell into fear because of the numerous people of Israel who might join their enemies when a war broke out. His fear was groundless. Yet, fear often makes people to do strange and unreasonable things. His hardened heart started here, doing things against God’s plan.
So the king of Egypt made a plan. Look at verse 11. He made the people of Israel slaves and put slave masters over them in order to build store cities, Pithom and Rameses. His plan seemed smart, killing two birds with one stone. First, he was getting free slaves with free labor for himself. Secondly, by oppressing the people of Israel he could lower their birth rate. The more people are worn out, the less they have desire to have children. What was the result of the king’s excellent plan? The king’s plan should have worked, right?
Look at verse 12, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.” The king’s smart plan did not work out at all. It is because God made them multiply more. It is like the first century Christians. The more they were persecuted, the more they multiplied and spread. But the Egyptians could not recognize that they were trying to put down God’s work. So they made the life of Israelites bitter with harsh labor, doing all kinds of field work, probably making Pyramids and Sphinxes. This was also in God’s plan. In Genesis 15:13-14, God prophesied to Abraham, saying, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” Behind the scene of suffering and hardships, there was God’s sovereign plan and blessing, making them into a nation. Their life of suffering might be a bonding factor for them to be united as one nation. The same thing happened later when they were exiled, living without a land of their own. When people suffer together in the military, they become closer, even closer than their own brothers. God’s plan is much bigger than a human could imagine. God’s work is mysterious, beyond human understanding. Maybe a life of sufferings and sacrifices was required for them to be the nation God wanted them to be.
Though the most powerful king had tried to stop God’s blessing with his smartest plan, he could not stop it. This reminds us of Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” May God help us to learn to trust in God who keeps his promise even when the most powerful king of Egypt tries with his smartest plan. This was the first sign of God’s work to the Egyptians and their king, though the king had eyes to see but could not see it.
What was his second plan? Look at verses 15-16. “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, ‘When you are helping the women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” At that time, a person who deals with a human blood was considered unclean, so the midwives were despised, and no man would marry such a woman. The king of Egypt commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all the boys during childbirth. If they did not participate in his evil plan, they could have lost their lives; not only themselves but also their families as well. The king probably thought that there was no other way for the midwives to do but kill the boys.
What was the response of the midwives to the king’s threat? Look at verse 17, “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” It was a great risk; they could have been killed. I do not know why and how they could disobey the king, risking their own lives. We have seen many people who betrayed their friends and country, and even their own family members, in order to save their own houses or businesses, not to mention one’s own life. How could two midwives disobey the king of Egypt, risking their own lives? They feared God more than the king. When a person fears God, the person will do what is right before God, even if risking one’s own life. It is because they trusted in God who is all powerful, and their lives in God’s hand. This is what faith truly means. We obey God, overcoming the treat of a king. They feared God’s eternal punishment more than the king who could only take their life.
When they feared God and did what is right before God, God protected and blessed the midwives. First, God gave them wisdom to answer the king of Egypt wisely, so he did not kill them. This reminds us that the fear of God is beginning of wisdom. Secondly, God blessed them to have a family of their own. Somehow, God moved the hearts of two men who would marry them by faith in God. Thirdly, their names are mentioned in the Bible, while the king’s name is not. In the Jewish male dominant society, a woman’s name is rarely mentioned unless their action is worthy to be included in the Holy book, Torah. The history of God recognized them as important women who lived by faith, saving God’s people while risking their own lives. Finally, they became the coworkers of God’s work because of the fear of God. How do we know whether a person has faith or not? A person’s faith is revealed in a crucial time; either making a small or big decision in life, sometimes in a life or death matter. May God help each one of us to live in the fear of God and do what is right before God so that we may be blessed and become coworkers of God. Amen!
The most powerful king of the time felt powerless because all his plans did not work at all. Then he became paranoid. He went from bad to worse. Finally, he made the worst edict to kill every Hebrew boy by throwing them into Nile river. Here we see that the godless ruler gets worse when God is blessing more.
Let’s think about a few lessons from this. The time of God’s blessing is also the time of the devil, trying to hinder and destroy the work of God. Thus, the king of Egypt in the New Testament term is the representation of the devil, working against God’s plan and trying to destroy the people of God. At that time, what would you do? What can be your reaction? In such a situation, many people get frustrated and demonstrate on the street with violence. Let us pray that we may see our current situation from God’s perspective, seeing it in God’s history with his promise.
When we look at the current situation with the lockdown of the country due to COVID 19 and the “Black Lives Matter,” I can see God’s work. In order to see it clearly, we need to review the history of America. Reviewing the history of United States, it is evident that God raised her to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Simply speaking, it is a shepherd nation. But she lost God’s calling and became selfish these days. God has brought the COVID 19 in order for us not to depend on the worldly wealth and God has brought troubles for the people to be united. Though it seems divided now, the unity will come through Christ and his love. Through the lockdown at home, God is also restoring the unity in a family. Due to an uncertain future, so many people are seeking the way and the truth and the life in Christ. God is bringing people back to him during this time of trouble and hardships and multiplying people in his kingdom. Amen!
Through today’s passage, we learned that God keeps his promise in his time in his way. When God blesses, no one, not even a king, can stop it. When there is the work of God, there is the work of the devil, trying to destroy it. But if God is for us, who can be against us? At the time of hardships, we should live not in the fear of an uncertain future or of people but in the fear of God. During the time of trouble, may God help us to see what God has been doing. Even in the midst of the devil’s work, God’s blessing never stops. Behind the scene of suffering and hardships, there was God’s sovereign plan and blessing. May God bless each one of us to have eyes to see God’s faithful work even in our sufferings and hardships. Amen!