PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 1:1-14; God the Sovereign Promise Keeper

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100418_exodus01_1-14.mp3

4/18 Exodus 1:1-14 God the Sovereign Promise Keeper

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 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. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

Exodus is a book that moves from bondage to redemption, into relationship characterized by worship. Throughout God shows himself to be the sovereign promise-keeper. That will serve as an outline of the book:

Outline (Longman, p.34):

Redemption: Exodus 1-18 God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage

Relationship: Exodus 19-24 God gives Israel His law

Worship: Exodus 25-40 God instructs Israel to build His Tabernacle

The first word in the book of Exodus is not translated in most English versions. The first word is ‘and’. Right from the beginning, we are told that this is not a stand-alone book, but really chapter two in God’s history of redemption. Exodus continues the story that started in Genesis. The first eleven chapters of Genesis give God’s sovereign working in the ancient world, and the last 39 chapters focus on God’s sovereign working through one man and his family. God chose Abram and made huge promises to him, and he confirmed those promises to his son Isaac and to his son Jacob. God promised that he would make them into a great nation and bless all the nations of the world through them.

The last 13 chapters of Genesis chronicle God’s action in the history of Joseph, favorite son of Israel, who was hated by his brothers, stripped of his clothes and sold as a slave into Egypt. He was falsely accused and imprisoned, but in time God raised him up through his integrity, gifts and wisdom to be the second in command of all of Egypt. God used him to rescue the land from a severe famine, which also brought his brothers down to Egypt from Canaan looking for food. Joseph recognized the sovereign hand of God acting even in his suffering to keep his promises to his fathers.

Genesis 45:5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

God used Joseph to preserve the lives of the family of the promises, and bring them under the provision and protection of Egypt. In Genesis 46, we have a genealogy of the sons of Jacob or Israel, listing seventy descendants at the time they moved to Egypt. In the original, the first six words of Exodus are identical to the first six words of Genesis 46:8, another reminder that this is the continuation of God’s redemption story which began with creation:

Genesis 46:8 Now these are the names of the descendants of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons…

What we have in Exodus is an abbreviation and summary of this chapter in Genesis.

(chart: family tree)

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Seventy would be quite a family reunion, but it was not even close to the innumerable multitudes that God had promised. Most of us in this room can count to seventy. God had promised:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God made his covenant with Abram and said:

Genesis 15:5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

After God provided a substitute for Isaac on the mountain, God said:

Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…

To Isaac he said:

Genesis 26:4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

To Jacob he said:

Genesis 35:10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.

So Exodus begins with the descendants of Israel numbering seventy, and Joseph and his brothers died and all that generation to whom God had made promises died. But the promise of God still stands. God had reassured Jacob:

Genesis 46:3 Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

God promised himself to go down with Jacob to Egypt, to make of him a great nation, and himself to bring him up again. Even in the midst of pain and adversity, God is making good on his promises. It says:

7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

This language clearly points to the fulfillment of God’s promises to multiply the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to become a great multitude. But it points to more than that. The language points back to the creation mandate that God gave to man at the very beginning:

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God restated this to Noah after the destruction of the flood:

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. …7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

This is the language used to describe the exponential growth of the people of Israel in Egypt. Jacob clearly articulated that this growth was the work of God himself.

Genesis 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’

God commands that we be fruitful, but God is the one that makes his people fruitful. Exodus 1:7 could be more literally translated:

As for the Israelites, they grew, they were fruitful, they swarmed, they increased, they got powerful more and more, and the land was filled with them.” (Stewart, p.61)

God was fulfilling his promises to his people. He was making them fruitful and strong and filling the land with them.

Enter the new Egyptian dynasty:

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”

Joseph had rescued Egypt from natural disaster by preparing wisely for the promised famine. The Pharaoh honored him and extended generous hospitality to his family. Now, with a new dynasty in place, old ties were broken and he felt no obligation to honor old agreements. That the new king did not know Joseph does not mean ignorance of his national history so much as lack of a special relationship. He chose to act as though the Israelites were a threat rather than an asset. So he launches a public campaign against the foreigners. He spins things a different way and paints Israel as an internal threat to national security. He says they are too many and too mighty. God had made them fruitful and powerful, but God’s blessing is often perceived as a threat to an unbelieving society. Up to this point in the narrative, Israel was the name of a family. This Pharaoh uses the term here in a new way. He refers to them as a distinct people or nation within a nation. The new king is afraid of the potential threat this people group could pose to his power and position. So he decides to take action to keep them from multiplying and to reduce the potential threat to his dynasty.

God had commanded his people to be fruitful and multiply. Pharaoh, in seeking to keep them from multiplying, will find himself fighting against Israel’s God. He says ‘Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply.’ His language again brings us back to Genesis, where the people gathered on the plains of Shinar in rebellion against God

Genesis 11:3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The people wanted to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower in opposition to the name of God. They did not want to be dispersed and fill the earth as God had commanded, rather they gathered themselves together against God. Another detail that ties these two stories together is that they both involved making bricks and building cities. And in both accounts, God directly intervenes.

But God does not instantly make things better. Here’s what the Pharaoh does:

11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.

At the time of Joseph, the Israelites maintained their identity as shepherds, and were even employed by the Pharaoh as contract herders for his royal flocks in the grazing lands of northeast Egypt. The logic seems to be that if we reduce them to meaningless cogs in the machinery of the empire, they would lose heart and cease to be a threat. If they were afflicted with heavy burdens they would have neither the time nor the strength to procreate. They would likely require long periods away from home for the laborers, which would take them away from wife and family, weakening the moral fabric of their culture. Virtually working two jobs, their agriculture would suffer, and they would become more dependent on Egyptian society for the basic necessities to sustain their existence. The Pharaoh’s plan was a brilliant one.

12 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.

The plan was logical and should have been effective, except that Pharaoh had picked a fight with God. When you find yourself fighting against God, you are on the losing side. Notice that it does not say that they multiplied in spite of the oppression; rather it indicates that increased oppression led to increased fruitfulness. This has been true of the church throughout her history. In times of peace, God’s people get lazy and take for granted his gifts. As Tertullian (ca. 160-220 AD) observed so long ago, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’ semen est sanguis Christianorum [Tertullian Apologeticum ch. 50, 13]. Oppression directly resulted in increased fruitfulness. The Egyptian people bought into the propaganda of the Pharaoh, and they became terrified of this internal threat to their great country. But things often get worse before they get better. God’s blessing resulted in greater intensity of persecution.

13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

God’s blessing is not always sweet to the taste. The Israelites were being blessed by God. He was making them fruitful in spite of the oppression. God’s blessing didn’t mean freedom from oppression; rather it meant fruitfulness in the midst of affliction with the hope of future redemption. God’s blessing can sometimes be painful in the short term. God’s blessing is not always what we would choose for ourselves. Notice the words that are used:

11 … taskmasters ..afflict … heavy burdens. … 12 … oppressed, …. 13 .. ruthlessly … work as slaves 14 … bitter … hard service, … work… work … ruthlessly … work as slaves.

All this should make us long for deliverance. For rescue. For release. Not that work or service is bad. The repeated demand of God to this Pharaoh was ‘let my people go that they may serve me’ (3:12; 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 24, 26; 12:31). We long to be transferred from a harsh and cruel slave-master to the service of a kind and generous king.

Paul puts it this way:

Romans 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

We have been purchased:

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We are transferred to a new Master:

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

And that new Master is Jesus:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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April 18, 2010 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , ,

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