Text: Exodus 1
Have you ever felt as though you were hanging on to your Christian faith by your fingernails?
Perhaps you feel confused and overwhelmed by world events.
Perhaps you have experienced personal sadness and have become discouraged.
Perhaps you have simply neglected to tend the flame of faith.
Whatever the reason, your question is the same: Where is God?
This is not a new problem: cry of dereliction – Psalms (10:1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?).
And so to Exodus 1. Where is God –
- in that list of people who went down into Egypt, when it is simply stated that “they all died”, vv1-6
- in the 400-year silence between the death of Joseph and the rise of the new king, when all that is said about the Israelites is that they “became exceedingly numerous”, vv7f
- in allowing Pharaoh to make increasingly vicious plans to crush the Israelites, vv 8-22?
- in the dwindling fortunes of the Israelites, who had gone down into Egypt as welcome guests, and now find themselves as persecuted slaves?
God is mentioned in connection with just one thing in this chapter – the behaviour of two Hebrew midwives. Apart from that, he seems invisible, unseeing, uncaring.
But appearances can often be deceptive. Dark room – impressionist painting.
God is here –
- unfolding his plan – v1, “And”. That list of names. God does not want us to live in the past, but neither does he want us to forget it. What God has been is the guarantee of what he is, and will be. Isa 51:1f “Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn.”
- fulfilling his promise, v7. Gen 12:2 – “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…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” We too are living in the in-between times, in tension between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. 2 Pet 3:9 ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’
- empowering his people, v17. To learn to say, “No” is more important that gaining 1st-class honours degree. An upright life is as powerful a witness to God as any number of miracles. Tit 2:11ff ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.’
But what God has been doing often becomes much clearer after the event. It is only later (3:7) that it is confirmed that God was there all along: he had seen the misery of his people in Egypt, that he had heard their cry, that he was concerned about their suffering, and that his purpose was to rescue them. Gen 28:16 – “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Psa 73: ‘When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood.’ Jn 13:7 – “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
So: if you are hanging on by your fingernails, be patient; learn to take the long view; know that God is fulfilling his purposes; step back and look at the bigger picture, and you will see more and more clearly that God is here.
But God does not always leave his people hanging on by their fingernails. Ex 1 is just the prelude to the most important series of events in the whole OT –
- the raising up of Moses
- the victory over Pharaoh
- the Passover
- the safe passage through the Red Sea
- the giving of the law
- the building of the tabernacle
- the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle
Just so, the present day of ‘small things’ may be just the prelude to a time of spiritual awakening in which God visits his people again with power. Although our brightest hope is for Jesus’ return in glory, that is not our only hope. I believe that it is right for us to hope for, long for, and pray, not only that God would keep us faithful in darker days, but also that he might visit us with power from on high.