Trusting in God's Plan
Beginning a new series in the book of Exodus, we are going to look at the first 15 chapters.
Exodus, the second book of the Bible is part of a much bigger narrative called the Pentateuch. Which includes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. See each of these books as a chapter in the overall story.
Exodus is a book that involves movement. Firstly, movement of the Israelites from Egypt to Mount Sinai. Secondly, the movement of God, who takes up residence in the very midst of the Israelite camp.
As we are going to see in this series, the coming together of God and the Israelites at Mount Sinai is highly significant, but often overlooked.
So Why Exodus:
Exodus contributes in a very significant way to our understanding of God’s redemptive plan for all humanity.
We see several themes:
God keeping His Promises.
Exodus is all about God making Himself known to others, it provides proof of God’s existence through supernatural events.
Exodus presupposes that anyone reading it already knows the contents of Genesis. Which means to give context today we are going to spend much of our time in Genesis instead of Exodus.
These are the names of the sons of Israel (that is, Jacob) who moved to Egypt with their father, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. In all, Jacob had seventy descendants in Egypt, including Joseph, who was already there. In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.
We have to stop here for a few minutes in order to grab context. If you have never read Genesis you would already be confused and not able to understand Exodus. So lets go into Genesis and highlight a few things.
In the Beginning
In the Beginning
Genesis gives us the story of God creating the world, and specifically God creating humanity to live in the world.
Humanity lived in perfect harmony with creation, and in God perfect presence. That’s the first two chapters of the story, then it all falls apart.
Adam and Eve have one rule in the garden, don’t eat from the tree at the centre of the garden. But the serpent in the story, which represents evil, deceives Eve and both Adam and Eve eat what God told them not to.
This opens their eyes to have knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge reveals things to them, it reveals that they are naked, which brings the first time in the world that humanity felt shame.
So God puts clothes on Adam and Eve, and punishes all three parties.
Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
Banished from Paradise
Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife. Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
God is Absent
God is Absent
After this entire narrative, God goes missing for awhile, until he resurfaces and speaks to a guy named Noah. Noah builds and arc and saves humanity from being completely destroyed. God sent the flood to wipe out evil from the word, because things had gotten so bad.
The key piece to notice in Genesis is Gods absence among the people. We see God interact with individuals, but not the people.
He is no longer present, like He was in the garden.
Up to this point God has done nothing to redeem humanity from the fall. He has been absent.
A key transition happens when a new character is introduced into the narrative. A guy named Abram. God makes a promise to Abram that changes everything. The entire course of humanity begins to be altered.
God’s Promise to Abram
God’s Promise to Abram
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
I am going to undue/unwind, sin, death, destruction, despair.
I will make all things new again
This plan will have flesh on it, being a man born from a woman.
This plan, the promise is going to come through this nation that God is going to make through Abram and Sarai.
God is starting His plan to redeem humanity, to deal with sin so humanity can be back in His presence.
Oh, did I mention that this begins with a really old man, with a really old wife who is barren.
So, God’s plan is to make a great nation, using an old man with a wife who can’t get pregnant.
Abram Struggles with Doubt
Abram Struggles with Doubt
The story goes on and Abram still has no children, so he begins to have doubts.
Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.” But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.
God promises Abram a son, it is through this son that God will fulfill his promise to Abram, who a few chapters from now will be called Abraham.
Chapter 15 reveals a lot about God’s promise, and many don’t notice everything God says within this promise.
If we read further in chapter 15 God reveals something to Abram.
God Shows Abram Egypt
God Shows Abram Egypt
As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”
God shows Abram that his plan is not going to always take the shape of things being perfect with his descendants.
We need to understand two main points in this narrative:
God is working on a good plan.
That plan, built on his promises rarely plays out like we think it’s going to.
So Abraham dies and his son Isaac continues the family line. All the way to a guy named Joseph, who become the second in command in Egypt.
Abraham’s offspring prosper during the times of Joseph and it seems like the plan is coming together.
This is where our text picks up, showing us in the first 7 verses how God’s people are multiplying. They are becoming powerful and great. The promise is coming to life.
But something changes.....leadership.
Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands. Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?” “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.” So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”
God’s plan of redemption has begun, but it doesn’t always play out the way we assume it will. God’s people are now living in slavery, being oppressed. Not the picture they probably had in mind.
It’s interesting though:
God told Abram about Egypt in chapter 15 of Genesis. Yet we seemed surprised about how things play out.
But God always keeps His promises!
So lets did in to this text in Exodus:
At the onset of Exodus it’s important to notice that God does not dwell with the Israelites, and their experience of life becomes exceptionally harsh when a new pharaoh instigates a program of slavery in order to restrict their growth.
In Genesis the motif of numerical growth appears repeatedly in the divine promises made to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So you have to see the onset of Exodus as a sign of God’s divine blessing.
Notice that Exodus never identifies the Egyptian rulers by name, yet in this story two women, the midwives are named. This is always important when reading the story. When people are named, they are important to understanding the message.
In Exodus the pharaohs are portrayed as anti-God figures.
So the people are living in slavery being oppressed by this anti-God figure the pharaoh
The Egyptians can’t seem to stop the growth of God’s people so Pharaoh comes up with an aggressive plan. Lets kill all the first born boys. He give this job to the midwives.
Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.
These women show incredible faith in God. Don’t miss the reason, because they fear God. This doesn’t mean they were afraid of God, it means they had a deep understanding and reverence for God. They knew and trusted in God’s plan of redemption.
God rewards them for standing up to Pharaoh by giving them families. This is a common theme of reward in the Old Testament.
There is an important message in this text and it revolves around the two named midwives.
God wants all of us as Christians to know when to take a stand, to not just fall into sin because we are being pressured or oppressed. If something goes against what we know God wants, then we don’t do it.
God can use simple people to show great faith. Standing up for what is right is not always easy, but if you believe God is faithful and will fulfill His promises then you can stand in faith.
God’s plan for His people doesn’t always play out the way we think it will, but we need to stand on His promises
The NT shows us that we have been given these promises.
And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
Anyone in Christ are God’s people, and He has promised us life everlasting.
But more importantly, what Exodus is going to show us. Is God presence with us.
God’s presence is everything, and Exodus shows us the return of God dwelling with His people.
We can have the faith that these two midwives had, and rest on God’s promises. God is with us, empowering us through His Spirit.
Big Idea: God’s people will face persecution from those opposed to His plan. We need to stand in faith and trust God’s promises, living our lives by the will of God, recognizing when something is not right and standing up for what is right. God’s people take action! This action is showing God’s love to ALL people.
Exodus is the beginning of God’s redemptive plan to save His people from sin. The way he does this is through His presence.
Today we already know how this story goes.
Through Jesus Christ the presence of God is now fully accessible to us, through his death and resurrection.
Trust in God, He always fulfills His promises, and He has a plan. We are part of that plan because we are His ambassadors on earth.