I WILL TURN TO GOD FOR HELP

 

Week of July 2, 2006

 

Bible Passages:  Exodus 1:5-14; 2:23-25.

 

Biblical Truth:  God knows and cares about everything that happens to believers.

 

When Relocation is Necessary: Exodus 1:5-7.

 

[5] All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. [6] Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. [7] But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.  [NASU]

 

Introduction.  For Jews, the exodus story defines their very existence, the rescue that made them God’s people.  For Christians it is the gospel of the Old Testament. God’s first great act of redemption. The word exodus means exit or departure. The exodus, then, is a story of departure, an epic journey from slavery to salvation. Whereas Genesis tells of the creation of the world. Exodus recounts the creation of a nation. Beyond the Pentateuch, the book of Exodus has wider connections with the rest of the Old Testament. The exodus was the great miracle of the old covenant. Thus many passages in the Psalms and the Prophets look back to it as the example of salvation.

 

The real hero of the story of the exodus is God. He is the one who reveals Himself to Moses as the Great I AM. God is the one who hears the cries of His people in bondage and takes pity on their suffering, raising up a deliverer to save them. God is the one who visits the plagues on Egypt, who divides the sea, and who drowns Pharaoh’s army. God is the one who provides bread from Heaven and water from the rock. God is the one who gives the law-covenant on the mountain and fills the tabernacle with His glory. From beginning to end Exodus is a God-centered book, a theological history. To read Exodus, therefore, is to encounter God. The book is about the mercy, justice, holiness, and glory of almighty God, who rules history by His sovereign power and who saves the people of His covenant. The proper way to study Exodus is to pay constant attention to what the book is showing and telling about the character of God.

 

[5-7] The beginning of the Book of Exodus is a continuation, a look at the present, and a hint of what must come. What is continued is the story of Jacob’s family, begun in the history of the patriarchs. The naming of the twelve sons is a link with both the past and the future. It also connects the promise of descendants to the patriarchs with the fulfillment of that promise in the patriarchs’ greatly multiplied descendants in Egypt. The fertility of the sons of Israel in Egypt is dramatically underscored by the use in verse 7 of the verb increased greatly (swarmed), which generally refers in the Old Testament to the swarming multiplication of frogs or fish or other animal life [see Genesis 1:21]. This verb is used in reference to humans only here and in the blessing upon Noah and his sons [Gen. 9:1-7], two passages stressing, for different reasons, an extraordinary increase in numbers. This multiplication is further dramatized by no less than five separate statements of it in this one verse: fruitful, increased greatly, multiplied, exceedingly mighty, filled. This unnatural family growth is everywhere accounted for in Exodus as God’s doing. In this recollection of God’s covenant-promise, however, there is also an allusion to what is to come, for the promise was a promise of land as well as descendants. And with the promise of descendants so wondrously and abundantly fulfilled, the promise of land must not be far from fulfillment.

 

 

When Life Changes for the Better: Exodus 1:8-14.

 

[8] Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. [9] He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. [10] Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” [11] So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. [12] But the more they afflicted them, the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. [13] The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; [14] and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.  [NASU]

[8] The action of the first two chapters of Exodus is dependent upon two historical events, introduced in the order of their importance in the first two sections of chapter one. The first of these is the miraculous multiplication of Israel’s descendants, mentioned in 1:7. The second is the rise to power of a new king [8] or, in Egyptian terms, a new dynasty. This new king is the first king of a new dynasty, and thus a king who has no obligation to respect, or even to inform himself of, any commitments to a non-native group within the territory of his reign. And this new king is described as one who did not know Joseph. The word know here is much more than mere acquaintance. It refers to experiential knowledge of the most intimate kind. It is used to describe long-term and deep relationships.

[9-10] This new king sees as a major problem the large colony of foreigners in the delta region. Perhaps the king had plans for that territory that his predecessors did not. In any event, he chooses fear and scare tactics as his justifying motive for dealing with this large group of foreigners. The king seeks to deal wisely with them. It appears that the main fear of the king was that this large labor source would depart from the land.

[11-12] For the first time the new king is now given the royal title of Pharaoh. Here we see the real intent of the new king. He wants to use this large labor force and the land they lived in to build large storage cities for his wealth. That the Pharaoh’s propaganda campaign worked is suggested by the graphic use of the verb at the end of verse 12: the root of the verb means “feel loathing or abhorrence for.”

[13-14] The climax of the confrontation of the new king and the expanded family of Israel is the subjection of that family to slave labor. The hard labor of verse 11 is emphasized in these verses by the use of five different phrases: labor rigorously … hard labor … all kinds of labor … all their labors … rigorously imposed. The chorus of labor is even further augmented by a specification of expanded duties: to the making of bricks and the mixing of mortar is added every imaginable field-task, as a filler for any possible spare moments. It is important to see God’s hand at work in His people being subjected to slave labor by the new king. Because these people of Israel in Egypt would be reluctant to leave Egypt without a good cause. The harsh treatment by the new king was the motivating factor in the people wanting to leave Egypt so that God could bring them to the promised land of the covenant. Charles Spurgeon comments: “In all probability, if they had been left to themselves, they would have been melted and absorbed into the Egyptian race, and lost their identity as God’s special people. They were content to be in Egypt, and they were quite willing to be Egyptianized.”

 

When Help Seems a Long Time Coming: Exodus 2:23-25.

 

[23] Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died, And the sons of Israel signed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. [24] So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. [25] God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them. [NASU]

 

[23-25] In these verses the scene shifts from Midian back to Egypt. The oppressive suffering of the people is expressed in these verses by a piling up of terms for their agony and their cries of distress (sighed … cried out … cry for help … groaning). Their sufferings were so great that it was all they could do to cry out to God. Most significant of all is the specific reference to God remembering the covenant promise to the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This covenant promise has been implicit throughout these first two introductory and transitional chapters of Exodus. Here, at the most appropriate possible point, it is mentioned outright, with each of the patriarchal fathers pointedly named.

 

Here at the close of Exodus 2, God takes center stage. God is ready to deliver His people from their bondage. He is going to act in history for their salvation. To emphasize the power of the living God, the Bible uses four verbs: God heard … remembered … saw … took notice. These four verbs give human-like attributes (anthropomorphisms) to God. When God is said to hear our prayers, it does not mean that there are times when God does not hear. Rather it means that He accepts and grants the prayers of His people. And when it is said that God does not hear our prayers, it means that God does not grant but rejects the prayer. When God remembers it does not mean that God has forgotten something and is dependent upon some outside cause to bring it back to His memory. Rather the meaning is better taken as "pay attention to" since nothing ever escapes God's omniscience. Remember is often used of God in respect to His covenant promises and is always followed by an action to fulfill His covenant. In this passage, God’s remembering means that God is now ready to act and to redeem His people. When God saw His people suffering, it does not mean that until this moment God did not see His people suffering. God sees all things. Rather, it means that He looked upon the people with special regard which resulted in God entering upon a course of events whereby He was going to carry out His purposes of mercy towards them. And when it says that God took notice of His people, it means that He knew His people. He knew all about them. The word suggests intimate, personal acquaintance with all the particulars of their suffering. It was now time for God to act on their behalf in order to bring about His covenant promises to His people.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.   What is the emphasis in verse 1:7? How is God seen to be the cause of Israel’s miraculous growth?

 

2.   What role do you see God playing in the suffering and oppression of the Israelites?

 

3.   In verses 23-25, four different Hebrew words are used to describe the Israelites’ complaint. Corresponding to the four terms for the people’s distress, four wonderful verbs are used to describe the Lord’s response to His people. How do the four actions by God correspond to the four terms for the people’s distress? What do the four verbs teach us about God?

 

References:

Exodus, Alan Cole, Inter-Varsity Press.

Exodus, John Durham, Nelson Publishers.

Exodus, Philip Ryken, Crossway.