One thing I’ve always wondered is how the Hebrews got themselves enslaved in Egypt. Everything seemed to be going so well for them there, but then suddenly -BOOM- 400 Years a Slave. What happened? Where was God? Why did he allow his people to become slaves in a foreign land?
As you finish reading Genesis and begin the book of Exodus, there are two passages that I think make an interesting side by side comparison:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaacand Jacob.” And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” (Genesis 50:24-25)
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.
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. (Exodus 1:6-8)
I had never noticed that before. Before Joseph died he basically made the rest of his family promise not to stay in Egypt but to follow God’s lead back to Canaan. He reassured them that God would help them and guide them and bring them back home.
The problem was that Egypt was home to his sons and grandsons. Canaan was never home for Ephraim or Manasseh. All they knew was Egypt – and Egypt was the place to be. It was the most powerful Empire in the world. It was wealthy and prosperous – largely thanks to Joseph himself. They lived in comfort and luxury. It was a great place to raise a family or start a business.
The Israelites were growing in strength and numbers. They had every physical blessing they could desire. This must be the will of God, right?
Maybe for a time. But the noise of comfort and power tends to drown out the voice of God. Calling Abraham out of his city to move his wife and servants across the country was one thing. Trying to get the attention of an entire nation living in luxury became all but impossible.
So the generations came and went until the memory of Joseph and his God no longer remained. The Hebrews forgot about “the promised land,” and the Pharaohs forgot about that guy named Joseph who saved their nation decades ago.
They forgot their God. They forgot their heritage. Then suddenly they lost their freedom. When all you have is wealth and power, what happens when those things are taken away?
Could the nation of Israel have avoided so many decades of slavery if they had remained faithful to God and followed his lead back to the land of their forefathers?
And what about us? Do we own our possessions or do our possessions own us? Are our ears dulled so much by the comfort and luxury around us that we can’t even hear God calling us away from our own inevitable destruction and into a better life he has prepared for us?
Jesus’ words at the end of his life sound very similar to Joseph’s last words:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)
Egypt was not Israel’s home. God had something better in mind.
This world is not the disciple’s home. God has something better in mind.