FRUITFUL, FEARFUL, FAITHFUL
Gracious God, I thank You for Your mercy and grace. You have brought me out of guilt into forgiveness, out of darkness into Your glorious light. I love You Lord.
Read EXODUS 1
The Israelites Oppressed
1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy[a] in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.
6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
- Exodus 1:5 Masoretic Text (see also Gen. 46:27); Dead Sea Scrolls and Septuagint (see also Acts 7:14 and note at Gen. 46:27) seventy-five
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect on the years of your life. For God’s faithfulness, praise Him; for areas of fruitfulness, give thanks; for problems that seem overwhelming, cry out to Him.
Genesis closes with Joseph in a coffin in Egypt1. Exodus opens with the names of Joseph’s family who went down to Egypt (v 1) and continues the story of God’s dealings with these descendants of Abraham. This opening chapter of Exodus thus carries echoes of Genesis.
When they entered Egypt, ‘The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy’ (v 5) – an insignificant minority but, nevertheless, a favored one, thanks to Joseph’s good standing with Pharaoh. Four hundred years later, they have become an ‘exceedingly fruitful’ minority (v 7, italics added). In Eden, God had blessed humankind, saying, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’.2 Abraham was promised descendants as numerous as the stars.3 This blessing is now being realized in Egypt, where the Israelites ‘multiplied greatly, increased in numbers, and became so numerous that the land was filled with them’ (v 7). Four times we are reminded how ‘numerous’ they are (vs 7,9,10,20) – so numerous that the Egyptians grow fearful (v 10). The fruitful minority is now a feared minority! God had said, ‘Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky …’,4 but, as slaves on foreign soil, they will not rule but be ruled over by ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing’ (v 8). The Israelites quickly become an oppressed minority (vs 11–14). Yet, despite lives made ‘bitter with harsh labor’ (v 14), they remain fruitful, although it would hardly be surprising if they were also fearful.
The story of the Hebrew midwives is a shining example of a faithful minority whose fear of God trumps all other fears (v 17). God’s favor continues – and the Israelites continue to flourish in the inhospitable soil in which they are planted (vs 20,21).
Be comforted and take courage in God’s assurance that ‘the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline’.5
Faithful One, I confess my fickleness to You in the face of Your faithfulness. Strengthen me to stand for what is right in the face of the world’s pressure.
1 Gen 50:26 2 Gen 1:28 3 Gen 15:5 4 Gen 1:28 5 2 Tim 1:7
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