Exodus has an odd beginning. At the end of Genesis, Joseph had brought his large family to reside in Egypt to avoid the famine in Palestine. Joseph died as did his brothers, yet their clan remained in Egypt, fulfilling Genesis 1:28 by being fruitful and multiply.
But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong so that the land was filled with them. Exodus 1:7
This sounds like good new; the clan was becoming a nation. However Egypt was not the land God had promised for Israel. Though it had large food reserves and tremendous opportunities, this was NOT where God want the Israelites to be. At the very end of Genesis, Joseph reminded the people that someday they would return to Palestine.
There was a gap of some 430 years during which the Bible is silent regarding God’s interaction with the Israelites in Egypt. Only after this silent gap do we read how God moved the people from Egypt to the Promised Land. I wonder if God was speaking during this time, but the Israelites were not listening.
Whatever the case, the story of Exodus begins with a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. The Pharaoh decided to oppress and restrict the Israelites. The Pharaoh declared forced labor, “The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites and made their lives bitter with hard service.” Exodus 1:13-14.
What had started as a place of refuge and safety became a land of oppression and slavery. I wonder if that might not be true for many who live in our modern suburban landscape. So many of us move here as a place of safety and prosperity, but then we become trapped by our expectations and appetites. We need to work longer hours to meet the mortgage and other financial obligations we seek. We enroll our children in sports or the arts, but then become slaves to their schedules and expectations. Marriages crumble under the strain and alcohol becomes the master of our lives. Or we simply wake up one morning wondering why we feel empty and alone. The “good life” has slipped away in the night.
How have you experienced bondage or slavery in your life?
Lord Jesus, awaken my spirit to hear your call to freedom.