Sunday, October 05, 2008

Exodus Part 1: Israelites in Egypt

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 20th July 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Exodus 1

Without Genesis, we do not where humans come from. Without Exodus, we would not know what salvation is and how God wants to live our lives on earth. Before leaving Egypt, we are saved. After leaving Egypt, we will become people who truly serve God. After going through the wilderness and entered the promised land, we become those who have received God’s promises.

So there are three stages, from sinner, to salvation to abundant life. These three areas have two boundaries in between. Geographically, it is the Red Sea and the river of Jordan. After crossing the Red Sea, we have left the life of slavery. After crossing Jordan, we have left the wilderness.

The 10 commandments from Exodus have become the basis for ethics for the entire world. The tabernacle in Exodus became a model for worship for the church.

The whole family of Jacob moved from Canaan to the land of Goshen in Egypt due to the great famine, where only Egypt had food to last for seven years. In the eternal plan of God, the Promise Land was abandoned. Because of physical needs, people went to the fertile land. This often happens in our lives. When we face physical needs and difficulties, we are forced to forget the purpose of our lives. In another word, our flesh is weak. Due to material needs, we forsake spiritual needs. We call this the real world. A lot of people have high ideals but when facing actual needs in life, they tend to forget what they know.

Abraham left Mesopotamia and went to the Promise Land as guided by God. After the third generation, Jacob left the Promise Land and went to Egypt. The kingdoms of the world often would direct the people of God. On one hand, we are the citizens of the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, we are also citizens of the world. This dual citizenship often gives us conflicts. It is not easy to be Christians. Often we discover that the laws of the world make us unable to be naïve. The Spirit of God often rebukes us, so we have no peace with the way we deal with our lives. Similarly, Jacob left Canaan to go to Egypt. Was he not afraid that he would forget the promises of God? There would be another five years before the famine ended. Initially Jacob did not believe his sons and would not want to leave Canaan, until he saw the chariots and was convinced that it was from Joseph.

He went to Egypt but he did not forget the promises of God. Before he died, he asked Joseph to bury him in Canaan. And before Joseph died, he spoke the word of prophecy, saying that one day all of them would leave Egypt and asked for them to bring his bones out of Egypt. The Israelites multiplied and stayed in Egypt for a very long time. The whole generation that left Canaan and entered Egypt had died. The Pharaoh who knew Joseph had died. This new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph was pragmatic and felt that the Israelites were a threat as they were multiplying very quickly. So he made them construction workers. This frequently happens even in modern world. When a country becomes more developed, and a lot of foreigners come in, they were made to do the menial work that the citizens are not willing to do.

The Israelites were oppressed and unjustly treated. They suffered but they became healthier and stronger. So Pharaoh summoned the midwives to kill all Israelite baby boys. But the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh as they feared God. Many people who are non-believers might not be bad people. God blessed the midwives because they feared Him. God blessed them with marriage and children. God can allow them who do not know Him yet to have a good grasp of common grace. In contrast, many who have experienced saving grace do not understand common grace.

Then Pharaoh asked the midwives why they did not kill the boys. They said the babies were born before they came. Finally, Pharaoh passed another command to throw the babies into the river. This is the beginning of unjust law of men. Law is meant to constrain the lawbreaker. But it is often set up by political power to go against those who oppose them. It is used to harm others. Hence the God who is above the power of all kings pass the 10 commandments to intervene civilization’s laws.

Egyptians’ plan was that Israelite girls would grow up and would be unable to marry Israelite men because baby boys were killed. They would end up marrying Egyptians and slowly diminishing Israelite culture and race. But the sovereign God would rock this evil plan. So we should not fear when people use threat and deception. Vengeance is with the Lord. He would do what He pleases. His power is above the power of men. His throne is above the thrones of men. His law is above the laws of men. We will see finally that the direction God set in history would come true.


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