Today’s Reading: Exodus 1-4
Today’s Reading: Exodus 1:8
Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
God had used circumstances to send Joseph to Egypt to save the world from a devastating famine. Israel (Jacob) and his sons eventually joined Joseph in Egypt, but even after the years of famine had passed, and after Joseph and his brothers had died, the children of Israel remained in Egypt. They had become comfortable there. Then new leadership arose in Egypt, leadership that had no regard for Joseph, his God, or their role in saving the world. The new Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites forcing them to work under brutal conditions. Israel never saw this coming.
Christians in the western world should be able to relate. We live in a world of brutal extremes. A third of the planet lives without the resources necessary for survival, and there are nations where attempts to live as a Christian or to share the Gospel are met with repression and violence. Yet many of us are blissfully unaware of this suffering, living in relative affluence. And many of us will remain in this state of comfort, until persecution comes to our doorstep. It won’t take much—a change in national leadership, a shift in the law—and the Christian beliefs we hold will mark us as enemies of the state (Matthew 24:9). Most of us won’t see it coming. Three things to remember about the dangers of comfortable living.
Remember this land is a contingency: Israel went to Egypt to escape the famine, but Canaan was the land God had promised to them (Genesis 12:1-3). Would Israel have ever returned to the Promised Land if they had not been enslaved? We also have to remember this world is a contingency. We do have to occupy here until Jesus returns (Luke 19:11-13 ), but we must remember it is not our true home.
Hebrews 11:16 – But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
This land encourages the pursuit of comfort: While in Egypt, Israel was subjected to the pursuit of wealth in that culture. We too are infected by the ‘American Dream’, the desire for wealth and comfort above all other considerations. While comfort can be a blessing when we have it, God teaches us that serving Him should be our true focus. We should also be prepared to serve God no matter what our circumstances are.
Matthew 6:31-33 – 31) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Philippians 4:11-13 – 11) Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12) I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This land encourages complacency: When Israel was enslaved by Egypt it likely came as a complete surprise, but it shouldn’t have. Abraham had been warned his descendents would be persecuted (Genesis 15:13-14) and surely this warning had been passed on. But warnings seem of little importance when you feel certain of your comfort.
Many of you are probably reading this and thinking it seems a bit alarmist. Christians becoming persecuted enemies of the state? It seems ridiculous, despite what the bible says. There are government officials and police, laws and legal rights. We seem secure. But prior to happening, events like the Jewish holocaust or the more recent Rwandan genocide probably seemed equally unlikely for much the same reasons. The reality is that tragic circumstances can come about rapidly. When God gives His people warning it is wise to listen.
1 Thessalonians 5:3 – While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.