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Exodus 1:514; 2:2325 comment (0)

June 29, 2006

By Carol Ann Vaughn, Ph.D.

Related Scripture: Exodus 1:514; 2:2325

Family Bible Study
Director, Christian Women’s Leadership Center, Samford University

A Declaration of Dependence on God
Exodus 1:5–14; 2:23–25

Life can change drastically for adults from one day to the next. Usually new circumstances bring along unforeseen challenges even if the changes prove beneficial overall.

Sometimes, though, unexpected changes spell danger, uncertainty, fear. An automobile accident occurs. A crippling disease is diagnosed. A pink slip appears. A marriage falls apart. Those faced with such situations often feel overwhelmed and burdened beyond their ability to cope. They need help but may not know where to turn, especially when the burden of a situation is beyond their control.  

Genesis 46:1–7 tells us that Jacob insisted on seeing his beloved son Joseph from whom he had been separated for many years. Times were bad and Jacob had a vision in which he heard God calling him by name. Jacob’s response was powerful: “Here I am.” Jacob then heard God direct him to relocate his entire life from the promised land to a foreign land. And God’s message was “Do not be afraid.” 

What other stories in the Bible involve 1) hearing one’s name called directly; 2) the response “Here I am”; 3) the message “Do not be afraid”?

Jacob’s relocation involved more than a few individuals. He had multiple wives, concubines, children, grandchildren and as many servants to relocate. Probably some were not happy about moving to Egypt. And it is doubtful that all Egyptians welcomed the refugees with open arms. Famine-stricken people were flooding into Egypt to draw upon the Egyptians’ well-planned storehouses and resources. We can imagine some of the complaints and resentments among the immigrant populations and the “native” Egyptians.

Because Jacob’s son Joseph was a highly placed government official willing to assist his family members, the Israelites enjoyed great material prosperity for a number of years.

Most of us know the experience of times when all seems to be right with the world and things fall into place without much effort. Joseph’s relatives might have thought they “had it made” in Egypt.

But then a new Egyptian ruler feared the growing population of immigrants as a political threat, and he enslaved the Israelites as forced laborers. When the forced labor policy did not achieve his real aim, he resorted to infanticide as a form of ethnic cleansing (Ex. 1:15-22). The children of Israel “groaned” in such suffering and cried out to God for help. Those born into slavery were in conditions not of their own making. Many died before seeing liberation. They must have wondered if God saw their pain.  They must have asked why God allowed such injustice and inhumanity to continue. And if God did see the horror, why didn’t He do something about it?

None of us are immune to unexpected change, injustice or tragedy. Neither are we invisible or inaudible to God.
God knows and cares about everything that happens to us. Although misfortunes might throw us off balance, they do not catch God unaware or unconcerned. As this passage demonstrates, God was doing more than seemed apparent to help the oppressed Israelites, as we will see in the life of Moses and his family, who were born into slavery. 

When it is difficult to see or feel God’s care for us, we can believe that God cares. This is the essence of faith. It opens our eyes and ears to God’s love for us in ways we may previously have missed. Helen Keller, no stranger to difficulties, observed that “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Can you identify a burdensome situation in which God’s care became evident to you? How can you express gratitude to God for caring for you in all circumstances?

This story of the Israelites reminds us that although Jacob and his descendants moved, God’s presence and provision are never limited by geography or changed circumstances. God works in our life in ways that sometimes are obvious and other times in ways very subtle. Even when life changes for the bitter and help seems a long time coming (Ex. 1:8–14; 2:23–25), God is at work (Ex. 1:5–7).

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