Summary: We are all enslaved to sin, much like the Hebrew of ancient Egypt. No matter what we do, we are slaves to sin, and cannot free ourselves.
<ILLUSTRATION> I’m a big movie fan and often have a movie playing next to my computer when I’m working at home. I really enjoy some of the classic movies from several decades ago. In 1956, a famous film maker, Cecil B. DeMille produced an epic and spectacular movie that I consider one of the true classics of entertainment and a great telling of the Exodus story. Of course, the movie I’m talking about is called The Ten Commandments. Have any of you seen this movie? This is one of my all-time favorite movies and included notable actors such as Charlton Heston who played Moses, Yul Brynner as Pharaoh and other notable actors of the day such as Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price. These were the headliners of movie picture industry of the Hollywood in their day, and I think this picture stands the test of time.
Today, we begin another journey as we begin a new series at Concordia based on the book of Exodus. This second book in the Bible is a powerful story of the nation of Israel rescued from the clutches of slavery at the hand of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and deliverance of God’s people by His servant Moses to the Promised Land. It’s quite the picture of dichotomies the will of Pharaoh versus the will of Moses, the command of God versus the power of Egypt, and the confinement of slavery versus the hope of freedom. Exodus is the powerful story of Moses. He was one of the most notable figures of history, not only in the book of Exodus, or even the Old Testament, but the entire Bible and the world itself.
There is so much more to this story, but you’ll have to stay tuned for the next few weeks to hear how it all turns out. Like so many other stories… the book is worth the read and much better than the movie.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the beginning of that Exodus story and ponder Israel’s slavery to Egypt and our own slavery to sin. There are two things I’d like you to reflect on as we start through this book.
First, we are all slaves bound to our environment and unable to free themselves, and secondly, we have been freed from oppression and assured of salvation that we cannot obtain ourselves.
Slaves Bound to the Environment
The book of Exodus begins with a new Pharaoh in Egypt and the head of a new dynasty. Years ago, the Israelite Joshua served Egypt and saved the country from a 7-year famine. But, 400 years had passed and the new Pharaoh had no fond memory of Joshua or the drought that threatened the existence of his people or his country. Being a new King, Pharaoh was looking to make a name for himself. He was looking to shore up his power base to ensure a stable and powerful Egypt. But, Pharaoh recognized a threat to his rule, and an opportunity. He saw the Hebrews as a danger to Egypt as they were thriving, but they were also an answer to some of his problems.
To combat this difficult situation of too many untrustworthy, unreliable, disloyal Israelites running around the Egyptian countryside, Pharaoh proposed working the sons of Jacob to exhaustion to limit their strength to attempt any sort of rebellion. But, it would also limit their population by making them too tired to do anything else. In this way, the yoke of slavery became the new way of life for the Hebrew people. No longer was Israel an honored people in the land of Egypt, but property owned by the Pharaoh himself.
Remember that I said Pharaoh saw and opportunity? Egypt had a need for additional granaries to store harvests, and cities to help with commerce. With Hebrew slaves, Egypt had the labor necessary to make those public works projects possible. This would assure a prosperous Egyptian nation state, and the Israelites were seen as the only feasible option to ensure progress.
Now the Egyptian King had the ability to control his workforce. He had a powerful military at his disposal that was known for many recent victories. That power would ensure that the Hebrews stayed in line.
At the same time these difficult tasks are being performed, Pharaoh wasn’t satisfied that his work plan was limiting the population like he thought. He expected their numbers to decline as the work increased. But their numbers only grew. The more the work was laid on the back of the Hebrew people, the more they continued to prosper and grow.
So, Pharaoh came up with another idea to limit the tribes of Israel. He decided to tackle the problem from the future source of the population, Israel’s sons. He ordered the mid-wives to kill all male-Hebrew children, but to allow the females to survive. But, instead of following the Pharaoh’s decree, the mid-wives understood this to be evil and followed the will of God. They claimed that Hebrew women were more robust than Egyptians and that the babies were born before they arrived. By fearing God instead of fearing men, the children lived, and the Hebrews continued to grow even more abundantly.