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Reading: Genesis 17:1-8
Text: Exodus 1:1-7
The promises of God realized in the preservation, provision and growth of His chosen people.
The Promises of God realized in the preservation, provision and growth of his chosen people
Trust is necessary thing to have if relationships are going to work out. If business is going to thrive if there is to be justice in the land; with the police and in the courts people have to be reliable and be able to trust each other. Marriages flourish when husbands and wives trust each other and know they can rely on each other. When we employ people to do something for us trust is an important part of the contract.
There needs to be trust in our church too. The members need to be able to trust the office bearers they elect as well as each other. More importantly we must trust God.
These opening verses in the book of Exodus tell us why. His promises to us do not fail they are always realized in the lives His chosen people. Firstly through…
The book of Exodus begins with a list of the sons of Israel who came out to Egypt. The order of the names of the sons are arranged according to their mothers, Leah, Rachel, and the two concubines Bilhah and Zilpah. We find that same order in Genesis 35:23-26 with the exception of Joseph who was already in Egypt.
We know from Genesis 37 why Joseph was there and how the Lord provided for Jacob and his sons and their families during a period of famine in the land of Canaan where they lived.
According to historians from approximately the time of Joseph’s death for about 2 or 300 years, Egypt was ruled by the Hyksos or shepherd kings, invaders from the north. It’s believed they came from the region of Phoenicia since they also introduced Baal worship into Egypt. Before and after the rule of the Hyksos there was a great deal of animosity between the Egyptians Lord and these shepherd kings hence the reference in Genesis 46:34 that every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.
However during the reign of the Hyksos kings, the Hebrews who were also shepherds were by and large left alone in the land of Goshen where Jacob and his sons and their families settled. The really harsh ill treatment under the Egyptian Pharaohs began when the Hyksos kings were expelled from the country and the new Egyptian rulers, alarmed at growth and strength of the Hebrew people. decided to put them to forced labor.
All this happened according to the word of the Lord God in Genesis 46:3 where he said “Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt for I will make a great nation there.”
So we see the fulfillment of God’s promises in the preservation of Abraham’s descendants through the settlement of Jacob’s family in Egypt.
We see similar promises of preservation of the Israelites in later history. For example just before the exile the Lord encouraged the Israelites to settle in Babylon and seek the welfare of the city with the promise that he would visit them and fulfill his word to them and grant them welfare and not calamity to give them a future and a hope.
We see similar providences in the New Testament church. When the apostles began to preach the gospel in the Roman empire they could avail themselves of the widely used Greek language and were assisted by the law and order and infrastructure put in place at that time.
There is in every age the same provisions extended to the church. When the Lord made covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 the promise given was personal, spiritual and territorial. It involved Abraham and his offspring, a spiritual relationship with God, and God would provide them with land.
In Mark 10 Jesus reiterated these promises to his disciples when he said that those who trust and follow Him would receive houses a family and farms along with persecution.
The covenant community, the children of Abraham are, according to Galatians 3:29, those who belong to Christ, which means that all of God’s covenant promises are ours as well. And history confirms the fact that we can trust the promises made to us. Again going back to Genesis 17 the promise to Abraham was that he would be a father of nations and so it is. The spiritual children of Abraham live and prosper in virtually every nation on the earth.
The fact that the church exists here in New Zealand; that her members can live and prosper here; is further fulfillment of God’s promises and provision for his people and the Lord preserving and providing for his church.
Its no mere coincidence that the beginning and end of God revelation to us through his word is connected with the most advanced nations of the day; Egyptian and Roman civilization. And even though these man made cultures stood opposed to God they in the providence of God were made subservient to the kingdom of God.
The connection between Israel and Egypt began with Abram’s visit to that county recorded in Genesis 12. When Pharaoh took Abraham’s wife the Lord Struck Pharaohs and his house with plagues causing Pharaoh to be afraid and quickly give Sarah back to Abram and send them away Later according to Genesis 41:45 when Joseph had risen to second in command under Pharaoh he was given Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera the priest of on as his wife. One wonders how a God fearing person like Joseph could have entered into such a close relationship with the priesthood of Egypt. However according to historians the earlier Egyptian religion embodied faith in the “unity, eternity and self existence of an unknown God. So when Joseph interpreted Pharaohs dreams saying “God has told to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” Pharaohs response was “Since God has informed you of all this there is no one as wise and discerning as you and you shall be ruler over my house.” So there was an acknowledgement of the power of Joseph’s God in the house of Pharaoh and we know that that ended up being providential for Joseph’s father, brothers and their family.
Also under the dynasty which Joseph was second in command over the Egyptians devised a new system of irrigation from the Nile and the construction of granaries in which to store grain which would avoid any further famines. This turned out to be a great advantage to the Israelites living on the Nile delta in the land of Goshen and helps explain Exodus 1:7 that they multiplied and became exceedingly mighty as a nation.
The Egyptians were also great builders. The ancient city of Memphis was capital of lower Egypt while Thebes was the capital of the upper Nile region. Along with the pyramids one of the most impressive monuments was the temple in Thebes. It included a vast hall supported by 140 columns the central columns being approximately 45 meters high each with a diameter at the base of approximately 3 meters. The approach to the entrance to the temple consisted of a road flanked by 120 ram headed sphinxes placed about three meters apart. Its citizens also enjoyed moderate laws, science and literature commerce and navigation all of which helped maintain the power of the Pharaohs for centuries.
It was in that prosperous culture that Israel grew from a family into a nation with the good and serviceable things from Egyptian culture also ending up in Hebrew hands.
Even so without the covenant God to reveal his will to the Egyptians without his grace and favor the wisdom and truths which helped Egypt in the past gradually got buried in the dust of superstition and false religion. They made false gods of almost everything in nature which eventually caused the ancient Egyptian civilization to weaken and die out.
On the other hand the Hebrews had the best of both worlds as it were. Israel learned some of the good things from Egyptian culture Israel and learned true religion from God who eventually brought his people out of Egypt with a mighty and an out-stretched arm.
Similarly we can be thankful for the good and useful things which we have around us in our society today for science the arts advances in modern medicine and literature where these things don’t contradict the word of God. But whereas people around us who do not know God end up making gods of these things, we do not. Our authority is the word of God. In our society power is seen in money man’s wisdom, science politics or the military. For us the power of God is seen in the cross of Christ. Foolishness to the world but for us the power of God for our salvation.
For many people today the most important thing is to live a happy and prosperous life. For us as Christians the most important thing we can do is to trust in the promises of God and follow Christ. So not only do we spend money on the necessities of life plus; we also spend money in a way that promotes the gospel and the kingdom of God.
Furthermore the covenant community of God is the instrument of his kingdom so wherever we are in whatever society and community God places us. While we may enjoy the advances made in our society we are also counter cultural. We work to improve the society we live in through being salt and light restraining evil, hence the booties project the Voice for Life people put on in Wellington recently as a peaceful protest against the evil of abortion and the ethics lectures Rev Berends put on here in order to promote the light of God’s word.
So we’ve seen that the promises of God are realized in the preservation of the household of faith in the land God gives us to live in, whether that be ancient Egypt or 21st century New Zealand. The promises of God also realized in whatever culture we are in two ways, we benefit from our culture’s blessings. We are in the world. But we remain separate from and challenge the sinful aspects of life here in New Zealand. reGod calls us to be holy as he is holy. We are after all as Abraham was and the Israelites were, strangers and aliens in the land looking for a better place and our permanent home when Christ returns.
Verse 7 says that the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly and multiplied and became exceedingly mighty so that the land was filled with them.”
Well there were only seventy of them to start with and they weren’t what you would call a standout family. The more we know about them the more amazing it seems that God would favor them. Jacob’s family was not large or powerful. Only Joseph rose to a position of authority. The rest of them lived as obscure strangers in a foreign land. They weren’t necessarily high achievers, certainly no more talented than the Egyptians who built a great civilization in the days of the Patriarchs. They weren’t particularly righteous either. Their family history was a tale of treachery, philandery and violence. The sons of Israel were all sinners; ordinary mortals. Look at verse 6! “Then Joseph died and all his brothers and all that generation.”
Jacob and his sons and their families really had just one thing going for them. They were God’s people, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel; the God of the everlasting covenant who turned what they meant for evil, (selling Joseph as a slave) ,.. to the good of the whole family, (they settled in Egypt under such conditions that they increased greatly and multiplied and became exceedingly mighty).
God did that and He is the same God we will meet throughout the book of Exodus; “the Lord the Lord , merciful and gracious, slow to anger abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness keeping steadfast love for thousands forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34)
What made the sons of Israel special was that they had God on their side. His promise to Abraham was that he would be exceedingly fruitful and have many descendants and so it was. During their 400 years sojourn on the Nile Delta the people of Israel had many children over many generations and became a mighty nation.
God was keeping his covenant promises.
We are no better than the sons of Israel. We can be envious, ill tempered, pig ignorant, ruthless, and faithless. We fail to live up to God’s standards every day.
What we need is the God of Exodus; the great deliverer.
This God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who delivered us out of slavery to sin and into his kingdom of light and righteousness.
If he is your God then you can trust him at his word. You can trust all his promises to us through faith in Christ. We can trust him to save us to the very end. Amen