Thriving Through Affliction
“Have you ever wondered why British sailors are called ‘limeys’? Well, hundreds of years ago, modern medicine was still in its infancy. Sailors would drop like flies from scurvy on long sea voyages. But British sailors accidentally discovered a truth that was to impact the health and lives of thousands. They found that the dreaded scurvy could be stopped with the addition of limes to the sailors’ diet. This fruit, unknown to them, contained vitamin C. Who would have thought that the difference between life and death could be a humble lime! So, because British sailors sucked on limes, they became known as ‘limeys.’
Life is delicately balanced. It can be negatively affected, and even ended, by the smallest deficiency or addition. Add an extra carbon molecule to oxygen, and you get carbon dioxide, which can be fatal if too much is inhaled. This substance, much like vitamin C, is unseen, yet potent.
What is true in the physical realm has similar parallels in the spiritual realm. You are about to make a journey that will demonstrate the fine balance of deliverance, direction, and dedication. The Book of Exodus paints three pictures for the careful student. First is the picture of God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage. The second picture will be a beautiful portrayal of God’s faithful guidance of these same people through the wilderness to the promised land. The third painting will show us the glory of God as the Israelites trusted his leading and dedicated a dwelling place for his holy habitation.”
[Martin, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, 9]
Potassium and Magnesium
I take a pill that has medicine for my blood pressure combined with a water pill
When my doctor increased the dosage of the water pill, I started having muscle pain in my hips and knees that eventually settled in my shoulders
After struggling with muscle pain in my neck and shoulders for months, I mentioned something to my chiropractor about my blood pressure medication
He recommended taking potassium and magnesium supplements
I started taking both and the constant muscle pain in my neck and shoulders has stopped
I continued to do everything I had done in the past, but I had to do it a little differently because of the pain in my shoulders
Change in my schedule
For many years I would work almost 7 days a week, because I wanted to make sure everything was just right for Sunday morning
Several years ago, I made a small change to my weekly schedule that transformed by work week
Now I am able to take Saturdays off and be with Judy
That little change made a huge difference in our lives
A small change
Many of us probably have a story about how a small change made all the difference in our lives
Perhaps it was something in our diet or something in our spiritual walk
That little change transformed our physical or spiritual health
God allowed the Israelites to thrive in Egypt, which created some angst with the new king. As a result, the new king tried three ways to stunt the growth of the Israelites. He was frustrated because all three plans appeared to fail. The king’s plan was in direct opposition to God’s plan. Through this narrative today, we will learn that . . .
BIG IDEA – We can trust God to accomplish His plan even through hardship and suffering.
GOD (Exodus 1:1-22)
Meaning of Exodus
Author is Moses
Scholars have divided the entire book either into to two or three main parts
The two-part structure has Israel in Egypt and Israel in Sinai
The three-part structure is varied, but I prefer Wiersbe’s breakdown
“God delivered them from bondage (1-18), but freedom should lead to obedience (19-24), and obedience results in worship to the glory of God (25-40).” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 179]
His three main points are:
Redemption: The Lord delivers His people (1-18)
Covenant: The Lord claims His people (19-24)
Worship: The Lord dwells with His people (25-40)
“God sets us free that we might serve Him.” [Wiersbe, 179]
Exodus 6:6-8 summarizes the entire book of Exodus
“Exodus may thus be divided into two main broad topics: (1) deliverance of a group of people from submission to their oppressors to submission to God and (2) the constitution of that group as a people of God. Put another way, Exodus is about rescue from human bondage and rescue from sin’s bondage.” [Douglas K. Stuart, The New American Commentary, Volume 2, Exodus, 20]
I have chosen “Rescued” as the theme for the entire book of Exodus
Now that we have some of the background covered, let’s dive in to the text for today
Abundance (vv. 1-7)
Continuation of Genesis
First word of Exodus in Hebrew
It is not reflected in the NIV, but the first word in the Hebrew is actually “and”
Many of the modern translations translate it as “now”
Most scholars agree that the first word connects Exodus to Genesis
In fact, Exodus could be considered the second chapter in the book of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament)
It is not to be considered a stand-alone book
As we will see, having the foundation of Genesis behind us will benefit us in the study of Exodus
Exodus does not answer the question of why Jacob is referred to as Israel
It does not answer the question of how the Israelites got to Egypt initially
It does not answer the question of why Joseph was already in Egypt
There are probably many other questions that we have that Exodus will not answer, but fortunately we already know the answers to those questions because we just finished studying the book of Genesis
If you don’t know the answers to the questions, you can read Genesis and/or listen to the messages from Genesis on our website
There is another element that connects Genesis and Exodus, found in this first verse
Connection to Genesis
If we compare the first half of verse 1 in Exodus to Genesis 46:8 we find that the first 13 words are identical if we omit the parenthesis in Genesis 46:8
The first five verses in Exodus go back in time just a little bit to tell us who migrated with Jacob to Egypt
Then beginning in verse 6 it jumps ahead of where Genesis left off
There is an order to the names listed
Order of names
Leah’s sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun)
Rachel’s son (Benjamin)
Rachel’s handmaiden’s (Bilhah) sons (Dan, Naphtali)
Leah’s handmaiden’s (Zilpah) sons (Gad, Asher)
Rachel’s first son, Joseph, is listed separately because he was already in Egypt
We are reminded again that 70 descendants went to Egypt with Jacob (Genesis 46:26-27)
Fulfillment of God’s command
All of Jacob’s sons that were part of the generation that migrated to Egypt had died
God blessed the Israelites with many descendants
This blessing was evidence of God’s presence with the Israelites, even though He had been silent for many years
Are you grateful for God’s presence in your life?
Are you thankful for His blessings in your life?
When was the last time you expressed your gratitude and thanksgiving to Him? (you can do that right now)
“The Hebrew of Exodus 1:7 is even more explicit than the NIV: ‘The Israelites became fruitful and swarmed, they increased in number and became exceedingly strong’,” [Enns, The NIV Application Commentary, Exodus, 41]
The word “swarmed” brings to mind insects, which perhaps helps us visualize the explosive population growth of the Israelites
“More than normal conceived. Fewer than normal miscarried. More than normal survived to adulthood.” [Hamilton, Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary, 5]
That was God’s blessing on the Israelites
God’s blessing was a fulfillment of His command to humanity to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28; 9:7) and His promise to the patriarchs of many descendants (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:5; 17:2, 6; 22:17)
The Israelites were making good use of the northern Delta region (Goshen) – they were filling it up
Blessing and curse
Have you ever felt like something in your life is a blessing and a curse?
I’ve felt that way about how young I look
It is a blessing to not look as old as I am
It has also caused me some problems, because some people don’t think I know as much as I do or have not experienced as much as I have – they marginalize my wisdom and abilities
The Israelites came to realize that God’s blessing of population growth was a blessing to them, but would bring about affliction also
Affliction (vv. 8-22)
New king (vv. 8-10)
Who was this new king and how did he not know about Joseph?
His name is not given, but some believe it could have been Ahmose I
It may not be that the king did not know about Joseph, but he did not want to acknowledge the incredible benefits that he had provided for the Egyptians in the past
This would have been a common practice when there was a change of dynasty
The new king wanted to establish his own processes and procedures and did not want to be bound by the previous dynasty’s promises and practices
Motivated by fear (garner support)
The king used fear tactics to convince his people to go along with his plans
He was creating an “us-them” mentality in his own people, so they would rally around his idea and join him in opposing the Israelites [Alexander, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, Volume 2, Exodus, 44]
“To portray his own people as somehow a minority, potentially dominated by the outsider majority, was a clever way to engender popular support for his plan. All oppressive regimes use the threat of some great danger, real or imagined, to justify violations of human rights . . . If a regime wishes to be given freedom to oppress a given group within a nation, it defines that group as an undermining force, a real danger, and potentially the agent of overthrow of the established order.” [Stuart, 64]
Don’t be naïve to the fact that this is what is currently happening in our political landscape today
As Christians, we have to be aware that we are being included in a group defined as an undermining force, a real danger, and potentially the agents of overthrow of the established order – a threat to democracy
We have to stand up and defend the Constitution of the United States and not allow our rights to be taken away
After establishing that the Israelites were a threat, the new king implemented his first plan
Forced labor (vv. 11-14)
The Israelites were forced in to slave labor for the Egyptians
They made the bricks and mortar used to build two store cities (Pithom and Rameses)
Pithom (pee-thome’/peh-thome’) and Rameses (rah-mes-ace’/rah-may-sace’) were probably in the northern Delta region, close to where they lived in Goshen
These would have been strategic store cities that probably housed grain for that region, but also military supplies and personnel, since the Egyptians were fearful of an attack from the Asiatic nations to the northeast
They also had them working the fields, which could have been with animals, and probably grain
The idea behind working them ruthlessly was probably two-fold
Those who were weak would die
Those who were strong would be too tired or too far away from their wives to procreate
What began with the new king should not have come as a surprise to the Israelites
Genesis 15:13-14, Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”
“Knowing that the oppression was as much part of God’s plan as their own growth in numbers had been should have given them strength to wait for the divine resolution of their destiny.” [Mackay, Exodus: A Mentor Commentary, 35]
PRINCIPLE #1 – “Suffering is a necessary part of God’s plan.” (Martin, 12)
The Israelites could trust God to accomplish His plan even through hardship and suffering
We can trust God to accomplish His plan even through hardship and suffering.
Maybe this is how you are feeling right now, “Have you lived life long enough to feel a little like the story of a cowboy on the western frontier who came across an Indian lying flat with his ear to the ground? The Indian looked up at the cowboy sitting on his horse and said, ‘Wagon; four horses; two passengers; woman wearing calico gown; heavy man driving; thirty minutes away.’ The cowboy’s jaw dropped as he said, ‘That is so amazing! You can tell all of that just by putting your ear to the ground?’ ‘No,’ the Indian replied, ‘they ran over me half an hour ago!’” [Martin, 12-13]
What has you feeling like you have been run over?
Is it people in your life who have deliberately run over you (friend, spouse, coworker, employee, etc.)
Is it circumstances that have let you feeling flat (broken health, bills stacking up, unexpected expenses, increasing debt, etc.)
“Know this, whatever place of bondage you are in right now, God knows. And whatever place of suffering you feel trapped within, God cares. And when you labor to remain faithful to God’s leading and remain patient through the adversity, God will do something about it.” [Martin, 13]
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Remember that God knows and cares about the bondage and suffering I am currently experiencing, so I can trust Him by faith to bring me through it.
The Israelites had to trust God by faith as they experienced oppression at the hands of the Egyptians
They watched Him do the miraculous through the hard and ruthless work
The king’s plan did not work
The harder they worked the Israelites and the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and spread
I can only imagine what the new king thought after years of oppressing the Israelites – “How is it that these slaves are not decreasing in number, but increasing instead?”
The Egyptians came to dread the Israelites, which caused them to work them even harder
They made the Israelites lives bitter by using them ruthlessly
The king had to regroup and look for another way to decrease the population of the Israelites
Infanticide (vv. 15-22)
Secretly (vv. 15-21)
The king called in the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah
Shiphrah (shif-raw’) means “fair, brightness, beauty”
Puah (poo-aw’) means “splendid”
He asked them to kill the Hebrew boys right after they were born, but to let the Hebrew girls live
The king knew that killing the baby boys would eventually reduce the fighting force of the Israelites
The girls could be absorbed into Egyptian culture through marriage
The hope was that if the midwives killed the boys before they made a noise (cried) that it would be considered a stillbirth allowing his plan to remain a secret
He was banking on the fact that most people viewed the king (Pharaoh) as a god and would therefore not defy his request/command
Refusal (civil disobedience)
The midwives feared God, who was higher and more powerful than the king
They stood up for what was right according to God’s law instead of the king’s command
Their civil disobedience was prompted by their fear of God more than a humanitarian concern for the Hebrew boys [Alexander, 56]
Scripture is clear that, as Christians, we are to obey those in authority over us, whether they are Christians or not (Matt. 20:21-25; Rom. 13; 1 Pet. 2:11)
Scripture also teaches that our obedience must not violate our conscience or the laws of God
Romans 13:5, Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Acts 5:27-29, Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”
These two midwives risked their lives to be faithful to God, instead of the king – they probably knew that the consequences of disobeying the king could mean death
Perhaps it didn’t take too long for the king to realize that his command was being ignored, so he called the two women in again
He wanted to know why they let the Hebrew boys live?
The midwives defense was that the Hebrew women were more vigorous that the Egyptian women and gave birth before the midwives arrived
“The final part of the verse, ‘they . . . give birth before the midwives arrive,’ could thus be perfectly true, perhaps in part because of a purposely slow arrival of the midwives as part of a quiet, widespread plot among Israelites to fool the Egyptians.” [Stuart, 81-82]
The king must have accepted their defense, because he does not punish them
The command from the king must have been hard for the midwives to deal with, but they trusted God to accomplish His plan even through that hardship and suffering.
Their faithfulness to God was rewarded
The Israelites were rewarded with even more descendants
God was kind to the midwives and gave them families of their own
It is probable that midwives in the Ancient Near East were women who were unable to have children of their own – they were barren
The demands of a midwife to be available at a moment’s notice, day or night, would not have been something a mother with children of her own could do
The midwives were now part of the increase of the Israelite community
PRINCIPLE #2 – “God demands faithfulness of those who want His blessing.” (Martin, 12).
We have to be faithful to God and His commands given to us through His Word, the Bible
Fear keeps many of us Christians from actively addressing sin in our culture
We are afraid to stand up for unborn children
We shy away from confronting false teaching in the Church
We would never think of participating in civil disobedience for fear of being “canceled”
We don’t speak up when prayer and the Bible are removed from our educational institutions and government facilities
The “See You At The Pole” events are scarcely attended by our children, probably because parents are not encouraging them to participate
The examples could go on and on
We fear man instead of God!
When Jesus was preparing his disciples for persecution, he told them, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
Luke 9:23-26, Then he said the them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
It’s time for us to stand up as Christians and be faithful to God instead of fretting over the things He may ask us to sacrifice
What blessings have we missed because we have not been faithful to the Lord and His Word?
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Stop fretting over the things God has asked me to sacrifice in order to be faithful to Him.
We can trust God to accomplish His plan even through hardship and suffering.
The midwives were faithful to the Lord and were blessed with children of their own
Out of desperation, the king made his secret plan public
Openly (v. 22)
He ordered all of the Egyptian people to take every Hebrew boy born and throw them in the Nile
He also ordered that every Hebrew girl be allowed to live
“If this policy had been kept up for any length of time, it is impossible to explain the number of Israelite males at the Exodus. It may only have been sporadically enforced, and that in limited areas of the land.” [Mackay, 46]
PRINCIPLE #3 – God’s plan cannot be thwarted!
We know that God is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), sovereign, and eternal, so no matter what plan the king tried to dream up, God knew about it and had the power and right to override it, because He had a long-term plan that needed to be accomplished
His long-term plan was to have the Israelites return to the land of Canaan, so that in the future His Son, Jesus, could be born in Bethlehem, live in Nazareth, teach people about Him in the region of Galilee, and then give His life on the cross for the sin of all humanity
An Egyptian king was not going to thwart His plan
God’s plan for your life cannot be thwarted
God’s plan for our church cannot be thwarted
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Trust in God’s perfect plan for me and/or the church.
Do you need to remember that God knows and cares about the bondage and suffering you are currently experiencing, so you can trust Him by faith to bring you through it?
Is it time to stop fretting over the things God has asked you to sacrifice in order to be faithful to Him?
Do you need to trust in God’s perfect plan for you?
We need to remember that God knows and cares about the suffering we are currently experiencing as a church, so we can trust Him by faith to bring us through it.
We do not need to fret over the things God is asking us to sacrifice in order to be faithful to Him.
We can trust in God’s perfect plan for us.
“In the fall of 1943 German soldiers began rounding up Jews in Italy and deporting them by the thousands to concentration camps. Simultaneously a mysterious and deadly disease called “Syndrome K” swept through the city of Rome causing dozens of patients to be admitted to the Fatebenefratelli Hospital. The details of the disease are sketchy, but the symptoms include persistent coughing, paralysis, and death. The disease was said to be highly contagious.
But “Syndrome K” was different. There was no mention of it in medical textbooks, and outside of the hospital staff, nobody had heard of it before. It sounded similar to tuberculosis, a terribly frightening disease at that time. When the German soldiers went to raid the hospital, the doctors explained the disease to the soldiers and what lay behind the closed doors. None of them dared to go in. And that’s how at least a hundred Jews who were taking refuge at the hospital escaped death. “Syndrome K” was a made-up disease.
The disease was created by Giovanni Borromeo, the hospital’s head physician, to save Jews and anti-fascists who sought refuge there. Borromeo began providing Jews a safe haven in the hospital from 1938, the year Italy introduced antisemitic laws. In October 1943, the Nazis raided a Jewish ghetto in Rome. Many Jews fled to Fatebenefratelli, where Borromeo admitted them as “patients.” The refugees were diagnosed with a new fatal disease—“Syndrome K”—in order to identify them from the actual patients.
When the Nazis came to visit, patients were instructed to cough a lot whenever soldiers passed by their door. The ruse worked. “The Nazis thought it was cancer or tuberculosis, and they fled like rabbits,” said Dr. Vittorio Sacerdoti during an interview with BBC in 2004, sixty years after the event.
How many lives “Syndrome K” actually saved is hard to tell, but accounts vary from two dozen to over a hundred. After the war, Borromeo was honored by the Italian government by awarding the Order of Merit and the Silver Medal of Valor. He died in 1961 at his own hospital. He was posthumously recognized as a “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Israeli government.
Possible Preaching Angles: Lying; Protection; Racism; Rescue – In the tradition of Rahab (Josh. 2:1-24) and the Egyptian midwives (Exodus 1:10-22) lives were protected from an attempt to murder God’s people. Concealing the truth by telling a lie to protect innocent lives appears to be accepted by God during persecution and extreme situations.
Source: Kaushik, “Syndrome K: The Fake Disease That Saved Lives,” Amusing Planet (3-20-19).