SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 8 January 2023
Sermon Text: Exodus 1:1-22
Sermon Series: “Exodus” (#1)
I. Israel’s genealogy
II. Pharaoh’s plan for God’s people
III. God’s plan for His people
From today and continuing in two weeks’ time, we will focus on Exodus, the second book of the Bible, and contemplate on God’s amazing story of saving His people.
This chapter is the opening of God’s great drama, the prelude or preface to God’s beautiful plan and practice of saving people. For this reason, if you miss the message of this first chapter, you’d experience a great difficulty in grasping the message of the whole book. Saying this, I don’t think I’m exaggerating. As the opening or preface, this first chapter sketches what the rest of the book will tell us, that is, a brief yet clear outline of God’s plan and practice of saving His elect, the people of Israel.
So, today, as the introduction to this great book of God’s salvation story, we’ll focus on three things such as Israel’s genealogy, Pharaoh’s plan for God’s people, and God’s plan for His people.
Having said that, let me point out to you a truly important fact about this book and its message. Exodus is recorded not to be read or used as a story book about a people who lived and died and disappeared about four thousand years ago – in a word, a people totally disconnected from us, being irrelevant to us of the 21st century. Rather, it is recorded and given to us to convey an important and directly relevant message to every one of us. Simply put, this story is our story. This book identifies Israel’s story in the time of Exodus with the story of all generations including ours. In fact, Israel’s story in Exodus is a prototype or model of all descendants of Adam and Eve.
I. ISRAEL’S GENEALOGY
The first proof of what I’ve just said is in the record of Israel’s genealogy. It starts from Jacob and records his sons, like Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah and so on. All in this clan have come down from their common ancestor, Jacob.
Israel’s ancestry signifies a truth, that is, all of us are descended from certain lineages, and none of us have come to existence by one’s own will or cause. Like those Israelites in Egypt, everyone descends from a lineage of flesh and blood. Then, chasing back each family tree, we reach the ultimate root and origin of all families on earth, and you know who they are – Adam and Eve.
In this way, Israel’s genealogy in Ex. 1 reminds us of the truth that all in mankind share the same origin and nature. Especially, as descendants of the same parents, none is born pure or sinless, but all inherit the curse of sin. The obvious and undeniable proof of this truth is death of all men and women. No one avoids death. So, every man and woman in each one’s natural status are doomed to perish due to sin.
If anyone claims sinlessness based on one’s life-long efforts of avoiding sins, soon death will prove his claim as an illusion. If another sees infants as pure beings without sin, that person cannot explain why a ‘pure’ infant dies and is engulfed by death that is evil. As death proves the universal sinfulness of mankind, Israel’s genealogy in Ex. 1 tells us that we are of this sinful race of Adam. This is one of the important messages of Exodus.
Moses recorded this book in order to educate the second generation of Israel. Those escaped from Egypt were the first readers of this book in the wilderness, and the following generations would read it also in Canaan the Promised Land. As such was Moses’ purpose with Exodus, the same is for you and me who are members of the spiritual Israel. This is why Exodus has inspired so many lives of all generations.
This story that begins with a man, Jacob, and his twelve sons and their families – seventy in total, as v. 5 says – settled in Egypt, a foreign land away from the place God had originally assigned to them, is your story and mine.
II. PHARAOH’S PLAN FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
So, all we hear about Israel in Egypt in this story is what is happening to you and to me. In short, pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had a plan for Israel, Jacob’s descendants, and the same is for us as the devil has a plan for us.
V. 8 tells us that a new king over Egypt arose, and this new king did not know Joseph nor his kinsmen. What it means is that a new dynasty took the power over Egypt, having expelled the previous one. As you can easily imagine, the new ruling power denied the one they had defeated and expelled, thus, disowned what Joseph had done to the Egyptians under the previous rulers. So, his people became insignificant in the eyes of the new ruler.
Once this happened, the king of Egypt considered the descendants of Jacob as a threat to his power. To him and the Egyptians, the Hebrews were a different people, a different race. Besides, they were numerous and too mighty for the Egyptians. So the pharaoh planned to do something about them.
What was his plan for Israel? Putting them into forced labours, shifting their status from shepherds of flocks and herds in the fields to brick makers and builders. In this, the pharaoh planned to treat them harshly.
That was not all; this plan intended to reduce their number, initially, through putting them into severe labours, then, through a genocide in the form of severing male infants from the living. In the beginning of this, the pharaoh instructed midwives to secretly take the lives of male infants at their birth. Then, more publicly, everyone was ordered to cast every Hebrew son into the River Nile.
Once again, this story of pharaoh’s plan for Israel reveals to us our present situation. The devil is busy at present with his plan for Christians and churches on earth. We’re too many and too mighty for him and his followers. So, as long as he is able, he puts Christians in toil and drudgery. I’m not talking only about the works we do in the world in the midst of the unbelievers, but more about what we always do as Christians, as lovers and followers of Christ Jesus. The devil tries to change our status from followers of Christ, from being shepherds and carers of one another after our great and true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, to brick makers of worldly wealth and builders of temporal worldly pleasures.
In more details, the devil charms Christians to make reading and studying and contemplating on God’s word difficult or boring; he provokes us to consider keeping the way of God a burden instead of joy, worshiping God a duty instead of privilege; loving one another meddling or messing with other’s business, and the like. Instead, we’re enticed to follow the ways of the world.
Constantly, various ideas and practices that are not in line with the Scriptures are introduced to churches, causing confusions in the minds of even ministers and elders, let alone congregants, thus, causing troubles among believers and churches. Such is the plan of the devil, ‘the prince of the power of the air’ as Eph. 2:2 identifies. His plan for the spiritual Israel is to reduce our number through the same ways Israel in Egypt experienced, that is, hard labours and genocide. Making us and Christ’s church busy with the worldly ideas and practices, the devil seeks to reduce the number of devote followers of Christ who in spirit and truth worship the Father through faith in the Son. In addition, newborn infants – I mean, new converts to Christianity – are in a great danger of being severed from the living due to lack of teaching God’s full truth in churches and of sharing love, care and fellowship among believers. The plan upheld and implemented by the Egyptian pharaoh is still here in this generation.
Then, what should we do about it? What is the solution for us to not be swayed by this evil scheme of the enemy? What is our comfort in this situation? Interestingly, today’s text – Ex. 1 – tell us a clear answer to these questions.
III. GOD’S PLAN FOR HIS PEOPLE
That is, God had a clear and firm plan for Israel, His people! And the same is for us in the present generation. Our gracious Heavenly Father has always been the same for His elect with a firm and great plan. And let’s hear what the story of Israel in Egypt reveals to us.
First of all, God increased and multiplied Israel. Their initial number in Egypt was only seventy. But, hear what v. 7 tells us in these words, “the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” This is a simple yet rich picture of God’s faithfulness to His promise. Such words in this statement like ‘fruitful’ and ‘increased’ and ‘multiplied’ remind us of the Garden of Eden at the time of God’s creation and blessing Adam and Eve with a mandate of being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth as God’s stewards. Although Adam and Eve sinned against God, He was gracious toward them and their descendants. And now, in Egypt, He made Jacob’s family fruitful and multiplied them to fill the land!
This is, in fact, what God does to His church. God in His grace has always been with His people. Its beginning was a tiny family of Adam, then, Noah, and a great number of worshipers were added. Then, from a single person, Abraham, a nation of worshipers arose. Then, from only twelve disciples, a global church with numerous memberships has been gathered. In a word, God’s math is multiplication; He increases and multiplies one to be thirty, sixty and hundred-folds!
Let’s consider this a bit more with what happened to Israel in relation to the pharaoh’s evil plan. They were put into severe physical labours. But what happened? V. 12 reads, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad”! What a surprising comfort to our ears! You should also remember the outcome of it all as recorded in the same verse, “And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel”! The pharaoh threatened the people of Israel and its consequence was that his own people became fearful of Israel!
Remember also what the pharaoh heard from midwives. They answered the pharaoh, saying this: “the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” I don’t believe that those midwives lied; they said the truth based on their observations. Otherwise, God would not have blessed them. Our God is the God of truth and righteousness, and He would never reckon a lie commendable at all. So, they spoke the truth which means another blessing, that is, Hebrew women were strong by God’s strength, and by God’s grace, they were able to give birth with less or minimum complication! What a joyful comfort this is!
Then, what was sought by the pharaoh concerning Israel? To publicly murder Hebrew sons through casting them into the Nile! But, again, its result was the emergence of Moses, a saviour, deliverer, of God’s people!
This is a great mystery of God, is it not? How could things like these happen? If anyone is put into severe labours, being constantly taken away from his/her family, there would be less chance of having children, let alone multiplying. But Israelites in Egypt experienced a completely opposite result – they multiplied to a degree that the Egyptians feared and were in dread! Their sons were ordered to be killed, but sons and daughters filled their homes and streets and villages! Then, ultimately, a deliverer was born!
Isn’t this a familiar story to your ears? Jesus our Saviour and Lord was given to the church to fill the earth with His children. The devil roars to devour all, even believers, but God’s right hand is always with each of us Christians. The devil can never harm God’s elect. Instead, he is in dread of his imminent doom!
So, Israel’s story in Exodus is your story and mine. And Moses’ story in the midst of the pharaoh’s evil plan takes us to the truth of Jesus Christ, our mighty Deliverer, who delivers sinners from sin and death!
In all these, what is the most important and significant message for us? I say that the message God speaks to us is that all of us need God’s grace and salvation. In other words, like Israel of Ex. 1, all men and women are slaves to Satan, and all must have another master, that is, the true and living God. Everyone must get out from under an oppressive leader so as to be under a beneficent one, the God of all grace! Everyone must no longer serve pharaoh but God! So, come to God’s Deliverer, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and believe Him and worship Him and live in His freedom!
In addition to this main message, let me tell you that this section also teaches us about the importance of Christ’s church. This is reflected on the names of two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. For this reason, I believe God recorded their names in this summary section.
What I mean by the importance of church is this that, through these midwives’ faithful service, children were born safely and added to the number of Israel. This sounds much like the assignment Christ’s church has on earth. True church of Jesus Christ should bear newborn Christians and nurture them through the word and the Spirit, adding them to the number of the spiritual Israel. This will be one of the important lessons we’ll learn from this book of Exodus.
In closing, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ the Lord, remember that while Israel was treated harshly in Egypt, being forced into making bricks and construction works, but God treated them graciously and built their houses up in His faithfulness. So, have faith in God who changes never but always be gracious toward His own, enabling us all in His church joyful in His Son Jesus Christ even now and always! ***