|> Sermon Archive > Sermons by Author > Rev. Joe Poppe > Despite Pharaoh’s cruel oppression, God prospers His people||Previous Next Print|
Order Of Worship (Liturgy)
Confession of Dependence and Divine Greeting
Ten words of the covenant
Prayer of confession and illumination
Ministry of the Word
Despite Pharaoh’s cruel oppression, God prospers His people. We’ll see:
Prayer of thanksgiving and intercessions
Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
This morning we begin the study of a new book, “Exodus.” The name means “exit or departure.” (Luk.9:31). This book tells us of God’s wonderful works of redeeming His people from slavery in
At first glance, it may appear that God is silent, that He is absent in our text. Yes, it is true that He prospered Jacob’s family during their sojourn in
Yet our text shows us that there is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. In Genesis God outlined the enmity that would exist between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Pharaoh’s cruel oppression of
What we need to remember, beloved, is that the book of Exodus is about more than just
Despite Pharaoh’s cruel oppression, God prospers His people. We’ll see:
’s oppression is motivated by Pharaoh’s cruelty. Israel
- how Pharaoh’s cruelty is masterminded by Satan.
- how Satan’s enmity is opposed by God.
Our text begins by speaking about how a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in
The reason he saw the Israelites as a threat was because they had become a large nation of people. The verses prior to our text make that clear. Verse 7 says that “the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” When Jacob entered
He said to his people, “Look, the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” (Exo.1:9-10). Thus Pharaoh’s stated motivation was to protect himself and his people from the Israelites. He was afraid that they would become even more numerous and stronger than the Egyptians themselves. He feared that the Israelites might join with the Asiatic tribes who often invaded the
Pharaoh’s manner of dealing shrewdly with the Israelites was to subject them to hard labour. The Egyptians “put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.” (Exo.1:11). The Israelites were not employed according to their own free will, and given a fair wage. They were forced to work hard as slaves, afflicted by slave masters who made them work harder and faster by beating them. In this way the Egyptians wanted to accomplish two goals. To stem the dramatic increase in
The king’s action is a classic example of using an alleged threat as an occasion for one’s own wickedness. It is important to note that up to that time the Israelites had done nothing to wrong the Egyptians. Pharaoh’s abuse of the Israelites was based on a hypothetical situation: if the Israelites continued to multiply, and if
Pharaoh did not care about the promises made by a past king to Joseph giving him and his family the
Yet Pharaoh’s actions did not have the desired effect. Exodus1:12 states, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.” The oppression resulted in increased growth. It is amazing how many times in church history persecution leads to the growth of the church. This made an impression on the Egyptians. Our text says, “so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.” Their plan was not working. The Israelites continued to multiply rapidly. So Pharaoh intensified his assault.
The Egyptians worked the Israelites ruthlessly. “They made their lives bitter with hard labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labour the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.” (Exo.1:14). The Israelites were responsible for making bricks out of clay and straw; for transporting them to where the cities were being built, for mixing mortar and building the storage cities. They were forced to dig canals to irrigate the crops, and to do all the backbreaking labour involved in growing grain and other crops.
You might wonder how hard work would prevent the Israelites from multiplying rapidly. Hard work is often deadly. Even today, construction sites can be dangerous places to work. Especially if you are being pushed relentlessly to work harder, and suffering repeated whippings when you don’t. Pharaoh figured that some would die on the job site, some would become so weakened they would be in no condition to continue multiplying, and that he could break the Hebrew’s spirit. The Egyptians used the Israelites ruthlessly.
Up to now our text has described the actions of Pharaoh and the Egyptians in abusing and oppressing the Israelites. We read much about the actions of sinful man. But what about God? Where was God in all this?
As Christians we often face trying times in our lives. We live in a broken world, filled with sinful people. We can be confronted with great struggles in life. Various illnesses, ongoing pain, struggles in our mental health. Brokenness in relationships, severe loss, or bereavement. We may face oppression or abuse from a variety of sources. Struggling through these things is not easy. Especially if we continue to have to carry the same burden for a long time. Yet one of the greatest discouragements we can face in such circumstances is the feeling that God isn’t doing anything about my problem. Then we can begin to doubt His goodness, His faithfulness, His care.
Yet in our text God is not silent. Evidence of His love and faithfulness abounds. You just have to look to see it. God had promised the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to make a great nation out of them. And he was doing that, no matter how hard Pharaoh tried to stop it. Note how Exodus 1:7 piles word upon word to emphasise
This brings us to our second point. In it we’ll see how Pharaoh’s cruelty is masterminded by Satan. Often when we read Scriptural accounts, or even when we examine our own lives – we see what happens on the human level and forget about what goes on behind the scenes. Yet it is very important for us to note that God has put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. In Genesis God gave a very great promise to Adam and Eve, after their deplorable fall into sin. Speaking to Satan God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
With these words God promised that one of the offspring of the woman would come to crush Satan’s head and provide redemption for His people. God indicates that throughout history there would be hostility, strife, warfare between the children of God and the followers of Satan. Without many people even consciously realizing it themselves, they serve as instruments in Satan’s hand. In our text we see how Pharaoh’s cruelty is masterminded by Satan, and motivated by his enmity against God and his people.
The destruction of God’s people has been Satan’s goal since the beginning of the world. Pharaoh was a tool of his, to accomplish his purpose. Satan had already been working to destroy
In our text Satan has used Pharaoh to step up his attacks against the Old Testament church. First by physically oppressing God’s people, by making them slaves, by using them ruthlessly in an attempt to break their spirits. But when this did not succeed, Satan carries his plan for the destruction of the Israelites one step further. Our text tells of how Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to murder all the boys born among the Israelites. What an ingenious plan this was.
Satan knew that God had announced the victory of the seed of the woman over him. He knew that the Messiah would come in the line of the generations. So he knew that the best way to destroy the church would be to prevent Christ’s coming by destroying the male children. If the Christ did not come, there would be no church, no salvation. Satan would remain ruler of the world.
From Pharaoh’s perspective this plan had real merit. Kill all the Hebrew boys, and in a generation the girls would have no one to marry. Perhaps they would seek mates among the Egyptians, and so become assimilated with them. At the very least, the birthrate among the Israelites would be dramatically slowed down. So that Pharaoh could maintain control over the Israelites, so that he could continue to use them as his slave workforce.
Notice beloved, how slick Satan is in his attacks. Leading God’s people astray by enticing them to worship
As God’s people living in the twenty-first century, we should not be ignorant of Satan’s continued attacks against the
Satan tries to lead us astray with the pleasures of this world. The material prosperity we enjoy is a rich blessing from God’s hand. But Satan also uses it as a temptation, to lead us astray. The question is: who are we going to serve, God or money? Whose will do we do: God’s will or our own? And Satan is not afraid to use the people of this world to ridicule us, to oppress us, even to persecute us. To try to get us to conform to the ways of this world.
Exodus 1 shows us how God built His Old Testament church by multiplying His people. They were fruitful, and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous so that they filled the land. Satan fiercely opposed that. He knew that God builds His church through the generations. So he incited Pharaoh to command the midwives to kill the baby boys. Today we see something similar happening. There is lots of social and economic pressure on us not to be fruitful and multiply. In
Beloved, do we still see children as a blessing from God? Do we agree with the Psalmist when he says, “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him… Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psa.127:3,5)? Statistically, as Canadian Reformed Churches, our growth rates are nowhere near as high as they used to be. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the pressures of society to conform are influencing us in the decisions we make about receiving children from the hands of the Lord. It is ironic: the world’s population of Muslims is growing dramatically; yet in many formerly Christian countries the birthrates are below self-sustaining levels.
Viewing Satan’s attacks against the church can easily cause us much discouragement. For he is a formidable enemy who seeks to bring death and destruction upon God’s people. Yet we need not worry or become anxious. For God is in control of history. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He has dominion even over Satan and all his evil forces. In our final point we’ll see how Satan’s enmity is opposed by God.
Our text speaks about the “Hebrew midwives.” Literally, it speaks about “the midwives of the Hebrews.” There is a question about whether or not these midwives were themselves part of the Israelite people. Our text gives several indications that they were not. In the first place, it seems quite ridiculous for Pharaoh to command Israelite women to commit genocide against their own people, and then to accept excuses from them when they did not fulfil his command. Further, the comment that they “feared God” seems to indicate that they were not Israelite by birth.
The midwives did not heed Pharaoh’s command to murder the Israelite baby boys. Our text says that they “feared God and did not do what the king of
When reading this passage, the question often arises about whether or not the midwives were justified in lying to Pharaoh about how the Hebrew women gave birth before the midwives arrived. We cannot spend much time on this. But I would like to make a few comments. The ninth commandment teaches us not to give false testimony against our neighbour. Scripture teaches that lying and deceit are of the devil and are thus to be avoided (Joh.8:44). But how about the so-called “lies of necessity”, told to save the life of another? Like those told by these midwives, or by Rahab about the spies in
Scripture gives us an answer. God did not view these lies as sin, or punish the midwives for telling them. On the contrary! Our text says that “God was kind to the midwives” and because they “feared God he gave them families of their own.” (Exo.1:20-21). We need to remember that God gave His commandments to teach us how to love Him and our neighbour as ourselves. That is what these women did; that is also what Rahab did. Their actions were motivated by the fear of God and love for their neighbour. And so God blessed them, and incorporated them into his people and gave them families of their own.
The result of the god-fearing actions of the midwives was that Pharaoh’s plot was foiled. Our text says that “the people increased and became even more numerous.” Satan’s enmity against the Lord and his people was opposed by God Himself. We spoke earlier about how it seemed as if God was absent, or silent in our text. Nothing could be further from the truth. God was at work, fulfilling his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Making their family into a great nation. Preparing His people for the exodus, so that he could take them and give them the
Beloved, God is sovereign King over all the earth. We should not see the oppression of God’s people in
What comfort our text gives us today. Especially for those times in our lives or in church life when it appears like Satan has the upper hand attacking and destroying God’s people. For those times when we lose sight of the mighty work of God in redeeming us, His people. We may know that Jesus Christ has won the victory over Satan by dying on the cross, and so delivering us from sin and the power of the evil one. Our comfort is that Jesus is our ascended King, who exercises power and dominion from His position on the throne at God’s right hand. He will continue to gather, defend and preserve His church by His Spirit and Word. Jesus said that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not overcome it (Mat.16:18).
Beloved, what our text teaches us to do, is to look beyond the outward circumstances of daily life. It teaches us to be aware of the fact that God has placed enmity between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan. Day by day we are involved in spiritual warfare; a war is being fought over our souls. Satan seeks our allegiance, and tries to draw us away from Christ and His church. But God remains at our side, helping us to stand firm against his attacks. Teaching us to hold fast Christ’s victory; to fight the good fight of the faith and take hold of the eternal life promised to us. May the Spirit continue to help us to seek our hope and salvation in Christ our Saviour, and in Him alone. Amen.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Joe Poppe, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service. Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Joe Poppe
Please direct any comments to the Webmaster