Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 3 2011 - E100.16a – Exodus 1, Genocide

God had fulfilled his promise to Jacob; his descendants had become a great nation in Egypt – "the land was filled with them" (Exodus 1:7).

But God's faithfulness in blessing his people creates its own problems. Joseph and the blessings he brought to Egypt are long forgotten; all that the current Pharaoh can see is that these foreigners are multiplying in number and could become a threat to his country – an attitude with which we are sadly familiar.

But threats can also become opportunities. Pharaoh decides to use these people as slave labour to build store cities for the Egyptians. Joseph had once advised Pharaoh on the building of store cities and may even have overseen their construction; his descendants, and those of his brothers, are now at the bottom of the heap in the construction of the same facilities. Moreover, they were worked ruthlessly; Pharaoh is not content simply to have them work for him, he wants to break their power.

Despite this harsh treatment, the Israelites continue to multiply and spread to the dismay of the Egyptians. So Pharaoh decides on the time-honoured tactic of tyrants, he will murder those whom he perceives to be a threat to his own power. He does not wish to destroy his own workforce, but he does want to stop their numbers growing. He calls in the Hebrew midwives – two of their representatives are mentioned by name. They are told to strangle every male child at birth. But the midwives are not in the business of death but of life; they have the privilege of delivering the promise of God – the descendants of Abraham who will be as many as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the sea-shore. They may be afraid of the power of Pharaoh, but they have a greater reverential fear of the God of Abraham.

Pharaoh cannot recruit the Hebrew midwives to his cause, so he recruits the whole of Egypt. Anyone who sees an Israelite baby boy must throw him in the river so that he will drown.

God is at work to fulfil his promises and ultimately to bring blessing to all nations of the earth. But this does not mean that his people will always have an easy time. There are those who are determined to oppose the purposes of God. Such people are sometimes in positions of power and can make life hard for those who know God, even to the point of threatening their lives. Many Christians face such opposition and persecution today.

Father, I pray for those of your children who today are facing persecution and the threat of death. Enable them to know that you are with them and have not abandoned them. Give them the spirit of the Hebrew midwives who feared and trusted you more than they feared the power of their oppressors.

Peter Misselbrook