Waiting For Deliverance
Journal Entry from May 31, 2020
“Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed for 400 years. But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth’”
The Israelites, Abram’s descendants, would be enslaved for 400 years. In other words, they would be waiting for redemption, for freedom, for someone to rescue them for 4 generations (four centuries). They would be oppressed, treated harshly and unfairly, and be subject to abuse. Their treatment would be unjust. It would be wrong, and yet, it would continue for hundreds of years. Exodus 1:11-14 describes their condition: "So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands."
All of this abuse and unjust treatment was fueled by pride and fear. Pharaoh was worried that the Israelites were becoming too numerous and would eventually threaten his kingdom, so he oppressed them and crushed them into submission. And then he used their skill to further expand and grow his own empire (“They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king”). Pharaoh grew more powerful, all the while taking the credit for the work the Israelites had accomplished.
The question we love to ask in light of such unjust and unfair treatment is “why?” Why would the Lord allow this? And furthermore, why would He allow it to continue for generations? The Israelites waited hundreds of years to be set free, which means some never saw or experienced that redemption. They never saw the fulfillment of God’s promise that He would punish the nation that had enslaved them and that they would come away with great wealth and return to the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:14-16). Just because they didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t come to pass.
So, back to the question of “why?” There isn’t an explicit answer given, but we do see that this harsh, brutal, unjust treatment of the Israelites was directly related to sin: the pride in Pharaoh’s own heart to hold onto power and control. Sin was the cause of this slavery, not God. But why His delay in rescuing them? First, we see back in Genesis that God had a bigger plan and perfect timing for their deliverance. Genesis 15:16 “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites does not yet warrant their destruction.” You see, God’s plan extends beyond us and sometimes He is working something far greater than we can see or comprehend. God was patient with the Amorites and was delaying their punishment for their sin, giving them time and opportunity to repent and turn from their wicked way.
Oftentimes in our oppression, in our pain and in our trials, we ask the Lord “How long?” How long must we wait for our rescue? Habakkuk had a similar complaint: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But You do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but You do not come to save” (Habakkuk 1:2). “The Lord replied, ‘Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it’” (Habakkuk 1:5). Even when it doesn’t seem like it, God is working. He is doing something, something we may not be able to see. He is preparing, He is raising up, and it’s all going to point ultimately to Christ and our redemption through Him. Rest assured that God hears you, God sees your pain, He knows your hurt and the abuse and injustice you are enduring, but He is also working. We may not see it or understand it, but God’s doing an eternal work; and, more important than our physical redemption is our spiritual redemption. I’ve asked this before, but what abuse and pain would you be willing to suffer for the sake of one coming to know Christ? Will we endure? Will we wait for the salvation of the Lord? Will we trust His perfect timing? Will we continue to believe that He is working even if we never see our deliverance come to pass?
Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead My people Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:7-10).
God saw the injustice and it wasn’t okay with Him. I think we have such a hard time with oppression and abuse because we know it’s not right and it shouldn’t go unpunished. We want justice. That was Habakkuk’s cry; why was the Lord allowing such wickedness, violence, and cruelty and doing nothing about it? Did He not care? We see from the verse back in Genesis that the unjust treatment of Israel wouldn’t go unpunished. Egypt would be held accountable. God would rescue, God would save, and God would judge.
Do we trust the Lord enough to leave it in His hands and let Him be our defense? That doesn’t mean that we take the oppression with a smile. The Israelites cried out and God heard them. Cry out to the Lord; it’s okay to do so. Let Him know your pain, your frustration, your hurt, but wait upon Him for your salvation.
The Israelite’s slavery in Egypt went far beyond the issue of their oppression and mistreatment. God was working a glorious redemption, one that would ultimately point to Christ. The Exodus from Egypt became a monumental foreshadowing of the gospel: we were in bondage to sin and Christ set us free. We were powerless to save ourselves, so God did for us what we could not do on our own. Isn’t this what our life is about: spending and being spent for the sake of the gospel?
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
Furthermore, the Israelite’s cruel treatment in Egypt paved the way for fair and loving treatment towards others, especially foreigners, as laid out by the law of Moses. They were commanded to be just in their dealings with one another, remembering the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians so that they wouldn’t inflict the same injustice upon another. “True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow’s garment as security for her debt. Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from your slavery. That is why I have given you this command” (Deuteronomy 24:17-18). “You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry” (Exodus 22:21-22).
This life is about God’s glory, not our comfort, security, safety, or physical well-being. We may never know why God allows pain and suffering or why He allows it for as long as He does, but I do know that His work is perfect, and He is always faithful to continue the work He has begun. And, no matter what this life holds, we have the hope of eternity. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18)
Never forget in the midst of your oppression, while waiting for your deliverance and God’s justice, that the Lord sees, He knows, and He is working out His perfect will. “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16, speaking of Pharaoh). Again, this life is about His glory, not ours. God will be faithful to judge the injustice. In the meantime, wait upon Him for His deliverance and look to Him for strength in the waiting. “So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).