In the Garden of Eden, God promised to provide salvation. The book of Genesis traces history from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Joseph. Exodus picks up the story, recounting the number of the descendants of Israel who went to Egypt when Joseph was prime minister.
Four hundred years passed and the people of Israel were becoming so numerous that Pharaoh was in fear of being outnumbered. The book of Numbers (1:46) tells us that one year after the Exodus from Egypt, there were 603,550 men between the ages of 20 and 50. This means that the total Israelite population could have been anywhere from 2.5 million to 3.5 million. Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are.” (Exodus 1:9) Whether he was exaggerating or stating a fact, the population had grown to the point that the Egyptians felt threatened.
Pharaoh and his people came up with a plan to manage the Israelite population. First, they tried hard labor. They made the Israelites’ lives miserable.
Next, they tried to control population growth by killing the baby boys. This was attempted first by ordering the midwives to kill the babies as they were born. When this did not work, Pharaoh issued an order to have all the baby boys thrown into the Nile River.
This is horrible, unimaginable. Parents do get rid of babies. In the present day, it is much more sterile. A doctor does it before anyone has a chance to see the baby. However, for a parent who loves and wants the child, it is unthinkable.
How could they take a baby from a protective mother and throw him into the river? The turmoil, grief and horror of this situation must have been unimaginable. Perhaps Hebrew parents prayed for girls. Becoming pregnant would have been frightening.
Throughout history, unreasonable fear of and hatred of the Hebrew people has not been that uncommon. The book of Esther tells of Haman’s attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. In recent history, Hitler’s Germany tried to exterminate the Jews. Since Israel became a nation in 1948, there are a number of Islamist countries and organizations whose stated goal is the annihilation of Israel.
What is the point? Why this particular people? The story of Pharaoh’s plan to control Israeli population makes me think of Psalm 2:1-3.
Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile
plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together
against the LORD and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,”
they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”
In the Garden, God said to the serpent, “15And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) The serpent has not forgotten.
Then, to Abraham God said, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3) The serpent made the connection.
There is a battle going on that runs beneath the surface, a battle that we cannot see. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
The story of Moses gives a glimpse into this battle.
Pharaoh did not read the Bible, did not have the Ten Commandments, but we all know intrinsically that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. We all know by nature that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Pharaoh has set Himself up against God. In Pharaoh’s case, we see fear, greed and lust playing into the hands of the serpent. The target of the attack on Israel is the Lord and His anointed One.
This is also the answer to what Psalm 2 is talking about: “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans?” The nations set themselves up in opposition to God and His plans. The nations play into the hands of the serpent. The serpent is the prince and power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. This is why Ephesians 6 tells us that we are not fighting flesh and blood enemies. Although our enemies may have flesh and blood like Pharaoh, the real enemy has always been the serpent.
How does God respond?
Let’s go back to Psalm 2:4. “But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.”
Let’s look at how the battle plays out in the story of Pharaoh and the Israelites.
Exodus 2 is a fascinating story. Moses’ parents somehow knew their baby was special. They hid him as long as they could. The basket was carefully constructed. It was no accident that the baby was in the reeds where the princess came to bathe. They did not have much of a chance. Would the princess notice the basket? Would she feel for the baby, or just dump it into the water?
The princess not only noticed, she decided to adopt the baby as her own.
From our perspective, we know the rest of the story. Moses grew up to be the one chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God’s plan was for a deliverer. Pharaoh’s plans were for destruction. Pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses in Pharaoh’s own household.
Talk about God laughing; God used Pharaoh’s instrument of destruction to raise up a deliverer.
Pharaoh set himself up in opposition to God, and God had Pharaoh’s own daughter raise up the very one who would be the leader of the people Pharaoh was trying to destroy.
Fast forward from Moses to Jesus.
God showed by great power and miracles that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus preached, taught and healed throughout the land of Israel. He proclaimed Himself to be the long-awaited Messiah, the promised anointed One, the seed of the woman promised in Genesis.
The Romans and Jewish leaders, influenced by fear, greed and lust plotted together to kill Jesus. Just like Pharaoh had set himself up in opposition to God and His plans, these men set themselves up in opposition to God.
Jesus is the anointed One spoken of in Psalm 2. Jesus is the seed of the woman that God told the serpent “He will strike your head.” God’s plan was for a deliverer. The serpent’s plan was for destruction. Jesus died on the cross. However, far from being a victory for the serpent, this was all accomplished according to God’s purpose, foreknowledge and plan. God raised Jesus from the grave, and the very instrument chosen to kill the Son of God has become a symbol of God’s love and salvation.
The serpent’s plan was to put an end to the Son of God on the cross. And yet according to Isaiah 53:10, “it was the LORD's good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD's good plan will prosper in his hands.” What the serpent intended to be a defeat ended up being a victory, the turning point of all history. We all know that God raised Jesus from the dead.
The story that started in Genesis is our story. We are all descendants of Adam. The storyline that traces from Adam to Abraham to Joseph to Moses is the story of redemption. The slavery of the Jewish people is a picture of humanity’s slavery to sin. The serpent tried to cut off the line of the anointed One with oppression, slavery and murder, and yet God in His plan used these things to work a mighty deliverance. The serpent has also tried to cut off humanity from salvation by oppression, slavery and murder, but God turns these very things into victory through Jesus Christ.
Listen to how Peter summarizes the story in Acts 2:22-24.
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.
The story is not over. The serpent is still trying to cut off the line of the anointed One. Pharaoh’s solution of oppression is still in operation against the people of God. In over ½ the world, it is not safe to name the name of Jesus or to own Him as one’s Savior. Just yesterday, we shared the gospel with a woman, who if she believes and takes the message home with her, she could be imprisoned for her faith. Yet, no matter how the serpent tries to stop the Lord’s anointed One, the message only spreads farther and faster.
Oppression and slavery are not only political things. What we see in the world we see in individual lives. Sins of all kinds enslave people. Disease and troubles attack and oppress people.
In your personal life, you have probably experienced this. Do we not all have troubles and habits in our lives that set themselves up in opposition to God?
In James we are told, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” (James 1:2)
James is talking about faith growing when it is tested. In this, we see that God allows things into our lives that will make us stronger. What the serpent means to destroy us end up being the very things that God uses for our deliverance.
Are you willing to trust God? Whatever you are going through you have a choice.
There are two options. You can follow the serpent’s path and set yourself up in opposition to God. But, remember Pharaoh; that path does not end well. Second option, you can trust God and call out to Him for deliverance. He never fails. His plans always succeed. I recommend this option. Trust God and call out to Him for deliverance.
If God can have Pharaoh’s daughter raise Israel’s deliverer, what can He do in your life and mine?