This year I’ve been following the messianic jewish reading schedule and reading the weekly Torah, Haftarah, and Gospel portions accordingly. I’ve been most struck by the incredible amount of things I’ve learned in the Torah (1st 5 books of the Bible) and the prophets, as I didn’t have significant exposure to these books growing up. One story that has impacted me the most has been the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The most important thing about this story is not that it happened, but that it happens. The story of the Israelites is our story, and it continues to this day.
At the end of Genesis, the Israelites are living large in Egypt. They have great jobs, a comfortable living, and life is good. They are farming arguably the best farmland in the world in Goshen, Egypt. If you ever get a chance to travel to Goshen, Egypt you will be amazed at the incredibly beautiful farmland that fills Goshen. We aren’t specifically told what happens that led the Israelites to become slaves in the land of Egypt, but there are a few clues.
The beginning of Exodus tells us that a pharaoh came to power who “didn’t know Joseph.” If you remember from Genesis, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and later rose to power in Egypt, and took the Israelites in during a time of great famine in the land. The implication of the pharaoh “not knowing Joseph,” means that he wasn’t aware of Joseph and what he had done in the land of Egypt, and this probably led him to not care for the Israelites and enslave them.
Also, if you look at Joshua 24 and Ezekiel 20, you’ll find that the Israelites had worshipped the gods of Egypt. It appears that the Israelites had a good, comfortable life, and seemed to forget about God, and turn to idol worship. This concept is probably hard for most Christians to grasp, because that never happens today, does it?
What struck me about the beginning of Exodus is that it simply says that the Israelites “cried out.” In Hebrew, the word is “Ze’akah.” God was so distant to them, that they didn’t even feel like they had anyone to cry out to, so they simply “cried out” to nobody in particular. What is even more amazing to me is that in Exodus 2 it says that God heard their cry. Over all the noise in the universe, God heard the cry of a people that wasn’t even crying out to Him. To me this shows the incredible grace, mercy and love of God. He hears you when you cry out, even if you don’t feel that you have anyone to cry out to.
We find the Israelites in horrible conditions in slavery at the beginning of Exodus. The text tells us that the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly, and made them bitter with hard labor. Later on the Egyptians begin systematically murdering babies and throwing them in the Nile River. Under these horrible conditions the Israelites “Ze’akah,” or cry out. Exodus 2 tells us that God hears their cry, and in response he decides to pick a partner to work with. Who is this partner? And what type of person is it that God chooses to work with? What are his main character traits? We’ll examine this in the next post. In the meantime, remember that if you are hurting, broken and in pain, it is alright to cry out, and God will hear your cries.