In the early days, the Israelites’ sojourn into Egypt proved fortuitous. Though it started when the sons of Jacob sold their own brother Joseph to a caravan bound for Egypt, God demonstrated that He can turn our worst moments into stories that showcase His providential plan.
“As for you, you meant evil against me,” Joseph told his brothers. “But God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph, after a long series of ups and downs, had become Pharaoh’s right-hand man. His whole family was treated well and given land in Goshen, enabling them to prosper during a time of great drought and famine.
But fast-forward approximately four hundred years, and the tables had turned (Exodus 12:40). If anyone had reason to believe God had forgotten them, surely it was the Israelites.
Pharaoh set “taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens” (Exodus 1:11) and “made their lives bitter with hard service” (1:14).
As if that wasn’t vexing enough, the more their numbers increased the worse it got until one day Pharaoh decided that population control was a necessity. Going forward all the Hebrew baby boys would be terminated.
If you pause to think about it, that means every mother endured nine long and traumatic months wondering, Am I carrying a boy or a girl? Will I get to hold my child, or will he be torn from my arms? Perhaps nothing is more terrifying than the possibility of losing your child through an unjust ruling.
Yet, in the midst of suffering “their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God” (2:23) and “God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” (v. 25). God had neither forgotten nor forsaken them. God would fight to bring them justice!
God raised up the prophet Moses with the epic proclamation, “Let my people go.” When Pharaoh refused, claiming not to know the God of Israel, our God set about making Himself known.
Ten plagues, also referred to as signs, put God’s power on display for all to see in a revelatory manner.
The first nine plagues brought utter devastation on the land of Egypt. But the tenth and final plague was truly the most devastating of all—the death of every firstborn. Finally, Pharaoh relented his hold and sent the Israelites away. But it wasn’t long before he changed his mind and pursued them all the way to the Red Sea, striking fear into the Israelite camp. How quickly those ten signs of God’s power faded from memory.
“Fear not, stand firm,” urged Moses. “See the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (14:13–14).
True to character, God saved the Israelites in a monumental way. Moses parted the sea with his staff, allowing the people to cross over to the other side. Then, the waters came crashing down around Pharaoh and his soldiers.
The former slaves, whose cries had meant nothing to the unjust ruler of Egypt, had just witnessed the complete silencing of their oppressors.
Years later, the prophet Malachi uttered the final words of the Old Testament followed by another four hundred years of silence. God’s people once again wondered if they’d been forgotten as the promised Savior didn’t come.
God’s justice demands that each and every sin must be atoned for, but how? Little did the Israelites know, a glorious redemption was coming once again, and this time it would happen through the sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God. This time the enslaving power of sin—the biggest oppressor of all—would be silenced forever.