The book of Exodus opens to a dark scene. Joseph and his generation of Israelites have died. A new king has risen to power in Egypt. This king “did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). Therefore, this king did not experience how God had powerfully raised Joseph up and used him to save not only Egypt, but a multitude of other nations from famine. This king looked out upon his nation with eyes that saw the Israelites as nothing but a threat to his power.
As chapter one unfolds, Pharaoh makes it his personal mission to “deal shrewdly” with the Israelites (1:10). He “afflicts”, “oppresses”, and “ruthlessly made the people work as slaves” (1:11-14). In their affliction, God blesses them and causes them to multiply even more than before. Realizing his attempts are unsuccessful, Pharaoh utilizes a more aggressive approach. He commands the midwives the kill all male babies at birth. This attempt fails as well, and Pharaoh eventually commands all Israelites to cast any son born to them into the Nile river. The Israelites live in a dark world filled with oppression, mass genocide, racial prejudice, and slavery. This world was heavy, confusing, and perhaps even hopeless. This world is not much different than our world today.
Exodus 1-15 describes how God miraculously brings His people out of slavery. He does big and powerful works, and then these same recently-saved people rebel against Him. God has delivered them from external slavery, but they still need to be delivered from the internal slavery of their hearts. The Exodus story is our story. We are in slavery to the injustice of our broken world and the idolatry of our hearts. Like the Israelites, God miraculously sent us a Liberator (Jesus!) to be our Passover, free us from sin and suffering, and deliver us into a new Kingdom. Exodus teaches us how God uses our suffering to give us what we need most: His unrivaled power and glorious presence. This truth brings us the confidence, clarity, and direction we need to live fruitfully as a counterculture for our world. While not denying the pain that does exist, we must remind each other and our communities that God sees, God hears, God remembers, God answers our cries, and God is writing His story.