Tom Hayes


Exodus 1:1-22

If you have ever attended a play at a school or a theater, you probably heard a lot of movement on the stage between each act. Because the curtain was drawn, you could not see what was happening. But, when the curtain re- opened and the new act began, you witnessed an entirely different environment. What was once a living room was a grocery store, or some other setting. You knew, then, that somebody was working behind the scenes.

There are many different levels in the Christian life. Consequently, there are a host of scene changes as we move from sphere to sphere. Of course, for the scenes to change in the faith experience, the Lord, Who is "the Author and Finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2), must work behind the scenes. Although people and circumstances are always associated with where we are in the spiritual drama, the Bible teaches that God is the major Force behind the scenes of life.

The primary theme of the book of Exodus is the redemptive purposes of God. The name "Exodus" means "the way out, or going out." By the Lord's redeeming grace and power, the children of Israel will be taken out of Egypt. Admittedly, as we approach this first chapter, it doesn't seem like they are going anywhere. But, God, "the Redeemer of Israel" (Isa. 49:7), is working behind the scenes.

This chapter seems to swing on three hinges, all relating to God's redemptive purposes. We might name the three hinges:

1. The Special People (1:1-6)

2. The Supernatural Principles (1:7-14)

3. The Sovereign Power (1:15-22)

Now, let's open the door and enter into this spacious room of truth.

1. The Special People (1:1-6)

The first verses contain a ledger of names which, at first, do not appear very significant. However, they are names associated with the redemptive program. No, at this point, none of the people mentioned have been delivered from Egypt. None of them have found shelter in the blood of the Passover lamb. Not one has walked through the miraculous opening in the Red Sea. But, it is apparent that they are not made for Egypt and Egypt is not made for them. Several truths about this company are set forth in these verses.

A. God Has A Relationship With His Special People

According to verse 1, in which the remnant is referred to as "the children of Israel," this relationship is a positional relationship. This special race of people were chosen in Jacob, and God claimed them in this light. Similarly, from a New Covenant perspective, we are chosen in Christ (see Eph. 1:4) and are claimed as God's particular treasure in Him. Too, since several names are mentioned in these verses, we perceive that this relationship is a personal relationship. We find comfort in this truth, also, because the Good Shepherd still "calleth His Own sheep by name" (John 10:3).

B. God Has A Record On His Special People

Many years before, God had told Abraham that his seed would be "a stranger" in another land, be afflicted with slavery for "four hundred years," and then be delivered (Gen. 15:13, 14). In this passage, although Abraham is dead, and several generations have come and gone, it is evident that God keeps good books! As we read the record of these names and numbers, we can be assured, as well, that God has a record of us (see Phil. 4:3; Rev. 20:15; 21:27).

C. God Has A Remembrance Of His Special People

Although they had been forgotten by men, God had not forgotten His people. After all the burials, after all the battles, after all the bondage, after all the burdens, after all the bitterness, He remembered His own! He had made a covenant with them, and swore "by Himself" (Heb. 6:13). By the way, He has never forgotten any of us, either. He will keep His covenant with us in Christ, and will bring to pass every other promise He has made to us!

2. The Supernatural Principles (1:7-14)

God's ways are not our ways! Neither are His thoughts our thoughts! (see Isa. 55:8, 9). To say the least, then, He does not always do things as we expect Him to do them. With a new king ruling in Egypt, who had no dealings with Joseph (see 1:8), the remnant seemed to be without a connection to hope. But, unknown to them, God was taking all the bad things that had happened and were happening and, in a supernatural way, working them all for their good!

A. God Uses The Principle Of Transition

Before the children of Israel could be redeemed out of Egypt, they had to come to Egypt. How did all this happen? When Jacob was an old man, Joseph sent wagons on which the family was transported. Although a gray beard, who was settled and established in life, Jacob got in the wagons with all his family members and began his journey. No doubt, he had many questions and reservations about the trip, but the Lord assured him He was working behind the scenes (see Gen. 46:1-5). Most of us do not appreciate the ministry of wagons! But, often, God uses change and transition to further us in His divine purposes.

B. God Uses The Principle Of Trouble

Once the people were in Egypt, they began to grow and be "fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty" (1:7). Because the Egyptian leader felt threatened by the Jewish population explosion, he made them the labor force of his country. Yet, "the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew" (1:12). God used their troubles to expand them! We may not understand why we sometimes have to face hard taskmasters and the ministry of whips. Behind the scenes, however, the Lord is using the "rigour" (1:13), or the crushing experiences of life, to develop us in spiritual realities.

C. God Uses The Principle Of Time

Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, the children of Israel served the Egyptian system. For four hundred years, they lived under the heaviness of slavery. Yet, all the while, God was working out His will behind the scenes. He was working on time, in time, according to His time table! As the sequel chapters reveal, in the fullness of time, His redemptive plan would be unveiled. We all have difficulty appreciating the ministry of waiting, don't we? But, in due season, as it pleases Him, God will bring to pass His purposes.

3. The Sovereign Power (1:15-22)

No other power - - not that of the Pharaoh, of the taskmasters, nor of the Egyptian system - - could compare to the mighty power of God. He has power over angels, power over devils, power over men, and power over power! He even has power over His Own power, never using it wrongly, or in an inopportune way. Although His power is gloriously demonstrated throughout the book of Exodus, this chapter indicates His power works behind the scenes.

A. Power Over Dictatorship

Pharaoh had given orders to kill all male babies. The word of the dictator was the law of the people. However, a greater law, the power of God, intervened! As the midwives came to deliver the babies, they were divinely restrained. Instead of fearing the king of Egypt, they "feared God" and "saved the men children alive" (1:17). Of course, the God Who held the reins of the Egyptian government in His hands and caused the midwives to tremble before Him is the same God today. O, dear friends, let us trust this mighty God afresh!

B. Power Over Death

The baby boys did not die! The word "alive" in the phrase "saved the men children alive" means "to live." They were saved to live! In Pharaoh's mind, they were supposed to die. But, in God's mind, they were to live, and they lived! In Pharaoh's mind, they would never walk. In God's mind, however, they would not only walk, but they would walk out of Egypt. The Living God has power over death! What is it in our lives that, according to some manmade authority, is supposed to die? Instead of making a coffin, let us trust His power and make a cradle!

C. Power Over Details

By helping the Hebrew women, the midwives had no future in Egypt. For sure, the Pharaoh would not make it easy for them. But, the God Who words behind the scenes "dealt well" with them (1:20). He was gracious to them, and even "made them houses" (1:21). That is, He blessed their progeny, or lineage. They helped the Hebrew women with their children, and God helped them with their children. In a comparable way, as we fear and honor the Lord in our daily living, we can trust Him to honor us and our heritage (see 1 Sam. 2:30; John 12:26).

On one occasion, I was privileged to visit the air traffic control tower in the Atlanta area. All the controllers sat in front of computer screens, wearing headphones and mouthpieces. They were watching and tracing the flights, and talking with and directing the pilots. Like never before, I became aware that the pilots did not have complete control of their flights. There was a controller working behind the scenes. Dear friends, our tower is in heaven, and there is a Controller there Who is working behind the scenes. May we not lean to our "own understanding," but "acknowledge Him" in all our ways, and watch Him direct our paths (Prov. 3:5, 6). Amen.