Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Out of Egypt I Called My Son"

As we continue to travel through the old testament and the battles of good vs evil; it is impossible to skip over the righteousness of Egypt. I would imagine that when most people think of Egypt in the bible they think of the oppression of Pharaoh and the plagues. But Egypt was so much more than that. Without the righteousness of Egypt the seed of Jesus would have never come to pass. So let's take a look at Egypt the kingdom that God longed for relationship with.

Now we must keep in mind the close proximity of the physical and spiritual worlds in the old testament. Remember there is a battle of good vs evil in full swing. Also remember that sin effects that which we have dominion over...creation, humanity, the devil and man himself. In the old testament the sin or righteousness of one man can effect a whole people group.

One of the first glimpses we get of Egypt is through Abraham and Sarah. (Gen 12:10). There is famine in the land so Abraham and his wife set out to Egypt for relief. While Abraham is there he lies that Sarah is his sister and Pharaoh takes her as his own. Exactly the same thing Abraham does to Abimelech. (click to read that blog) Abraham isn't very good at trusting that the Lord will provide a son through barren Sarah. Anyways Pharaoh gets pissed because the household became inflicted with disease due to Abraham's lie. So Pharaoh rightful kicks Abraham out of Egypt. But Pharaoh also allows him to keep all the livestock, donkeys, camels and workers that he acquired there. Just like Abimelech Pharaoh sacrificed by giving to Abraham and in turn Abraham was vindicated. That is righteousness! Pharaoh atoned for the sin of Abraham. He also provide for him so that when he returned to the place of famine he would not starve. It says in the next chapter that Abraham had become very wealthy! That wealth was because of Egypt.

Egypt was the largest, most wealthy, mighty kingdom in the land. It was a beautiful, green and fertile. Abraham's nephew Lot compared it to the garden of Eden in Gen. 13:10. The people of the time were the most advanced in arts, writing and architecture. But along with all that Egypt was one of the biggest spiritual stronghold's of the devil. That is NOT to say that Egypt had all of those things because of the devil. The Egyptians were being who God created them to be; except for the lacking of relationship with the one true God. The devil was unfortunately let in to take all the credit. But God did not forget about Egypt.

Later in Genesis we learn that Abraham had acquired a particular Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. (Gen. 16) She becomes pregnant with Abraham's son at the request of Sarah. But then Sarah mistreats her for doing so. So Hagar runs away. But God sees that Hagar has done no wrong. God comforts Hagar and blesses her. She names her son Ishmael at the request of God and says "Now I have seen the One who sees me." Gen 16:13. Ishmael means "God has heard".

After the birth of Isaac to Sarah. Sarah acts unjustly once again and sends Hagar and her son Ishmael away. But once again God is faithful to Hagar the Egyptian woman. God hears the cry of Hagar and her son and comforts them and gives them water. God assures Hagar that her son too will father a great nation. Genesis 21:20 notes that God was with Ishmael as he grew up. He married an Egyptian wife and settled in the land of Paran (Sinai peninsula).

So God was not rejecting Hagar and Ishmael; Sarah was. Hagar was a righteous woman who honored and listen to God. In turn God blessed her and her son. Sarah too was blessed but only on account of Abraham; not by her own righteousness. As far as I know the only time that Sarah talked to God she lied. (Gen. 18:15) Of the two woman it was Hagar who had relationship with God.

Next we find the Hebrew Joseph in the prosperous kingdom of Egypt. Ironically he has been sold to a caravan of Ishmaelites (decedents of Hagar's son) traveling down to Egypt. Really the Ishmaelite's save Joseph's life. While in Egypt Joseph finds success in the house of Potiphar then in the house of Pharaoh himself. Joseph is put in charge of the whole land of Egypt; only second to Pharaoh himself. Joseph does not hide his belief in God and Pharaoh still honors him and in turn honors God. For this reason God blesses Egypt with provision. Meanwhile his brothers who are suppose to be righteous men are struck by famine. Remember when we sin it effects that which we have dominion over. I am sure that the devil was pissed that he was being pushed from his territory in Egypt but thrilled he was able to attack the so called righteous. In the end of this story it is again by the righteousness of Egypt that the twelve sons of Israel were kept alive. God even commands Jacob in Gen. 46:3 to take his whole family " go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you..."

Between the book of Genesis and the book of Exodus there is about 350 years. The end of Genesis describes a tribe of about 70 Israelites going down to Egypt. The beginning of Exodus says the the Israelites had "multiplied greatly and were exceedingly numerous" Ex 1:7 At the time of the exodus the bible says there were about 600,000 men (Gen 12:36) so add women and children and the number is thought to be closer to 2 million. At any rate...WAY more than 70.

So what happened during those 350 years? I personally think that for the most part Egypt was a fine place for the Israelites. We know from the story of Joseph that they were being treated quite well. But when the bible is silent for that long it tells me one thing...nothing was happening that had to do with God. I think that during those 350 years the Israelites did not keep there righteous influence. The Egyptians fell back into their polytheistic worship and the Israelites fell with them. The lack of righteousness regarding both parties brought sin and the will of the devil back to the land of Egypt. Egypt was once again under the dominion of the devil.

The Pharaoh at the beginning of Exodus was fearful of the growing number of the Israelites and so began to oppress them. So the devil really kills two birds with one stone. He has dominion over Egypt through the sin of Pharaoh and has dominion over the Israelites who had allowed themselves to become oppressed via their own rejecting of God. We know that once the Israelites are out of Egypt that they struggle with idolatry and other pagan practices they were a part of in Egypt. Some of them even want to go back! The Israelites had forgotten God. They had sinned and death was on their doorstep.

The devil plays on Pharaoh's fear that the Israelites are growing too large. So he orders the Egyptian midwives to kill all the newborn Hebrew sons. Interestingly the midwives do not listen for they fear the Lord. Righteous Egyptians again save the Israelites. Exodus 1:20-22 says "So God was kind to the midwives...because they feared the Lord...he gave them families of their own." Then Pharaoh gave the order to all the people of Egypt "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews; you must throw into the Nile..." Ex. 1:22. It is during this time that Moses is born. In another ironic twist Moses is saved from death by the daughter of Pharaoh. She raises Moses as her own in the royal house of Pharaoh. Can you see how over and over again if it wasn't for the righteousness of Egypt the Israelites would have been screwed! Remember good vs evil.

One day after Moses is already grown he murders an Egyptian foreman. It is the first time that he does anything against the house that raised him. He fears for his life and flees to the desert. During the time that Moses is in the desert Pharaoh dies. It is also at this time that the Hebrews finally after 350 years cry out to God. An what do you know? God steps into action. It is a good thing to remember that God will not save us from sin and oppression unless we cry out in repentance. Until that time He will not cross our freewill choice to sin. So God prepares Moses in the desert. A significant prelude to the preparation the "nation" in the desert. And in both instances it is going to be a great battle of good vs evil.

The basis of the battle when Moses returns to Egypt is this...God has heard the outcry of repentance from His people. They have been oppressed because of their own sin and now God wants them released to the desert. Namely so that they can sacrifice for their sin and once again worship God. In the long run so that God can form this people into a righteous nation. On the flip side the devil through cooperation of Pharaoh has enjoyed the oppression of sin on God's righteous people. The devil has had dominion over them for nearly 350 years. So the devil through Pharaoh will not release them. See once they sacrifice in the desert; the devil no longer has dominion...the sin is atoned for.

So the plagues are God giving Pharaoh 9 chances to act righteously and break dominion of the devil. On the other hand we can look at the plagues as God allowing the consequence of sin to ride. Remember sin=death. Sin is the punishment. The plagues can be seen as warfare against the devil and the deities of Egypt. Or simply as a result of sin which is being in the will of the devil. The will of the devil is always death and destruction. Here is breakdown of the plagues...the dominion they effect...and how they would effected some of the many deities of Egypt.

Now a few things that I want to point out. When it says that "God hardened Pharaoh's heart". {I ended up doing a short, separate post concerning the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. Click here to read it.}

Now for the most difficult part of the story...death of the firstborn by the hand of God. For sake of time I will tell you my personal view on the situation. If you don't agree that is fine. Please seek out answers. But again I do not see any reason that God would have an "angel of death". Death only entered the world through sin. Before sin there was no death. So why would God have an angel of death? Moreover if it was God who was destroying why would He need the sign of blood on the door? Doesn't our all-knowing God know who His people are? Yes, God does know the heart of all men and no God is not a destroyer. However the devil is.

In the Hebrew text Gen 12:23 it says this "...He[God] shall not allow the Destroyer to come into your houses to scourge." God allowed the devil to take the sin in Egypt to the greatest denominator which is death. The blood on the door was a sign to the devil not to God. It was blood sacrifice that brought those people out of sin and protected them from the death of the devil.

Now it gets better. We know from the laws given to Moses after the exodus that their were many "resident aliens" among them. The laws all specifically state not to oppress them the way you were oppressed in Egypt. These "resident aliens" were Egyptians. I believe that several Egyptians were righteous just like the midwives. I think they would have been living with the Hebrews in Egypt. Therefore I think they would have been in the homes with blood on the door for protection.

On the other hand I think there were unrighteous Hebrews that did not repent and did not put blood on the door. Why would I think that? 1 Corinthians 10 starts out reminding the Jews of the time not to sin as the Israelites did in the old testament. It is talking about things like idolatry, sexual immorality, that some were killed by snakes etc. Then 1 Cor. 10:10 says "And do not grumble, as some of them did-and were destroyed by the destroying angel." This verse is referring to the Israelites not the Egyptians. We know that even at the Red Sea many Israelites wanted to go back. So that tells me that many didn't leave in the first place. The Destroyer killed by who was was in sin Egyptian or Israelite. Those that repented and gave sacrifice lived; both Egyptian and Israelite. Really think of how many Egyptians saw the hand of God by the plagues and repented. I think many of them did. I believe there was still righteousness in Egypt even with Pharaoh working along the evil schemes of the devil .

It it after this last plague that Pharaoh lets the Israelites go. Pharaoh sees that he really isn't the gods of gods, he doesn't have dominion. It was the devil that had dominion over him. And Pharaoh does maybe have a temporary change of heart. Gen. 12:32 tells Pharaoh saying "Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And pray for me also." Do you see the battle in the spirit for Pharaoh? Then before the Israelites even get to the Red Sea God makes two things very clear. Any resident alien or foreigner(Egyptian) that goes with you must get circumcised. Circumcision was a sign in the spiritual and the physical that you belonged to God. So this shows God welcomed the new"converts" among them. Also God commands to consecrate the first born male offspring (man and beast) to Him. At this time it was these first born sons that were to be the priests (later it is the Levities) and the livestock for sacrifice. God was making a powerful statement to the devil in the spirit. Pharaoh may have killed the firstborn and God allowed the devil to kill the firstborn but now they were Gods! Priest of atonement.

Now when we look back over all these stories concerning Egypt in the old testament what do I see? It is very clear to me that Egypt was a righteous nation at times. Without them the nation of Israelites would have never made it. Moreover the seed of Jesus would have never made it. I think the most wonderful redemptive story for the country of Egypt is the story after Jesus is born.

Herod is being influenced by the same fear that the devil used on Herod. He is afraid someone is going to take his dominion. So he orders all the male children age 2 and under to be killed. It is at this time that the Lord prompts Mary and Joseph to take the newborn Jesus to Egypt for safety. They are protected in Egypt till Herod dies. It doesn't say how long they were there but possibly a few years. And so the prophecy in Hosea concerning Jesus was fulfilled. Matthew notes the same in chapter 2:15 "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Really this is the fourth time that God has called his son or the seed of his son out of Egypt. Father Abraham was saved, the 12 tribes were saved, the nation of Israelites were saved and Jesus himself was saved by the righteousness of Egypt. God had and still has a heart for Egypt. The battle for Egypt still continues. We need to be the witness. We need to intercede that they may be released from oppression. I believe the righteousness of that people is still alive. At the very least we need to be grateful for the righteousness of Egypt. We need to pray for the blessing and redemption that Egypt has long for for thousands of years. God created all nations and one day all nations will be redeemed unto Him.

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