The Blessings of Bondage in Egypt

Who among us would choose to go through incredibly difficult times?  While difficult times come, we do not choose them.  They are thrust upon us by circumstances controlled by a sovereign God.  Of course, worldlings do not believe this.  They believe they are victim of blind chance, that things just happen.  There is no rhyme or reason, there is no plan in our suffering.  It just stinks to be “us” they surmise. As a result of this, their decisions torture them.  They think, “If I had only chosen to ‘zig’ rather than ‘zag’.” They obsess with guilt over “not leaving on time” for that trip, for if they had, they would have avoided that accident that took the lives of their loved ones. Not only is this an unbiblical line of thought, it is emotionally debilitating and defeating.

The Bible would teach us that God is sovereignly designing our lives for good…even the very hard and difficult parts of our lives (Rom. 8:28).  There are, in Christian thinking, no accidents, only appointments. God designs even the most severe of our circumstances for purposeful good.

I was reading Exodus 35-39 recently.  It is the portion of Exodus where the work on the Tabernacle is done. In chapter 35 great freewill offerings are taken up in order to facilitate the construction.  A man named Bezalel is commissioned with oversight of the project.  He was a highly skilled man in all areas of knowledge, intelligence, craftsmanship, and artistic designs. Another man, Oholiab was commissioned to work with him specifically in the area of engraving, embroidering, yarns, and twined linen.  As the passage unfolds a cadre of other craftsmen with all kinds of skills in woodworking, engraving, textiles, and building were employed to craft all the needed elements of the Tabernacle from the frames for the tents and fabric boarder of the courtyard, to the accoutrements for worship, to the furniture, to the garments for the priests to wear. There were also jewelers who were employed along with stonecutting, seamstressing, embroidery (Ex. 36:35, 37), etc. 

As I read this, I asked myself, “Where did they derive all this skill” which now was brought to bear upon their beginnings as a nascent people?  Where did they learn all the skills it took to make the Tabernacle and all the accoutrements of worship? Where did the Israelites gain their expertise in textiles, carpentry, metallurgy, engraving, building, artistry, etc?  Where did they learn music, and develop their food and culture?  Where did they grow into a large population?  The answer came to me: Bondage in Egypt was like a greenhouse for the nation of Israel to develop for 400 years.

Did you ever wonder why God left Israel in bondage for 400 years?  Here is why: He was forging a nation.  He was training a population to be able to sustain itself because of all the skill and ability they learned and passed on to subsequent generations.  Was it bitter bondage? Yes! Almost all the benefit of their labor went to the Egyptians.  But God had a plan.  There is an old saying that I like: “The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine.”  God was slowly “milling” Israel in Egypt into the finest of flour that they could become the most excellent bread possible. 

I wonder if you have come under the refining “grindstone” of God?  I wonder if the “bitter” experiences of life have done or are doing their work to prepare you for the greatest usefulness possible for God?  When hard things happen to a worldling, he or she becomes fatalistic, defeated, and often bitter with a “why me” attitude.  They will often say things like, “What have I ever done to deserve this?”  They will chalk it up to blind fate or simply bad luck, which is totally debilitating and unsatisfying.  When a child of God has to go through “bitter bondage” he knows there is a purpose behind it.  God is forging you. He is grinding you at his millstone.  He is refining you for his purposes to be fulfilled in you.

No, “bitter bondage” is not fun. Hardship and loss are not fun.  But they are a means by which God readies us for greater things than these. The year 2020 has been and continues to be exceedingly challenging to all…  some more than others. But even the events of a pandemic year, plagued by social unrest, political upheaval, financial challenge, and for many families…death, has the imprimatur of God upon it for his divine purposes.

Dear believer, you are not a victim of some unseen, unknown, and impersonal “fate”.  You are the object of God’s purposeful plan. The Israelites did not recognize this when they were going through their bondage. But God was preparing them to become a great nation. We have the benefit of their experience to realize that God is at work even in the most difficult of times.

Terry

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