We all come from somewhere. We all have stories that have shaped, and continue to shape, who we are as individuals, families, and communities. Some of our ‘founding stories’ sound fairytale-like in the ways that they are told and passed down from generation to generation, and some of us have stories that aren’t so pretty.
If you are a follower of Christ, then you are a part of ‘a people’ that became ‘the people’ of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The story didn’t start with Jesus’ humble birth nor did it end when he ascended into heaven. It’s a story that is still being told and written in and through the hearts of men and women everywhere as they pursue a relationship with the living God. The story of God interacting with a group of people started long before the early church (book of Acts)… it started thousands of years ago in a land that, physically speaking, is a whole lot different from ours. We find this story recounted in the pages of the Bible at the beginning of the book of Exodus.
Until we are told this part of the story God primarily interacted with humans through individuals. We can read about Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph and clearly see that God had a plan for the good world that He had created. Then, the book of Exodus starts by saying that, “… Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” (Exodus 1:6-7) This is good right? The plan is in place and things are happening as expected. What God had promised Abraham generations before was happening…
Then we find, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. ”Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous…” (Exo. 1:8-10a) This is the place where the story seems to take a turn. The king of Egypt, Pharaoh, enacts a series of things in order to try and break the spirits of the Israelites. He enslaves them making their lives miserable, he attempts genocide on their newborn babies through the hands of midwives, and when that doesn’t work he orders that all newborn male children be drowned in the river.
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like a good beginning to a story.
About this time a baby was born to a levite woman and she hid him away for three months. Three months of keeping an infant hidden from his would-be murders. When she couldn’t hide him anymore she made a basket, covered it in pitch, placed him in it, and sent him down the river. The woman’s sister watched from a distance to see what would happen to the baby. As fate would have it, the boy is found by members of Pharaoh’s house, taken in, and raised as one of their own. He was given the name Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter because, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exo. 2:10)
Many years pass and, after a series of poor choices, Moses flees to the land of Midian for safety. Then we read, “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” (Exo. 2:23-25)
We see God hearing the cry of His people. We discover that he has not forgotten about his promise to the generations before and we see him beginning to interact with more than an individual… He begins to act on behalf of an entire community of people.
The first two chapters of Exodus basically say, 1) Israel is enslaved and suffering, 2) Moses born, 3) Israel cries out for help, 4) God hears their cries.
If we are familiar with the story, then we know that Moses ends up leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and towards the land that God had promised them. We know that Moses was the vessel that God chose to work through.
The profound, and often unseen, element of this founding story is that, according to the Bible, Moses was born before the children of Israel cried out for help.
God was at work to save, rescue and ‘set His people free’ before they ever pleaded for salvation, rescue, and freedom. God began moving to answer the cry of a people who weren’t even crying out yet.
This is the beginning of the story of God interacting personally with His people, and it rings throughout out centuries of human history. Right at the start we see Him moving to save before there is a cry for freedom.
What are you enslaved by? What has you in bondage? What are you crying out to God right now? What do you need to be rescued out of, or healed of, or set free from?
What if the ‘founding story’ of God interacting the children of Israel is your story too?
What if God is already moving to answer the cries of your heart? If we believe the Bible, then we have to conclude that He is…
God is already moving to save, rescue and redeem us from whatever has us enslaved… even if we haven’t cried out to Him yet. He is writing a story through our lives and we can be assured… that the story is good.