The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey- the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”
The Israelites were in trouble. They were being held in slavery because the Egyptians were afraid of them. God, who is always merciful, hears and responds to their pleas for help. This story is often used as one of encouragement. I, too, have thought of the the story of the Exodus and felt renewed hope for a personal struggle. But we usually only read the first part. We stop reading right after God promises to rescue His people. And why not? That’s the good part. That’s the part where we can draw reassurance from. But it’s not the end of the verse. God promises to lead them to a wonderful land “flowing with milk and honey”. Notice that God doesn’t just promise the necessities, like bread and water. He’s offering luxuries to a desperate people. But there’s a problem. Because this land is a fertile area, others have settled there during the Israelites absence. And those people may not be willing to step aside and let these ex-slaves take over prime real estate. Israel will be leaving one brutal exsistence only to step into a time of violent war to secure what God has promised them. Doesn’t sound like God is doing much “rescuing” here. In fact, it sounds downright cruel, but that’s only because we don’t understand the larger picture. Reading the story now from the comfort of my couch, I can reread parts or skip ahead and only then can I see God’s hand throughout this. God does have a purpose for everything He does and can draw something positive out of everything that He puts us through.
Let’s take a closer look at the story. Why were they in Egypt anyway? Weren’t they supposed to stay in the land the God had promised to Abraham? If you recall, they left during a time of famine to find food. At this point in their history, we see the sons of Jacob intermarrying with the Canaanites and the family is in danger of losing their relationship with God as they interact with other cultures. The exile into Egypt actually forces them to depend on God as never before. When they return to Canaan, after years of slavery and another 40 years wandering the desert, they now know exactly where their strength and safety come from. They have been transformed from a ragtag family group to an army of faith-filled warriors. They will still make mistakes and unwise choices but they have learned to depend of God.
That has been a great lesson for me. Sometimes when I find myself in a bad situation, I have to remind myself that God is still there. He is still protecting me and most likely has a lesson for me so I better start paying attention. The problem for me is that I tend to equate God’s rescue with putting me in a place of safety and are then disappointed when I find that I still have problems to face and dragons to fight. I’ve come to realize that God does not keep trouble from happening. Trouble is what living in a fallen world is all about. God will help us, strengthen us and even rescue us from those dragons. He may also send us right back out there to fight a new dragon. This is where I get confused and cry out, “Lord, why me?” Sound familiar? It’s hard to remember that whatever comes at us is always either from His hands or at least, allowed by His hand, perhaps a consequence from your own actions. The trick is to learn to trust that hand. Even when we aren’t allowed to see down the road to prepare for those dragons that await us – trust that God’s hands are holding you, protecting you, guiding you through it. Whether you are able to enjoy the ride or are just clinging to the hem of His robe (been there!) – hang on! Sometimes He will take us out of one unhealthy situation only to face another one, but we are safe with Him. Maybe it’s just that He defines “safe” differently than we do.
And keep in mind that dragons are just imaginary creatures – God is very real!