“All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens… But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad.” Exodus 1:5-12
Joseph, as Prime Minister of Egypt, had saved the nation during a seven-year famine through his foresight and disciplined leadership, but even brilliant legacies can diminish to nothing over time. God’s intent to increase the Jewish nation had come to pass, and the new Pharaoh was threatened by this immigrant people’s strength, so he ordered their oppression. His plan backfired, as the more they were crushed, the more they spread.
Richard Wurmbrand, evangelical minister who endured 14 years of Communist imprisonment and torture in his homeland Romania in the mid-1900s, tells of a wordless sermon in an underground church. Spies often infiltrated the middle-of-the-night services, looking to nab the preachers for something said that could be discerned as against the state. Upon suspecting one in their midst, a preacher took his small glass of water, dropped it to the ground, and crushed it under his feet, only to break the pieces into multiple shards and have them spread across the floor. He walked through them, through the congregation, teaching without a word this Exodus lesson, one that was recorded throughout the book of Acts and repeated over and over in Christ’s church through the centuries. “There arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word… And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 8:1,4;13:45,49-50;9:29-31;11:19-21)
We are promised persecution. How do, or will, we respond? Do we shrink away from disagreement or opposition to keep comfort and peace, or are we willing to speak and stand for truth no matter the consequence, and allow God to use the trouble to spread His word? Do I care more about my safety and security than God’s broader eternal plan? How willing am I to bear the cross today for what I may not see Him doing now, but what I can trust He is doing for down the road? (Luke 9:23; 2 Timothy 3:12)
Lord, in the face of opposition that is now and what will come, keep me faithful to You with steadfast determination, filled with Your Spirit. When afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down, may I rejoice to bear Your life, manifest Your grace, and spread abroad the love of Christ for Your sake, that others can know Your life also. (Acts 11:23-24; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12)