The Providence of God
Reflecting on the life of Joseph, the younger brother who had been sold into slavery by his own family, I am always amazed by the providence of God to fulfill a more excellent plan. For many years, Joseph served as a slave and then was imprisoned for being falsely accused. Yet, in due time, God raised Joseph to become a great leader, second to Pharaoh, as it was by his foresight and leadership that not only the entire nation of Egypt was spared from a severe drought, but the neighboring nations as well. This drought ultimately led to the reunion of Joseph and his family as they were starving and in dire need; thus, they relocated to Egypt. Upon the death of his father Jacob, his brothers feared for their lives as they were the ones who, out of jealousy and hatred, hastily sold their brother as a slave when he was only 17 years old. Yet, Joseph, the Lord’s servant, responded by saying,
“‘You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:20-21)
In His Time
Fast forward 400+ years, Israel had remained in Egypt, but the favor they once had was now gone. In fact, Pharaoh greatly feared the Israelites, for there was a multitude of them. Therefore, Pharoah enslaved the Israelites and greatly afflicted them. Through yet another divine turn of events, the Lord spared the life of Moses, a Hebrew infant who was raised in the house of Pharaoh, to become a mighty leader who, in God’s time, would lead the people out of slavery and into freedom. Calling Moses, the Lord said,
“I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. The Israelites’ cry for help has come to Me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-10)
Was it Good?
As we continue in the narrative, the Lord does fulfill His word and miraculously delivers the Israelites out of slavery. However, the path through the desert was less than conventional, at least in the eyes of those Moses led. Numbers 11 says, “Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship…. The Israelites cried again and said, ‘Who will feed us meat? We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at but this manna!’” (v. 1, 4-6). The Israelites had been deceived by their own misguided and selfish bent, proclaiming, “We had it good in Egypt” (v. 18).
Perhaps we lack the humility to admit it, but whether we like it or not, we are a lot like the Israelites in the wilderness. How quick we are to deceive ourselves and believe the lies that surround us. The Israelites had it good in Egypt? Are you kidding? They were slaves. They were oppressed. They cried out to the Lord for deliverance. Had they forgotten of their years and years of lament and petition for the Lord’s deliverance? The Hebrew people suffered genocide! They were enslaved, beaten, despised, struggling, deprived, burdened, overworked, and marginalized for generations. Yet, in a moment of rejection of the Lord (and a failure to remember all He had done on their behalf), they believed the lie that they had it good in Egypt! Read on to the response of the Lord:
You will, in fact, eat meat, just like you have asked for. In fact, “You will eat [meat], not for one day, or two days, or five days, or 10 days, or 20 days, but for a whole month – until it comes out of our nostrils and becomes nauseating to you – because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and cried to Him: ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?'” (v. 19-20).
A Spirit of Remembrance and Gratitude
The very thing the Israelites longed for and falsely believed would satisfy their deepest desires, became nauseating and sickening. O Lord, how have we acted in similar ways? How have I acted in similar ways? I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says, “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
What a good reminder. May we not forget all that the Lord has done but give thanks and praise Him in all things.
1. All Scripture references come from, The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).