Call Unto the Lord
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 1. The first six verses of this chapter give us a list of the twelve sons of Jacob who entered the land of Egypt. They with their households constituted the nation of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel. We read in verse 5:

Exodus 1

5And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt.
6And Joseph lied, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
7And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
8Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
9And he said to his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
10Come on, let us deal wisely with them: lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them out of the land.
11Therefore, they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithon and Raamses.
12But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
13And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor:
14And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the fields: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.
15And the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:
16And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools: if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
17But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
18And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?
19And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women: for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.
20Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
21And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
22And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born shall ye cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.

In the first chapter of the book of Exodus, we will notice how God prepared the people, and in the second chapter, how God prepared their leader for the purpose of leading them forth out of the land of Egypt. You will notice in verse 6 that after Jacob and his sons came into Egypt, Joseph died; and immediately upon the death of Joseph, persecution began. They were in the land of Egypt for 430 years, but they had about thirty years of peace; they had about thirty years of reasonable comfort. Then the persecution actually began, and it lasted for 400 years.

Period of Persecution

You might be interested to know why we make such a definite statement concerning the persecution of the Israelites. We will see the value of comparing Scripture with Scripture, that we may know all the Word of God. Turn, please, to Exodus, chapter 12, and notice verse 40:

Exodus 12

40Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.

From chapter 46 of Genesis until the Exodus described in the book which we are studying, there was a period of 430 years.

Turn, please, to Acts, chapter 7. Here we have the testimony which Stephen gave to those who were not interested in the things of God. The Spirit of God used his message to bring conviction to their hearts. In verse 6, we find Stephen saying:

Acts 7

6And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil 400 years.

In chapter 12 of the book of Exodus, we were told that their sojourn was 430 years. In Acts, chapter 7, we are told that they were persecuted 400 years. So they had thirty years of comparative peace, and then the persecutions began.

Purpose of the Persecutions

Why did the persecutions begin for the children of Israel? In verse 8 of Exodus, chapter 1, we are given the simple reason this happened–that is, the reason that was on the surface, the reason that men would give for this persecution:

Exodus 1

8Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

The persecution that resulted in the actual Exodus of the children of Israel reached its climax when there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph. Notice those words very carefully. The kings of Egypt felt indebted to Joseph for the wisdom he had displayed in saving the land from famine and in arranging for all of the land to become actually the property of the king. It is difficult for us to understand why a king in that family would turn against the descendants of the man who really gave them their place, and historians doubt that such a thing occurred.

Turn, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 52, verse 4:

Isaiah 52

4For thus saith the LORD God, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.

Immediately things began to clear up. The line of kings under which the persecution of the Israelites rose to such heights was a line of kings of Assyrian lineage who had conquered the land of Egypt, displaced the kings who had been on the throne, and set up their own kings. So you see, these Assyrians were really not Egyptians; they felt no debt to Joseph, and they had no interest in him or his people. As a matter of fact, they became very much concerned, if you will look at verse 9 of Exodus, chapter 1.

Exodus 1

9For [this Assyrian] said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we.
10Come, let us deal wisely with them: lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.

These two verses have created a problem for people who do not believe in the inspiration of the Word of God and who are seeking something at which they can point their finger. They say, for example, “How could it be possible that the children of Israel in one little section of Egypt would outgrow the entire population of Egypt? It just doesn't seem possible.” Well, that is not what it says! This Assyrian king said to that force of people who were in the land of Egypt as a conquering army, “The people we have to watch out for are these Israelites. They are strangers in the land as we are strangers in the land. They outnumber us.” You see, it was not a question of the Israelites' outnumbering the Egyptians; it was a question of the Israelites' outnumbering the occupational forces of the Assyrians. The Assyrian king was afraid that the Israelites might side in with the Egyptians, and if they did, the Assyrians would be outnumbered. So they said, “We had better persecute these Israelites.” In verse 11, we read that they set over the Israelites taskmasters to afflict them with their burden, and they built for Pharaoh treasure cities.

All this is the apparent reason; this is the historical account. But will you remember that in our key verse, Exodus, chapter 15, verse 13, we were told, “Thou in Thy mercy has led forth the people.” It does not say anything about the Assyrians' driving out the people; it says something about God's leading forth the people. This necessitates our looking behind the scenes. When we do, what a different color this picture takes. It was not one man's doing as he would against a certain group of people; it was God's using the man as a mere instrument in His hands to accomplish His purpose.

Circumstances In God's Place

Turn with me, please, to Psalm 105 as I remind you that every circumstance in life depends upon how you look at it. You may look at it as a very sad thing and a very great mistake in your life. If you look behind the scenes, you may find that God is planning each step of the way. In this Psalm there is a historical account of God's dealings with the nation of Israel:

Psalm 105

23Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies.
25He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants.

Wait just a minute. Have we been reading this correctly? Yes, we have; in this Psalm God is given all the glory–the glory of turning the hearts of the Assyrians against the Israelites. Someone says, “Oh, the Assyrians created all these problems,” but the Spirit of God says, “Oh, no, I directed him to do it.” So you see how God enables the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10).

If you will turn to chapter 2 of the book of Exodus once more, you will see a commentary that emphasizes this very truth:

Exodus 2

23And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.

In process of time, the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel began to cry unto the Lord.

Now will you turn with me, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 32:

Deuteronomy 32

36The LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

Do you realize what we have been reading? God wanted to deliver His children from the land of bondage, but He could not do it until they were ready for Him to do it. God was waiting on the sidelines, so to speak, to do something for the children of Israel; He had to wait because they were not in the place of blessing. This is not an unusual thing for the children of Israel as we look back on their history. It is new to us, and it was new to the children of Israel at this stage of their experience, but it proved to be something that God had to do consistently.

God Waits to Bless Us

Let me illustrate what I mean by asking you to turn, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 30, for what God would have us see about the way He had to deal with the nation of Israel. This speaks of another incident in the life of the children of Israel, but the truth is here:

Isaiah 30

15For thus saith the LORD God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
16But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
17One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
18And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

Do you realize what we are reading? God said to the wayward nation, “I want to help you, but you won't be helped. You insist on going your way. All right, you may go your way, and I will wait until you come to the end of yourselves. When you come to the end of yourselves, I will help you.” That is what he meant when He said, “Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you.” We are reminded that behind the scenes of the persecution of the Israelites by the Assyrians was the determinate purpose of God to bring them to the place where He could bless them–to bring them to the place where He could do something for them.

Seek God's Deliverance

Glance with me at Psalm 107. We will not look at it in detail, but it is an illustration of what I am talking about. I believe there is a tremendous experience in this Psalm which we can apply to our individual lives:

Psalm 107

1O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.
2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
3And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.
4They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
5Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
6Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.

Notice how often this refrain is repeated. You find it again in verse 13 and again in verse 19. In verse 28, you see the same thing: “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.” In every instance the crying unto the Lord was brought about by God's chastening hand on them. In other words, God could not save the Israelites out of Egypt until they asked Him to. He could not save the Israelites until in the midst of their bondage they cried unto God and asked Him for deliverance.

Let us learn a lesson: This first chapter of the book of Exodus is an illustration–the first illustration–of anti-semitism on a nationwide scale. It began on the part of the people who surrounded the Israelites and who were jealous of them and afraid of what their power might mean; immediate persecution was the result. Why this persecution? That these Israelites might turn to God. The persecution that has continued down through the centuries has been permitted of God for one specific purpose–that the nation of Israel even in our day will recognize that they have come to the end of the road and will cry unto God. God will hear their cry and will deliver them.

Fulfillment of God's Promise

That truth is very definitely emphasized in the book of Hosea, chapter 5:

Hosea 5

15I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.

This is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking. He said, “I am going away; I am going to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God until these Israelites seek my face.” Then He makes a very firm statement: “And they will seek my face in their affliction; they will seek me early.” The next few verses tell exactly how that is to be brought to pass. You see, though on the surface an Assyrian king persecuted the children of Israel, God was behind the scene permitting it, that they might come to the end of themselves and call unto God.

The thing that the Assyrian king in Egypt tried to do was an utter failure. He called in the midwives of the children of Israel. He said, “I want you to kill every manchild; I don't want you to let one live. This charge I place upon you.” But what do we read?

Exodus 1

12But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.

Because the midwives were more afraid of God than they were of Pharaoh, they did not obey Pharaoh's command. The nation of Israel grew and prospered in fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Jacob back in Genesis, chapter 46, verse 3, when he said, “Go down to Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation.” God had kept His Word.

The very fact that the children of Israel grew and prospered in the midst of such persecution is a reminder to us that when God is working, no one who is against Him can prosper. It is an impossibility to thwart the plan of God. Faithful midwives carried out God's purpose and plan for His chosen people, Israel.

Victory Over the Devil

I think we would be negligent if we did not point out that here was another attack of the Devil to keep the Lord Jesus Christ from coming into the world. Remember, the Lord Jesus Christ was to come into the world through the line of Israel. Had there been no more boy babies, there would not have been any David, and had there not been any David, there would not have been any Christ. So behind the scenes, mind you, the activities of the midwives were but another victory over the Devil–a victory for Christ and for the forces of righteousness in the warfare that is continually going on behind the scenes.


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