After reading this devotion with your family, also take time to read with them Exodus 12:29-42; 13:17-14:31.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today…the LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (also known as Israel) lived in Egypt 430 years. During that time, they blossomed from a family of 75 to a nation of around two million. For over a century they had been enslaved. Their lives were made bitter as the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly with all sorts of labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of backbreaking work in the fields. They groaned under the burden of slavery.
The LORD heard their groans and was moved to pity. He sent Moses to lead the Children of Israel out of their slavery. God compelled the arrogant Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to give his people their leave. He did this through ten devastating plagues—the worst of which was the plague on the firstborn. The destroying angel went through Egypt and took the lives of every firstborn Egyptian boy, but the Israelites were spared.
Pharaoh finally submitted and released the Israelites. They marched out boldly with their flocks and herds and their carts overflowing with the Egyptians’ wealth. But then Pharaoh changed his mind. He was distressed he lost his entire slave force. So, he rallied the troops. He took six hundred of his best chariots, along with all of his chariots, and charged out in hot pursuit of the Israelites who were camped by the Red Sea.
When the Israelites looked up and saw the dust rising from the desert floor as this vast army came toward them, their boldness turned to fear. They were horrified because they were in an Israelite sandwich, sandwiched between Pharaoh’s terrifying troops and the Red Sea. In spite of seeing the Almighty inflict the Egyptians with ten devastating plagues, they didn’t think deliverance was possible.
But Moses comforted and encouraged them, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” At the LORD’s command Moses stretched his staff out over the Red Sea. By the blast of his nostrils God split the sea and some two million people passed through on dry ground. The Egyptians foolishly charged into the watery gauntlet. Moses stretched out his staff again and the watery walls collapsed, swallowing up the entire army. The LORD graciously provided his people with deliverance.
As we see the dust of the coronavirus rising on the horizon, our hearts can be filled with many different fears, doubts, and worries. How long will I have to be isolated from the world? Will I be or am I already infected? Who of my loved ones will be stricken by this? Will my elderly parents contract it and die? What will become of my church family? What impact does this have on our financial future? Like the Israelites, we can feel sandwiched in between the coronavirus and death, compressed by anxiety and apprehensions.
That’s when we need to remember who our God is. He’s the Almighty who miraculously provided deliverance for his people in the past and continues to provide deliverance for his people today. He’s already provided deliverance from death through the death of his Son on the cross. Christ’s resurrection from the dead assures us that the wall of death cannot collapse on us and engulf us. Since that is true, why all the worries? Remember: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today…the LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Pastor Michael Zuberbier, St. Peter’s, FdL
“Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:19-20
Are you familiar with the story of Joseph? Not Joseph, the step-father of our Lord Jesus and husband of Mary, but Joseph, the second-youngest son of Jacob, who lived close to 2,000 years before Jesus? Outside of the Passion and Resurrection narrative of Jesus Christ, the life-story of Joseph has to be my favorite account from Bible history.
It all begins in chapter 37 of Genesis and runs through chapter 50. Joseph was born to Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. Being the son of his favorite wife, Jacob loved Joseph more than his other, older sons, and he did not attempt to hide that fact. This, combined with Jacob’s polygamy, would make life even more miserable than it already was for Jacob.
On a number of instances, Joseph’s older-half-brothers felt slighted by their father. This made Joseph’s brothers envious of him. Joseph also may’ve rubbed it in their faces too. This envy led to hatred. Hatred led them to sell their brother off into slavery in Egypt. I can’t imagine the trauma Joseph experienced as his brothers forcibly passed him off to the slave traders, being carted off to a foreign land where everyone spoke a foreign tongue.
During the rest of his life in Egypt, Joseph experienced highs and lows. He spent several years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Only after many years in Egypt and an amazing turn of events where God brought him to be second in command of the entire nation did he see his family again.
When Joseph’s father, Jacob, died, his half-brothers were terrified. They thought that, with dad out of the picture, Joseph would finally exact revenge for what they had done to him all those years ago. But “Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
What fascinates me so much about Joseph’s story is that, at the outset, Joseph had no idea the amazing things God would accomplish through the sin of his brothers. Who ‘would’ve thunk’ that God would work through this incident to bring rescue from a severe famine? Who ‘would’ve thunk’ that God had in mind the protection of the life of Judah, the fourth oldest son of Jacob? And by protecting Judah from starvation and death, God really was protecting the line of the Savior. And by preserving the genealogical line of our Savior, Jesus, he really had in mind the saving of our lives and the lives of every person from sin, death, and hell.
It’s amazing that, no matter how hard Satan, our enemy, the Enemy, works against God’s people and against the people of this world, God is always able to take the best Satan can dish out—even tearing apart the family of Abraham, the family of the covenant—and use it to accomplish his good.
I find immense comfort in these words for our current time. We are only at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Who knows what the fallout will mean for our lives? Could it, like Joseph’s experience as a slave and then prisoner, last 13 years before we begin to experience a good quality to our lives again? I pray not, but even if it does take that long, we have this wonderful promise of God from the Scriptures: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 Perhaps nowhere else in Scripture can you find such an example as Joseph’s story where God keeps this promise.
What does that mean for us right now? Much like Joseph as he was being carted off to Egypt, we cannot see all the good lying ahead of us on the road ahead. But there are some possibilities which do seem to stand out.
Consider our lives and the lives of many Americans. Up until this point, a great deal of our society was running at Mach 1. We were so busy with work, with friends, with our social lives, with education, with our children’s activities and more that we had forgotten how to make time for more important things like family time, rest, family devotion, and prayer. The spiritual upbringing of many Christian children has been passed almost entirely off onto the church. Studies show that the unchurched were too busy and distracted to concern themselves with matters pertaining to God, life, death, and eternity. And to varying degrees, the same could be said of God’s people too.
Now, life is slowing way down for us. Europe is asking Netflix to slow down the streaming so the system isn’t overwhelmed. People will have more time to interact with their families. The use of online resources from churches has risen dramatically in the last several days as people look for other means to address their spiritual needs. Families now have time to do devotions with each other. And there’s nothing like a global pandemic to bring people closer to God and our need for him.
Yes, our lives might be quite painful in the coming weeks, months, even years. It might mean some radical, even painful adjustments from worldliness to godliness as the sinful flesh is drowned in daily sorrow and repentance. But much good for our lives and for this world can come from all this as we learn to slow ourselves down and remember our Lord, whose mercies are new every morning.
Pastor Aaron Odya