The first chapter of the book of Exodus opens when the hinges of history are turning on the people of God that are living in the land of the lost. When the book of Genesis closes, the people of God and the Egyptians are living somewhat in harmony and prosperity together. However four hundred years later we find that life for God’s people is not what it used to be.
When the book of Exodus opens, Egypt is the only world super-power, complete with the greatest military known to man, great material wealth, and the general scorn of the international psyche. Living in the middle of this pagan power is the people of God who have turned from being considered a blessing in the land, into a threat to the Egyptian way of life. The people that once prospered the country of Egypt, are now seen as a problem in the country of Egypt. The national dynamics had turned the tide of public favor against God’s people.
There are some things that we do need to understand. A great deal of time elapsed historically between the last period in Genesis and the first letter of Exodus. Egypt had endured a “civil war” of sorts. Non-jewish immigrants from the south who had migrated into Egypt at one point rose up in power and gained control of the Egyptian government. The Hyksos kings, as they are called ruled for about 100 years. Different secular scholars, place this hundred years at different times. Some allege that these were the Jews, some believe that it was a Hyksos king that is spoken of in this first chapter. However, for the most part this “immigrant uprising” came and went, I believe, between the writings of the two books.
What ever the timing, the fact remains that after those events, nothing was the same for the people of God. Things were not merely different, they became deadly and dangerous. Egypt had become a vast concentration camp for those who were God’s chosen people. One fundamental lesson that does not need to be missed, is found in the downfall of Israel’s favor among the Egyptian people.
Exodus 1:8 – reads, “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt which knew not Joseph.” To read this at face value it speaks of simple ignorance to the man of God who so faithfully, and skillfully lead the nation through one of it’s greatest depressions. Joseph was the man who had given the people a real “New Deal.” (Genesis 48:23-26) It was a deal of workfare, not welfare. It was a deal that enriched the populace, while at the same time, served as a supply for national needs. It did not punish success, nor enable slothfulness. Men and women could keep the lion’s share of what they earned, and the taxes were the same across the board regardless of degrees of success. The plan succeeded for one primary reason; Joseph’s plan was God’s plan. In short, when Genesis ended, the leader in charge of the nation’s economy was a man that was an unashamed follower of the God of the Bible.
Now four hundred years of history has passed, administrations have risen and fallen, and we come to Exodus 1:8. While the verse may seem innocuous at first, a statement of simple ignorance, the reality is that it is much more. According to some language scholars, when you peel back the king’s English, and look at the words that the Hebrew writer chose, and compare them with their uses in other parts of the scripture, there is a darker and more malevolent problem. The truth was not just that this new king did not know who Joseph was, or what Joseph did, or who Joseph served, the language implies that he did not want to know.
This new king did not want to know that Joseph had obeyed the God of the Bible and that his nation saving wisdom was from heaven. This new king did not want to know that the God of heaven and earth had blessed the land that blessed His people. This new king did not want a “holy history” to interfere with his new reign. This new king, whoever he may have been, desired that there be no connection between his rule and reign, and the history, wisdom, and faith, of one their ancient leaders.
The last line of the song, “My Country Tis of Thee” is often left out when we sing it. It reads like this:
Our Father’s God, to Thee, Author of Liberty, To thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright with Freedom’s holy light; Protect us by Thy might
GREAT GOD OUR KING!
Now without question there are many today who wish to forget our ancient leaders who knew God, listened to God and sought in every way to obey God, even down to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While men may wish to separate faith from politics, they may as well attempt to separate light and heat from the flame of a fire. Politics is nothing more than secularized faith. Every law is written by what men believe to be true, right, or moral. The unsaid, and undiscussed facts in life is that every ruler is ruled. Every leader is lead. The fundamental issue in every nation is dealing with the question of who is leading the leaders, and who is ruling the rulers.
While the new king wanted to distance himself from the holy part of Egypt’s history, he could not wash it from the fabric of the past. Nor can those today who wish that we did not know the God of our fathers, and the ruler of our former rulers. Furthermore, while many will admit that our founding fathers called upon an “undefined” God, the truth remains that they not only were lead by the God of the Bible, but called specifically upon the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Father of the American Revolution, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
I . . . recommend my Soul to that Almighty Being who gave it, and my body I commit to the dust, relying upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.
Will of Samuel Adams
Is it necessary that any one should [ask], “Did General Washington avow himself to be a believer in Christianity?” As well may we question his patriotism, his heroic devotion to his country. His mottos were, “Deeds, not Words”; and, “For God and my Country.”
“ O Most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ, my merciful and loving Father; I acknowledge and confess my guilt in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of my sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers are become my sin, and they stand in need of pardon.”
“ I have sinned against heaven and before Thee in thought, word, and deed. I have contemned Thy majesty and holy laws. I have likewise sinned by omitting what I ought to have done and committing what I ought not. I have rebelled against the light, despising Thy mercies and judgment, and broken my vows and promise. I have neglected the better things. My iniquities are multiplied and my sins are very great. I confess them, O Lord, with shame and sorrow, detestation and loathing and desire to be vile in my own eyes as I have rendered myself vile in Thine. I humbly beseech Thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins for the sake of Thy dear Son and only Savior Jesus Christ who came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Thou gavest Thy Son to die for me.”
[George Washington; from a 24 page authentic handwritten manuscript book dated April 21-23, 1752
William J. Johnson George Washington, the Christian (New York: The Abingdon Press, New York & Cincinnati, 1919), pp. 24-35.]
Signer of the Declaration of Independence
I John Hancock, . . . being advanced in years and being of perfect mind and memory-thanks be given to God-therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die [Hebrews 9:27], do make and ordain this my last will and testament…Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth . . . nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God. . .
Will of John Hancock
Governor of Virginia – Campaigned for Independence
This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed. Will of Patrick Henry
Furthermore there are those who may admit to these infallible proofs, but deny that the fathers intended for Christianity to be woven in the fabric of our government.
Andrew Jackson – “The Bible is the rock upon which our republic rests.
George Washington – “ It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
“What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” [speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs May 12, 1779]
“To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian” [May 2, 1778, at Valley Forge]
Patrick Henry – ““It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” *note – some critics deny the authenticity of this statement.
Daniel Webster – “I am clearly of opinion that we should not strike out of the constitution all recognition of the Christian religion. I am desirous, in so solemn a transaction as the establishment of a constitution, that we should keep in it an expression of our respect and attachment to Christianity – not, indeed, to any of its peculiar forms but to its general principles.”
(Source: Daniel Webster, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), Vol.III, pp. 3-7.)
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” —October 11, 1798
The truth is that leaders may intentionally forget Joseph and Joseph’s God; but they cannot erase him from history. One thing that is for sure. Rewriting the past is detrimental to the future. The early people of God who blessed Egypt so well, became the scourge of society once the nation rejected the holy part of their history.
Change has come to our country; but the changes that have come have not been worth making. Whether or not history is doomed to repeat itself remains to be seen. Soon after Israel was delivered from Egypt, the kingdom began to crumble. God deals with nations as they deal with His people. It is His people that carry the news of Salvation. It is His people that are to represent the love of God, the grace of God, and the message of God. In the light of bad politics, and a cynical society, our message is still the same; Jesus is the answer. Remembering, and receiving this message is the first real change worth making.