It’s the fifth day of our journey to Bethlehem. Today we are continuing on to the birth place of Jesus in a 15-day series I started Monday, December 7, 2009. If you’d like to walk with us, it’s never too late to catch up. You can read the previous posts or just jump on the trail right where we are today. You are welcome here as we walk through God’s Word all the way to the evening that our Messiah, Jesus Christ was born.
In case you’re wondering if we are going to cover every bit of Genesis on this journey, no, we’re not. In fact, today we skip ahead several generations to Exodus Chapter 1.
Isaac, spared from death by his covenant keeping God, has had two sons, Jacob and Esau. God has chosen to continue His covenant through Jacob, whom He would later rename Israel. Israel had 12 sons, thus the nation of Israel – 12 tribes who would have 12 distinct histories with God.
As we continue on our journey today we find the descendants of Israel in the land of Egypt. I’m sure you remember they ended up there because of a severe famine. But God in His providence had arranged for one brother, Joseph, to “go ahead” of his 11 other brothers (through a series of misfortunate events as bad as anything imagined by Lemony Snicket!) to make sure there would be provision for them and that the king of Egypt would be in a generous frame of mind toward them by the time they got there. Don’t you just love those moments when you realize that God has thought ahead of you in your own life? When you realize He was working all along, even when you were wondering where He was? Mmm, mmm.
At any rate, the years have passed and the 12 families of Israel have grown considerably. In fact, Exodus 1:7 literally says they had increased so much in number that they had swarmed the place, filled it up! Not only that, they had become a mighty people.
For a while things were fine. The king who had given Joseph so much favor probably told his son and maybe even his grandson to “be nice to these folks; they’re good people.” But eventually, a king came along who hadn’t gotten the memo. He was afraid of them, and you know what powerful people do to people they are afraid of. They put them to work, keep them so defeated and worn down they can’t think straight. That’s what this king did anyhow.
And so, God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, the family of father Abraham find themselves in captivity. Well, couldn’t they have just up and left? No, we all know how that goes too. They had become necessary to the king’s economy and dependent upon his provision. He wasn’t going to make it easy for them to go anywhere and they didn’t feel like they had the wherewithal to strike out on their own. They were bound in the chains of slavery, gripped with the vice of fear, and shackled to their own insecurities.
Does that sound at all familiar to you? As we walk toward the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, I thought it might be wise to think about the people we are passing on the trail. For that matter, we might need to consider the people we are walking shoulder to shoulder with.
Have we not all, at times, been held captive by something bigger than ourselves, something powerful and suffocating? We’ve certainly all know the death grip of Satan, the prince of this world. Whether you were saved out of that captivity at the age of 8 or 10 or 22 or 52, at one time he held you prisoner to his ways and his thinking. Praise God if you have been released from his domain by the Prince of Peace.
Many of us have also been chained to some sort of bondage, held in the grip of some addictive habit or substance. We’ve battled with bravery and determination, but come up short because we just don’t have the power to break free within us. But, praise God, many of us have finally broken free when we laid down our own toy-like weapons and ceased depending on our own feeble strength. We’ve turned to our risen Lord and whispered, “Help. I can’t do this.” And He, with a protective vengeance has swooped in to rescue us from that which sought to defeat us.
Others of us have been held captive by crippling feelings such as our insecurities, the guilt over past mistakes, anger toward an offender, jealousy, bitterness, you name it. While we may have been released from Satan’s power, he has continued to taunt us with lies and we have listened. And those lies have yielded great power in our lives, keeping us from moving on to our Promised Land. But hopefully, many of us have also seen those lies for what they are, applied the truth of God’s Word to our lives like healing ointment and broken free from those chains as well.
And finally, some of us have lived in prisons where another seemingly held the keys and jangled them in our face. Married to an alcoholic, separated from a wayward child, abused by an angry parent, victimized by a sick stranger, belittled by a demeaning boss, _____________________. I have no idea the wide variety of prisons out there. But once again, I know many have either broken free or managed, by the grace of God, to turn their prison cell into a test lab for His goodness and sufficiency instead.
So as we pause just outside of Egypt, I encourage you to look in on the Israelites in their state of bondage. And as you ponder their condition, remember you own. Are you one of the blessed who has been set free? You do realize it was that babe born in Bethlehem who set you free, right?
Jesus read from the Scriptures in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because…He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and …to set free those who are downtrodden.”
And as we set up our tents here on the banks of the Nile for the weekend, I also encourage you to consider if you are still being held captive by anything other than the love of God. Any fear, any insecurity, any sin, any bitterness, any situation, any habit, anything? You’re not supposed to be there, sweet blog friend. Please talk with Jesus about it this weekend.
Finally, I mentioned earlier that we need to consider those we are passing on our journey. Let’s be aware this Christmas season that there is a world full of people who are living in bondage – to Satan and his dominion, to addictions, to crippling pasts, to unhealthy relationships, and so much more. Now is a good time to develop a little compassion for these people and to remember that Jesus came to save them too.
Well, that’s where we’ll stop for this week. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. It really has helped me to focus on what Christmas is all about. I hope our travels are doing the same for you. Merry Christmas dear friends!