The story of Joseph in Genesis tells why the people of Israel were in Egypt: survival, one word that describes the story of Israel back then and in modern times.
The famine required Israel to displace to Egypt. But God never intended for Israel to remain in Egypt forever. But God faced a problem: the Jews started to enjoy living in exile while Joseph was the pharaoh’s favorite offspring.
God’s providence had to intervene by allowing a new pharaoh to arise “who knew not Joseph” and who began the dreadful oppression felt by the Hebrews. So when Moses told the Jews to “Follow me,” they would welcome the chance to leave Egypt.
Painful times can be a blessing in disguise. It is at this point in the story that Moses’s birth takes place, his rescue by Pharaoh’s daughter, his early childhood development and rise to a place of power and influence in Egypt.
If Moses were to possess the leadership skills to lead the Jews out of Egypt and across the wildernesses for 40 years, then he needed the formalized training and experience that the Egyptian court offered. The adoptive mother helped shape and mold Moses’ personality during his formative years: he learned to exercise his own will; he developed a sense of initiative, self-identification and moral responsibility; and he enlarged his horizon through contacts outside the home.
Apart from God’s overriding providence, none of these things would have occurred.
After Moses’s basic leadership training in Pharaoh’s court, God then set the stage for Moses’ “advanced individual training (AIT)” in survival skills in the wilderness of Midian under the wise guidance of Jethro.
Note the providential acts even included Moses killing an Egyptian in order to move to Midian. Only after Moses’s AIT did God appear to him in the burning bush.
God is still at work behind the good and painful events in our lives in order to accomplish through us his sovereign purposes. Similar to Moses, we, too, have been born for a special purpose and mission. Although our mission might not be as spectacular as Moses’, nevertheless, God has chosen each one of us to make this world more like the Kingdom of Heaven.
Therefore, as difficult events unfold in our pilgrimage of faith, let us be aware of God’s providence at work, turning that which appears as evil into a blessing.
The times when we doubt the power of God’s providential acts to fulfill his sovereign will, let us read again the story of Moses. For God is always in charge, God always knows what he is doing and God always has our best interest in mind.
The Rev. Gene Norris is a Presbyterian pastor in Augusta.