Why are the Children of Israel Afflicted?
Given By: "Glenn D Blank" On Saturday, January 5, 2013

 

 

Sh’mot (Exodus) 1:8-10, Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did now know Joseph. So he said to his people, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are becoming too numerous and mighty for us. Come, let’s be shrewd to them, lest they will become more numerous and it will be that when war breaks out they will also join with the one who hates us, and fight against us, and go up from the land.”

At the beginning of Sh’mot the people of the children of Israel are opposed by a Pharaoh who sees them as a threat, enslaves them and even orders the execution of their newborn sons.

Thus begins the chronic story of the agony of Israel, from Pharaoh to Hitler, and in between Philistines and Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syro-Greeks, Romans, Muslims and Christians with their Crusaders, Inquisitors, and anti-Semites everywhere chanting “Death to the Jews!”

I’ve been reading Paul Johnson’s History of the Jews and once more I marvel at the unending and seemingly irrational hatred of Jews through the ages, which can never extinguish the people of Israel.

“Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel live!”

Yet Jews and all Bible readers have to wonder, why are the children of Israel so afflicted?

If God foreknows all—and He declared His foreknowledge about what would happen to Abraham—why does He allow this persecution to happen to the people that He has chosen for Himself?

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says to God after another round of tsouris, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But once in a while, couldn’t You choose someone else?”

It is a question that we can all relate to. Though we may not have endured the suffering of a mother who newborn child was seized by Egyptians solders to be drowned, or by Nazi soldiers to be executed, we all endure some tsouris or trouble in life, and ask why? Why me? What does it mean?

 

Here are three possible answers:

1) because HaShem wants people to know Him,

2) because He wants people to choose the blessing rather than the curse,

and 3) because He wants to reproduce His glory in us.

Sh’mot gives one answer to our question: “A new king arose over Egypt, who did now know Joseph.”

Yet that explanation only leads to another question: how could this king not have known about Joseph?

Joseph had been a powerful vizier to a Pharaoh; Joseph’s policies had delivered Egypt from a seven-year famine, and in the process, greatly consolidated the power of the Pharaohs over the people who had to pay dearly for the food that Joseph had stored up. 

The phrase, “a new king arose” suggest a whole new dynasty. Every century or two, a line of Pharaohs would die out or be overthrown to make way for a whole new lineup.

During the time of Joseph, the Hyskos who were Semites like the Hebrews, had dominated Egypt.

But the new kings who arose were from further south in Upper Egypt, and when they finally took control of the delta region to the north, they needed to deal with the Hyskos and other Semites who had settled there. Asserting themselves, they began enormous building projects in this region that have archeologists have only recently been digging up….

So perhaps the new Pharaohs simply didn’t want to know Joseph.

Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.”

Jews seem to be an exception, as our people have preserved an amazingly accurate record of our defeats!

Nevertheless Pharaohs, like many modern dictators, often tried to obliterate the memory of predecessors.

Yet the Hebrew verb translated know suggests something more.

Yada does not just mean to know about, but know by experience, to know intimately.

Hebrew uses this word to express sexual intimacy, ever since “Adam knew his wife and they had a son.”

In Sh’mot 6:7, Hashem says, “I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

To know HaShem is not just to know about Him or but an intimate relationship, “My people, your God.”

For Pharaoh not to know Joseph doesn’t just means that he forgot some man long dead; it meant that he didn’t know Joseph’s God—for it was Joseph’s God who had brought the Hebrews down to Egypt, where they were multiplying.

For Pharaoh not to know Joseph’s God was to intentionally ignore the ongoing evidence of His blessing.

When he says, the people of the children are becoming too numerous and multiplying, he was echoing [s] God’s blessing in Beresheet (Genesis 1:28), “God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”

When God promised Abraham, in Genesis 22:17, to “greatly multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore,” it was surely a wonderful blessing!

Every ancient culture normally regarded successful reproduction as a blessing, a source of strength.

Yet somehow this Pharaoh had twisted it into a threat and a curse. Oy!

HaShem had also warned about this possibility when he said to Abram in Genesis 12:2–3, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great. So you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse the one who curses you.”

Though God foreknows all, He does necessarily dictate all.

He allows humans to choose, and our choices release the power of blessing or curse.

To know God, to enter into a loving relationship with Him, releases His blessing, not only on ourselves but on those around us. HaShem blesses Israel so that through Israel He might bless all humanity.

Yet to ignore God or even resist Him, releases the dynamic of a curse of irrational hatred.

And so it plays out in Exodus, and ever since.

So this Pharaoh says, “let’s be shrewd to them” [how often Israel’s enemies have said such things to themselves], “lest they will become more numerous and it will be that when war breaks out they will also join with the One who hates us...”

Though many translations read “join with those who hate us,” the Hebrew is in the singular.

This Pharaoh, who plainly saw that the children of Israel were becoming numerous—usually a sign of blessing may have been expressing his resistance to the One who was blessing them, the God of Israel.

To know God is to love Him, but to ignore and resist Him is to hate him, and invite His judgment.

Ironically, this Pharaoh foretold, that the God of Israel would “fight against us,” so that His people might indeed “go up from the land.” Even though he didn’t know Joseph, how well he knew what Joseph’s God could and would do!

 

Even in the midst of their affliction, the people of the children of Israel still had their choice.

(We all have this choice.) They could give up, or they could persevere in faith.

They could kvetch and complain that God doesn’t care, or they could keep crying out to Him for help.

Pharaoh sought to embitter them with slavery and infanticide—had all the people become bitter,
then not only their bodies but they souls would have been enslaved and destroyed.

But we know that the spark of hope remained in the midwives who refused to kill the infants, as well as in the family who hid one baby boy for three months, and then put him a basket among the bulrushes, for Pharaoh’s daughter to find.

Indeed, the choice to trust God in the midst of affliction produces great glory.

In Sh’mot, it produced Moshe, and the cry of the people that touched the compassionate heart of God.

Through the afflictions of David on the run from Saul, it produced the glory of the Psalms.

Psalms 31:7, “I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul.”

Through the afflictions of Jews in Babylonian exile, it produced the hope and intercession of Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah.

Through the afflictions of Yeshua in his trial and execution, it produced the eternal glory of salvation.

Through the afflictions of the disciples of Yeshua, it produced a spread quickly throughout the world.

As Romans 12:12 says, “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer….”

 

And even through the horrible afflictions of the Holocaust, it produced a nation that sings Hatikvah.

So Paul Johnson writes, “The Holocaust and the new Zion were organically connected. The murder of the six million Jews was a prime causative factor in the creation of the state of Israel.”

Indeed, the reason Iran’s President denies the Holocaust is because he knows its connection with the miraculous establishment of Israel—miraculously, the United Nations voted in favor of the Jewish state!

Paul Johnson continues, “This was in accordance with an ancient dynamic of Jewish history: redemption through suffering. Thousands of pious Jews sang their profession of faith as they were hustled towards the gas chambers they believed … the sufferings of Auschwitz were not mere happenings. They were moral enactments. They were part of a plan. They confirmed the glory to come.”

 

This truth about faith through affliction is something the Word of God really wants us to understand.

It isn’t that God wants His people to suffer. [s] But He does want His people to reproduce His glory.

Even through their affliction, Jews have kept reproducing God’s glory in Jeremiah and Job,

Elie Wiesel and Marc Chagall.

To do so does involve our choice. The power of God to produce glory is available to those who persevere in trusting Him.

To the beloved children of Abba Father, Romans 8:17-18 says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Messiah—if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

I remember my dear friend and mentor, Carol Ann Fields, who suffered much because of cerebral palsy.

Apparently there were some who said that her illness showed her lack of faith in God to heal her.

I thought that was ridiculous. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish?  So I quoted Roman 8:17 to her.

In my spirit, I could see that God was producing through Carol Ann’s sufferings great glory.

She often told us of how the Lord or one of his angels would visit her to strengthen her perseverance.

Her faith strengthened the faith of many who knew her and knew how intimately she knew Him.

What is this glory that will be revealed in us, which somehow our present sufferings will produce?

We can see some of it already in this life—those who continue to trust God through suffering become more and more conformed to the image of Messiah in character—for He was willing to suffer so much for us, because of His love for us, and because of His hope of the glory that will be revealed in us.

 

So Romans 5:3–5 encourages us, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

I pray that you would all take hold of this truth. Through any tsouris you may experience in this life,
I urge you to know, and to encourage others to know, that God is able to produce His glory in you.

 

And in the end, before the judgment seat of God, those who have trusted and persevered much will be revealed with much glory. In Revelation, John sees them with many crowns, which they thrown down before the throne of God and the Lamb of God, who has suffered so much more for them.

V’eemru?

 

Questions for Breakout Discussion

 

 

What does "Am Israel Chai" mean? Why does it hold true?

 

Why didn't the new Pharaoh "know Joseph"?

 

What does "yada" mean? What does it mean to you?

 

God promised that either blessing or curse would operate through Abraham and his descendants. How do we see the blessing happening at the beginning of Sh'mot (Exodus)? How did the Pharaoh twist it into a curse?

 

How do we release the blessing or the curse in our lives today?

 

How can the words in our mouths release the blessing or the curse?

 

If God foreknows all, does that mean that dictates all? Why or why not?

 

When Pharaoh says, “Let’s be shrewd to them,” whose voice do you hear?

 

How many see the hand of God in the preservation of the children of Israel through all their afflictions?
How many see the hand of God through the reestablishment of the children of Israel in their own land?

(The historian Paul Johnson observes that there was a very small window of time during which the U.S.,
the U.S.S.R. under Stalin and the U.N. could agree to support the establishment of the state of Israel. Less than a year later, it could never have happened.)

Why is it that many people today do not see the hand of God in these historical facts?

Knowing these things, what should you do?

 

What does the choice to trust God in the midst of affliction produce in us?

 

How so?

 

Any testimonies?

 

How many of you earnestly believe that you are "co-heirs of Messiah"?

How many of you earnestly believe that if you "share in his sufferings you will also share in his glory"?

How many of you need some encouragement to believe?

 

Let's pray….