The Purpose of Egypt
Acts 7:1-8: Stephan is standing in the council chamber giving a defence of his faith in Mashiach against trumped up charges brought against him. He begins his awesome speech with a recap of the amazing history of Israel. In just a few verses he covers the 400 years of our sojourning in Egypt, exactly what was promised and foreseen. What G-d has promised, He will do and has done.
For Stephan the theme of his talk was sure: G-d had said and thus He did. If He had delivered us from Egypt, so too He would now deliver us of spiritual Egypt through the salvation available in the sacrificial death of Mashiach. His whole talk was designed to highlight one purpose: we, Israel, exist for a reason. To us, history is an active, purposeful narrative, a story with a meaning.
What emerges from Egypt is this: we had to be there for 400 years and as a result, we would go out to serve / worship Him. The two are linked. Why 400 years? On one level we can simply say with the Torah that the sins of the Canaanites were not yet full, so we had to wait for them to complete their sins before we could move in. But this leaves me feeling dissatisfied because our inheritance becomes dependent upon others’ sins! Our future as Jews and the geopolitical real estate that is ours by promise is Israel-focused, not nations reactive.
Maybe it just had to take that long for us to see that we NEEDED our own Land, not just as an inheritance but as a necessity to be the people of God. It is almost as if the Israelites had to see that they had no future in Egypt before they were able to get outside the mental and cultural box they were in and leave Egypt. Even then, during their journey they hankered after the cucumbers of Egypt, so profound an impact had it had on them, and so secure had they felt.
Read Exodus 6:6-8. Note how God says so often ‘I am the Lord’. Compare this with ‘I am Pharaoh’, the bold boastful claim thrown down by Pharaoh as he struts his power and supposed influence. Our deliverance from Egypt was all about proclaiming His name as the supreme God of all; He doesn’t share His power with Pharaoh or anyone else. His redemption of His people in Egypt was to make a name for Himself in the earth. This is more about who He is than who His people are. Why do you think so many Egyptians left Egypt with the Israelites at the end? They were convinced.
The promises of God in Exodus 6 are summed up by the phrase ‘I am the Lord’. Everything He said and did for us is summed up by those words: His Name. His Name is the seal of guarantee that He will and did deliver and release. His Name is His character. His people weren’t ready at the outset to hear this, but once God had proclaimed His Name and demonstrated the power and authority in it to redeem and save, the people began to change, reactions changed and so events on the ground began to change too.
I believe the full answer rests in the understanding that we needed that length of time to BECOME His people before we could BE His people. The 400 years were part of the ‘becoming’ programme and the final departure sealed all the lessons we had learned. Exodus 6:2-3 says that previous to this, God had not made Himself known as Adonai, merely as El Shaddai. But Gen 15 and 28 make it clear that in fact both Avraham and Ya’akov had heard this Name before. So what are we missing here? The key word is ‘known’. “By my Name Adonai I was not known”. We had heard it but didn’t ‘get’ it. Now we knew Him because of what He did for us, His actions showed us who He is, His nature, character and personality. The Egyptian experience made us into a people who would know God as the living God who saves and redeems. It was only as we were transformed into being His people that we could walk out of Egypt to fulfil the second part: serving / worshipping God.
It was only once we knew God that we could truly worship Him in Spirit and in truth and begin to fulfil our national calling and task. If we are now to worship and serve our God, then we should draw deeply on the learning ground of Egypt because it all served a purpose. Our calling and task reflect this too.
Our calling is as a nation of priests, to serve this world by standing in the gap between God and the nations. Our task is to DO what He did for us – to redeem and deliver us from bondage to freedom. Our task is to see people set free who are still in bondage, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We should commit ourselves to reflect who our God is in this world, what He does and how He acts.
Our calling and task is to reach a lost world and our own particular calling as the remnant of our people is to be a witness to them of the salvation and deliverance that is only possible through Mashiach. As good as it is to re-establish Messianic Judaism and its Halachah, we must not lose sight of our primary calling to reach our own people too. Yeshua said ‘I have come to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel’; we need also to see this imperative as our own. We have a living God and we are a living community, so show it!