Thursday, January 31, 2013


In my previous post I posed a question:  What changed over the course of the 400 years the Israelites were in Egypt that made them go from favored guests to oppressed slaves?  You may already know the answer, or maybe you looked it up.  I didn’t have to read far into Exodus to find the answer. The reason the Israelites ended up as slaves in Egypt is that they were being so productive at having children that the Egyptians became afraid of them (Exodus 1:8-10).  The Egyptians were afraid of being outnumbered.  This might seem silly if we’re thinking in terms of hundreds.  They started at 70, so a few hundred or maybe even a few thousand seems reasonable.  But as first two chapters of the book of Numbers make tediously clear, there were 603,550 adult male Israelites.  Add women and children to that and the number climbs into the millions.  That’s a lot of people.  No wonder the Egyptians were concerned.

This got me to thinking about our own fears.  What are the sorts of things that threaten to outnumber us?  Maybe it’s a quantity of people, or maybe it’s a quantity of tasks, or a quantity of hurdles.   I think it’s notable that God commanded Moses to count the Israelites.  I’m sure any one of them could have guessed just by looking that there were a whole bunch of people.  Were they surprised by the final count?  Did knowing the number help them to find strength in their great size?  You’d think so, but then when they got their first peek into the Promised Land, they saw themselves as small, not large.  “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes” (Numbers 13:33). 

God knows us well.  He knows how easily our eyes deceive us, and how often we misjudge our own ability to succeed if we rely on God.  He shows us this through several of the Old Testament stories.  Perhaps the most notable is the story of Gideon in Judges 7.  God has Gideon leave most of his army behind and fight the Midians with only 300 men so that there will be no question that they won because of God’s strength and might.

We, like the Egyptians, easily fall prey to our fear of many, but it is the power of the One that really matters.  One man, the Son of Man, God in the flesh, conquered our greatest enemy.  Jesus Christ is the one we need to reach for and hold on to when we are feeling outnumbered.  It defies logic.  It seems impossible.  The troubles of this world seem so great.  But Jesus reminds us that he has overcome the world.  And he promises us peace—a peace that transcends our understanding, despite our fears.

Count your troubles, if that helps.  Make a record, like Moses did of each of the tribes of Israel.  Whatever number you reach is divisible by one.  Ask Jesus, the One, for help, and be ready to cross things off your list.  Then those troubles have become blessings instead.

May you be outnumbered by His blessings.

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