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Background: Exodus 7:14-16


They made their lives bitter with hard labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labour the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.  Exodus 1:14

The Egyptian enforced bondage and slavery of Israel is a powerfully relevant biblical image.  Making bricks served the architecture of ancient Egypt.  Can you imagine the anger and frustration of the Israelites?  Here was a foreign power that had preserved them from the ravages of the famine but was now robbing them of their nationhood and personhood.  The theology of the exodus teaches us that Egypt is the symbol of worldly, anti-God power.  “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams.  You say, ‘The Nile is mine, I made it for myself.’” (Ezek. 29:3).  Egypt becomes a vivid symbol of sin and the subsequent bondage and death that it brings.

The book of Revelation confirms the typology of Egypt.  The figurative language of Revelation 11:8 presents two witnesses who had power to stop the rains (Elijah) and bring the plagues (Moses).  But the beast (Satan and his representatives) comes out of the Abyss and kills them.  Clearly Egypt is the symbol of opposition to the plans and purposes of God’s redemptive work.  Egypt is a type of the Antichrist that destroys the earth and seeks to enslave the people of God.

This biblical symbolism provides the background for Jesus’ words to the “children of Abraham” in John 8:31-41.  He had said to the Jews who had professed faith in Him: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Their response was, “We have . . . never been slaves of anyone.”  Can you recognize the irony of these words in light of their national roots in Egyptian slavery.  Jesus then teaches them that all sinners are enslaved in their sin.  It is only when the Redeemer sets you free that you are truly free.

It is important that we relate this biblical symbolism of a worldly, anti-God power to our individual lives as the people of God.  Our modern secular world leaves God out and seeks in subtle, but nevertheless clear, terms to enslave us to the world.  Today these passages speak not to those who labor in bricks and mortar but to those who are caught up in modern business life, driven by the taskmaster’s whip which insists that we provide luxuries and gadgets as essentials to life.

It also challenges our corporate lives as the people of God.  Here we were God’s people living in the midst of a non-Christian social and governmental system.  Sometimes, in God’s overruling providence, it was a source of blessing.  They had experienced the hospitality and provision of the Egyptians in their initial years in Egypt.  Joseph, one of their own, had risen to a place of power and prestige.  But a time of peace and prosperity (Ex. 1:1-7) seems to have led them to settle down in Egypt.  They had begun to worship the Egyptian gods and to enjoy the luxuries of Egypt.  But now Pharaoh had become the oppressor.  They were no longer experiencing the comfort and provision of Egypt, only its bondage.  What had once been an instrument of oppression.

Are there evidences of the oppression of God’s people by the state today?  For example: Is it possible that we are enslaved by the popular understanding that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution holds that religion and politics, or religion and education, do not and should not mix?  Most of our popular, secular society would interpret the First Amendment to mean that any attempt to apply God’s Word to such public legal issues as abortion or pornography is an infringement of First Amendment rights.  Thus there is an attempt to rob the church of its freedom to speak for and support legislation concerning public moral issues.

Further, a presumed neutrality toward academic study is really a secularism that oppresses Christian students.  God is left out of His own world.  Are the cultural systems robbing us of our freedom to go out into God’s world and serve Him in every area of life?

Are there places in our society where we should say through public witness: God says, Let my people go! – that they may serve Him?

John White

Readings: Genesis 15:8-16; John 8:30-32; Revelation 11; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 6:10-20; II Corinthians 10:3-6; Romans 1:16 & 17


– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”