The focus of today’s parsha is Exodus 1:1-7. In a very real sense it is the growth before the storm. The growth is the growth of Jacob’s family. And the impending storm is the oppression of Egyptian slavery. It reads: 1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; each came with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The total number of Jacob’s descendants was 70; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died. 7 But the Israelites were fruitful, increased rapidly, multiplied, and became extremely numerous so that the land was filled with them.
These verses introduce the Israelites who are the focus of attention in the book of Exodus. They also tie the Israelites back to Jacob and explain their presence in Egypt. Plus, they account for the numerical growth of the Israelites during the period of time between the death of Joseph and the birth of Moses. In fact what we have here is a contrast between the small number of 70 Israelites that entered Egypt with the large number of nearly 2 million individuals that existed at the time the Exodus began (cf. Ex. 12:37; 38:26; Num. 1:45-47).
Now when God called Abraham out of ancient Babylon, He promised him not only a specific area of land but He also stated that Abraham’s descendants would become “a great nation” (Gen 12: 2; 15: 5; 17: 4). And in this opening paragraph of Exodus, we see this promise beginning to be fulfilled. The fruitfulness of the Israelites in Goshen was due to God’s blessing as He fulfilled His promises to the patriarchs (v. 7).
How does this relate to us? Well, the most miraculous promise to Abraham would be fulfilled far into the future. It involved the Messiah; the One through whom “all the peoples on earth would be blessed” (Gen 12: 3). And because of that unconditional promise to Abraham, in Messiah, all true believers— both Jews and Gentiles— also have this unconditional promise: When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1: 13-14).
The point is we are to live our lives with the full confidence that God will ultimately fulfill His promises. And practically speaking that means I need to continually ask myself how should God’s unconditional promise of eternal life affect the way I live?
Let me suggest this as a possible application: For many the beginning of a new year provokes optimistic expectations. However another perspective from which to view such a transition is that it points to the start of the duration of a particular period of time. For example, today January 10, 2015 is the first day of the rest of your life. And building on that self-evident truth, as Messiah followers we should be compelled to put our hand to the proverbial plow (cf. Luke 9:62) and say, “Today is the first day of the rest of my earthly ministry life.”
I want to look at the remainder of my life from this perspective because from where I’m currently standing I anticipate a providential convergence of spiritual need – accumulated life experience – and most importantly the provision of Divine grace – to facilitate the accomplishing of God’s will. And that’s the kind of growth that can withstand any kind of impending storm.