Does God Sometimes Let Us Endure Dark Days?

(“Questions From Israel’s Exodus” series: post #1)

In Genesis 15:12-16, we read about a dream that Abraham had in which God declared that Abraham’s descendants would spend 400 years in a foreign land and be afflicted there through servitude to that land’s occupants. At the end of that prophesied era, though, God would judge that foreign nation and bring Abraham’s descendants back into Canaan, the land that God had already given to them. Even more than that, those descendants would bring great possessions with them out of that foreign land. Abraham would be long dead before all this took place, but that didn’t make the prophecy any less certain.

Sure enough, right on schedule in God’s plan, Abraham’s descendants (who at the time consisted of only the large family of Jacob) moved from Canaan to Egypt, the foreign land of the prophecy. However, they didn’t immediately become slaves there. Much to the contrary, Jacob’s son Joseph was reigning as Egypt’s second-in-command at the time of the move, and Joseph’s favor with Pharaoh ensured a very pleasant settling in the land for Jacob’s family. It wasn’t until Joseph, his eleven brothers, and that entire generation died off that things changed (Exodus 1:6). By then the family’s original number of 70 (1:5) had multiplied exceedingly to become a thriving populace. That’s how the family of Jacob became the nation of Israel (1:7).

The change in the Egyptians’ attitude toward the Israelites was precipitated by two factors. First, a new king (Pharaoh) arose in Egypt, and he was a man who either had no direct knowledge of all the good that Joseph had done for Egypt, or he at least had no appreciation of it (Exodus 1:8). Second, this new Pharaoh used the population explosion among the Israelites as a scare tactic to convince his fellow Egyptians that in the event of war the Israelites might side with an invading army (1:9).

With this reasoning in place, the new Pharaoh appointed taskmasters over the Israelites, and these taskmasters forced them into slave labor to build two new supply cities for Pharaoh (1:11). The Egyptians thought that all that backbreaking work would greatly curtail the population explosion that was taking place among the Israelites, but in fact the exact opposite happened as the Israelites multiplied all the more (1:12). The Egyptians’ response to this heightened fertility was to make the work even harder on the Israelites by forcing them not only to build more cities but also to work in Egypt’s fields (1:13-14).

Additionally, Pharaoh instituted a new method of controlling the Israelites’ burgeoning population as he commanded Israel’s midwives to kill each newborn male (1:15-16). To their credit, though, in a classic case of “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), the midwives disobeyed the order (1:18). This led Pharaoh to issue a new decree stating that every Israelite male baby must be thrown into the Nile river (1:22). Many students of the Bible have pointed out that Satan was working through this Pharaoh in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish race and in so doing keep Jesus from being born into the world through that race.

Obviously, at this point, the Israelites’ future looked incredibly bleak. They were in a land that was not their own, and they were literal slaves. The only comfort they could find in their circumstance was the comfort of their families, and now even those families had become tragedies as each day Israel’s newborn male babies were horrifically tossed into the Nile river where they would either drown or be eaten alive by the river’s crocodiles. Where was God in all this? Was He going to allow the Israelites to go extinct at the hands of a sadistic madman called Pharaoh?

No, He wasn’t. The Israelites probably didn’t realize it but the back half of that prophecy that God had spoken to Abraham was still hanging over them. Just as surely as they had moved to a foreign land, and just as surely as the occupants of that land had afflicted them with forced servitude, God was going to bring them out of that land with great possessions. The passing of all the centuries hadn’t lessened God’s memory or His intended plan one iota. His words of prophecy to Abraham were still running right on schedule.

Still, though, let’s not just gloss over the fact that the Israelites endured many, many dark days — days wherein they watched their male babies sink down into the depths of the Nile — while they waited on God to keep His word of deliverance to them. While I realize that this is subject matter that most Christians don’t like to hear, the fact that it hurts our ears rather than tickle them doesn’t make it any less true. Speaking from personal experience, I know that it’s information that we need to have regarding our understanding of God. If we don’t have it our trust in Him will take a serious hit anytime He delays His deliverance long enough for us to endure dark days.

Believe me, the God of the Bible doesn’t fit neatly into the box that so many preachers have built for Him today. Jesus, God the Son, couldn’t even get born into this world without all the male children who were two years old and under in Bethlehem and its surrounding districts being put to death by Herod the Great (Matthew 2:16-18). In the wake of that event, can you imagine some preacher going to those parents and saying to each of them, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”? I can just hear one of those fathers saying, “Really? I just watched Herod’s soldiers take my two-year-old son from my arms and kill him. So, you’ll forgive me if I’m not feeling particularly loved by God right now. And as for that wonderful plan for my life, He must have a different definition of ‘wonderful’ than I do.”

Does God sometime let us endure dark days? You bet He does. These days are exceedingly difficult and they test our faith in ways that days of prosperity can’t even begin to touch. But like that prophetic dream given to Abraham, God’s plan doesn’t call for us to be left endlessly in our dark days. Therefore, the key to spiritually navigating through such days is to keep your eyes on the deliverance that God has scheduled.

I don’t know what form that deliverance might take in your life, but I can tell you what form it took in the lives of the enslaved Israelites: the exodus. That exodus would officially end for them once they arrived on the northern shores of the Red Sea, but before we get them there in this series we have a good many more questions to ask and answer. That’s why each post in the series will be devoted to asking and answering one new question. The spiritual lessons we’ll glean from these answers will be some of the most relevant you’ll ever find, and so I hope that you’ll come along with me for this journey as we mine the exodus for much of the gold that it holds.

This entry was posted in Adversity, Christ's Birth, Depression, Disappointment, Doubt, Faithfulness, God's Timing, God's Work, Human Life, Patience, Perseverance, Problems, Series: "Questions From Israel's Exodus", Slavery, Suffering, Trials, Trusting In God, Waiting and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Does God Sometimes Let Us Endure Dark Days?

  1. christy harrell says:

    This is very interesting and I am certainly along for this journey.

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