Most of us have experienced about 1% of Exodus 1:8. We go to work and the person who supervises us changes. Suddenly we have a new boss who doesn’t know how loyal, trustworthy, and super we’ve been. They patronize us. They fail us. They give the good tasks to their friends and don’t give us the review that we need to be promoted. A bad boss is a pain. Some of you have lost a good neighbor and had the house next door bought by people who live like animals. A bad neighbor is a hassle. A bad king or pharaoh or president, however, is a humanitarian disaster. Think of the Hindenburg Zeppelin — “Oh, the humanity!”
Read Exodus 1:8, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”
This is how a tragedy begins. Someone has your fate in their hands who doesn’t know you. It can be a new boss, a new neighbor, a new king. They remove the kindness you had come to expect from life. If they are your boss, there may be financial consequences. If they are your neighbor, you might lose sleep, step in dog poo as you get your morning paper, and begin to be concerned for your children’s safety. None of this compares to the problems that arise when the person who rules your land has forgotten the principles of Shalom.
Shalom is the peace, healing, and prosperity that God wishes to bring to every person on this planet. Shalom, often simply translated as peace, appears throughout the Bible. It is often paired with Justice, which is God’s commitment that every person be treated fairly. Human laws can be good or bad, but the divine purpose of human authority is to insure that every person is treated fairly, that no people group or race is disparaged, and that no one is denied life or liberty without due process.
Shalom and Justice should not depend upon who you know. It should not depend upon your financial status, your zip code, your religion, or the color of your skin. It should not be tied to a person being part of the majority class. It should not be denied to a people when they become more numerous than the people who used to be in charge.
This is what happens to the Hebrew people when they are in Egypt. A king ends up on the throne who doesn’t know their history or the relationship that they have with the God of all peoples. He surrounds himself with bigots. He maintains his base by stoking the fears of the mob. To the proto-white supremacists of upper Egypt he says, “Look at those *&%$*&. They are becoming more numerous than we are. They even had a friend in the Pharaoh on the throne before me. What will become of us if we let them become fully a part of our country?” (Exodus 1:9)
So what does Exodus 1:8 have to do with me? I think its important that we see how our own story fits into the story of others. The Hebrew people in Egypt are very different from us, and yet we have each experienced some of what they are going through. The nationalism and racism of ancient Egypt is still a problem in 21st century America. People do get oppressed. Historical monuments can be utilized as expressions of racial superiority. Mobs can be made to be afraid of peaceful people.
But also keep in mind, that God has a plan. He will raise up Moses for the Hebrew people, and leaders who believe in justice and shalom for our own time. It will be a struggle. God has his eye one a making it right in the end. His people will find shelter. His love will conquer all.
Whether you are dealing with a 1% problem person or a Hindenburg disaster this morning, take it to God. He will work his loving plan in your life.