The transition from Genesis to Exodus in the Bible is a shocking transition.
As Genesis ends Israel finds itself in Egypt. The family has migrated to Egypt to escape the famine that is ravaging the land. Joseph has climbed to second in command in all of Egypt, and he has worked the system to place his family in the most fertile area for their flocks to thrive. Because of Joseph’s position, the family lacks nothing. All it takes is a little bit of name dropping and members of the family can receive extra benefits and get special deals. God is clearly orchestrating the history of the people. God is watching over Joseph, and protecting him from harm. God is revealing the future to Pharaoh so Egypt can be prepared. God is providing a safe haven for Jacob’s family to grow and mature. God is in charge, and Israel is being blessed because of it.
As Exodus begins, Israel is in turmoil. Joseph and that entire generation has died. A new regime has come into power that has forgotten the story of Joseph. (Perhaps they destroyed all the records of the previous dynasty, thus forgetting Joseph’s role in protecting Egypt.) Israel finds itself in slavery and oppressed. The Israelites have become forced labor, making their lives bitter from manual labor of making bricks and building cities. The Egyptians were ruthless in any task they imposed upon the Hebrews. Pharaoh became so fearful of Israel that he even ordered the midwives to kill any Hebrew baby boys as they are born. God seems to be absent. The people of Israel are crying out to God asking for deliverance, and they appear to be getting no word in return.
It’s a contrast, because what seems to be simply a turn of a page changes Israel’s situation from one of prominence to one of disaster. In just the turning of a page, Israel goes from welcomed immigrants to forced laborers. In just a few pages Pharaoh goes from offering all that the land of Egypt has to offer to protect the family of his close advisor to scheming to wipe out the entire nation by disposing of children at birth. In just the turn of a page, God goes from being present, active, and orchestrating all good things to absent and disengaged, ignoring the cries of the Israelites as they suffer under oppressive rule. As one reads from one book to the next, it is quite a contrast in situations.
Yet the truth behind the story is that the same God is in charge of both. God is not somehow more active because Israel is succeeding and less active because Israel is suffering. God is not to be praised because Israel is blessed and ridiculed because Israel is oppressed. God is not more fully God in Genesis and less fully God in Exodus. God has not changed from one story to the next. God is the same. God is God in Genesis: as the people are blessed, as God’s hand of protection is seen guiding their history, and as Israel is granted special status in the land. And God is God in Exodus: as the people suffer under oppressive rule, as mothers try to hide their baby boys in order to save their lives, and as the people feel abandoned and forgotten. God hasn’t stopped being God just because the external circumstances are different. God does not change like the direction of the wind, or the changing of the seasons. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God is God always, no matter what circumstances are dominating the current situation.
Sometimes we lose hope too quickly. We are quick to praise God during blessings, but want to blame God during storms. We thank God when our prayers are answered, but seem frustrated when our prayers are left undone. We are more than happy to point out God’s handiwork when blessings are good, but struggle to explain God during difficulties.
Yet God doesn’t change. God is God, no matter what. An act of blessing or cursing does not define God’s presence or goodness. While at times our faith may waver based on the tossing of the sea, we must remember God is always God. When times are good, we rest in God. When times our bad, we rest in God. No matter what, we rest in God.
God didn’t change from Genesis to Exodus. God remained the same. God is always leading toward redemption. Sometimes we clearly see God’s actions. Sometimes God works behind the scene. But no matter what, God is always God. That’s the true reality of the world.