Jim Elliot really pulled no punches in his prayer life. As he studied the Old Testament he wrestled with deep truths that apply to our walk with Christ. His study of Exodus chapter 1 was no different.
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt (Exodus 1:8). Israel had been blessed richly and deeply by Egypt while Joseph was alive, but eventually a ruler was born who didn’t know the stories of Joseph and his God. This new pharaoh decided that the Israelite had grown too numerous and might rise up against them. So he chose to oppress them (verse 11).
But God cannot be oppressed (verse 12, 17). the Israelites continued to prosper while they were under oppression. God’s hand was on them and He would not remove it, even if the heavy hand of the Pharaoh wielded a whip above their heads. God was still in charge.
When the Pharaoh told the midwives to kill all the newborn boys at birth, they knew it was wrong. They feared God more than man and the midwives saved the boys. So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own (Exodus 1:20-21).
Jim Elliot recognized that the oppression actually helped the Israelites. It united them and grew them into a strong nation. He wrote in his journal on February 16, 1948:
“Because Israel was fruitful, she was feared. When persecuted, she prospered. The more she was afflicted, the more she went abroad. Their lives were bitter, but their number still increased. Lord. . .we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. –Should I ask for a pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic?”
I wonder if our present-day Church recognizes that we have grown fat on our Egyptian foods. Do we recognize that we have been lulled to sleep with our carnal needs met, while our spiritual needs starve? Maybe Jim Elliot’s perspective was right. The Church has lapsed in its intensity and has forgotten that we grow best when oppressed.
The underground church in China is a prime example. They are not praying that the oppression stops, they are praying they have the strength to stand up under it.
Will we wake up, Church? Will we stop eating the fatty foods that prevent us from thinking, praying, and acting like the God we say we follow? Maybe we need more locusts and camel hair.
O Best Beloved, we are to be a part of the Church Jesus spoke of to Peter, And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18).
We are called to spread the Gospel to the lost and dying world we live in- as aliens- (1 Peter 2:10-12) not be drawn into it. Second Corinthians chapter 4 is full of challenging words that encourage us to remember being persecuted and oppressed is an opportunity to squeeze out the foolishness and grow more like Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).
We are over-comers (1 John 5:4-5). May we not be asleep on the job any longer, but fully alive, awake, and actively serving the lost.