Courage in Adversity

There’s great comfort for the child of God in studying the doctrine of God’s providence. Knowing that “all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand” (Heidelberg Catechism A. 27), encourages the believer to not despair when darkness comes, thank God when blessings bloom, and confidently look forward to the country to come in which we will behold the face of our beloved Lord (see A. 28). Although every page of Scripture unfolds God’s providential plan, there are certain stories that seemingly highlight it. The story in Exodus 1 is one of those.  

               You might recall how Israel got to Egypt. First and foremost, it was Gods plan. In His covenant with Abraham He declared, Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions…And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Gen. 15:13-14, 16). The way God moved His plan forward displayed His providence. Jacob and Rachels beloved son, Joseph, was hated by his brothers and sold to the Midianites who took him to Egypt (see Gen. 37). Through great suffering Joseph became governor over the land and was used by God to sustain many people during a severe famine. One of these groups of people was his own family, who ultimately relocated to Goshen (47:1-12, 27).

               In Goshen Jacobs family became a nation over a period of four hundred years. This fulfilled Gods cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28), but it was also in fulfillment of Gods covenant promises to the patriarchs that their descendants would be as numerous as the sand of the sea (Gen. 12:2; 13:16; 15:5; 17:6; 22:17). It is no surprise, then, that Jacobs family, which had numbered seventy when they arrived in Goshen, had grown into a nation that filled the land over the course of four hundred years (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:7).

               This mighty nation became a threat to Egypt (Ex. 1:8-14). They were many in number and mighty in strength. The new king that arose over Egypt didt know Joseph or care about his family. He was more concerned that this great nation would rise up against him and escape. To try and prevent this, he afflicted them with heavy burdens. Whether they were building cities or working in the fields, they were ruthlessly driven as slaves. Brick building became a bitter business. Sowing seed started to suffocate the slaves. Yet nothing could thwart Gods plans and purposes. In faithfulness to His promises Israel continued to multiply and spread abroad.

               But the seed of the serpent was crafty and cruel (see Gen. 3:15). The king of Egypt told the Hebrew midwives to kill any Hebrew boy born (Ex. 1:16). Thankfully, these courageous midwives feared God and did not follow the kings command (v. 17). Instead, they recognized God is the One who makes humankind in His own image and they had no right to take a life (Gen. 9:6). They believed, We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

               When Pharaoh questioned the disobedience of the midwives they outwitted him. By contrasting the birthing practices of the Hebrew women with the Egyptian women, they avoided Pharaohs punishment and received Gods blessing of families of their own (Ex. 1:19-21). Pharaohs plan hadn’t worked. God’s people kept growing. The seed of the woman was crushing the seed of the serpent. 

               Its easy when were underneath oppressive leadership to become bitter. No doubt cruel and shrewd leadership is wrong and we should speak out against it and seek to stop it. But theres a lesson in Exodus 1 for all of us. Each day we are faced with difficult relationships and circumstances of which we have no control. But we need not fear. God is in control. His presence is with us. We can, by His strength and power, fear Him, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him wholeheartedly, and obey Him (Deut. 10:12-13). “We can be patient when things go against us” because we “are so completely in God’s hand that without his will [we] can neither move nor be moved” (Heidelberg Catechism A. 28).  

               Blessings dont come to those who forsake Him, but to those who fear Him. The midwives had every reason to despair. Pharaoh had given an order. Their lives were on the line. But by obeying God they saved many lives and gained new life in their wombs. You are not likely in the predicament of the midwives. But you will face situations in which you must choose to either fear people or fear God. Remember, we live before the face of God. We must obey Him, and when we do, we can be certain that He will bless us.

Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit


Sarah Ivill