The Journey from the Promised Land to Bondage

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There was a time I was confused about the Canaan of Abraham and the Promised Land into which Joshua led God’s people. I wondered how they “lost” it in the first place.

“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:7-8

God made a promise to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan. Two generations later, Jacob still dwelt in the land (Genesis 37:1). You recall that Jacob’s second youngest son, Joseph, was in Egypt –unbeknownst to any of his family– until the famine when some of his brothers came to Egypt to get food for their families (Genesis 42:3).

They returned to Canaan to report to their father Jacob that Joseph was still alive and governor in Egypt.  “Then they went up out of Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob their father. And they told him, saying, “Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.” And Jacob’s heart stood still, because he did not believe them. But when they told him all the words which Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived. Then Israel said, “It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” Genesis 45:25-28

So Israel (Jacob) took the journey with all that he had… (Genesis 46:1) and arrived in Egypt.  When they took audience with Pharaoh, he asked them “What is your occupation?” “And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers.” And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to dwell in the land, because your servants have no pasture for their flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” Genesis 47:3-4

They took up residence in Egypt. “So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions there and grew and multiplied exceedingly.” Genesis 47:27

Seventeen years later, Jacob died. (Genesis 47:28; 49:33) Joseph and his brothers continued to live in Egypt. “Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household.” (Genesis 50:22) At the very end of Genesis, it is recorded that Joseph died. “So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old…” (Genesis 50:26)

Now the Israelites live in Egypt and Jacob is dead and Joseph is dead.  They continued to prosper and be blessed by God.  “And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation.  But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.” (Exodus 1:6-7)

Then everything changed.

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor. Exodus 1:8-14

So just to recap.
1.    Abraham left his home and journeyed to Canaan – a land flowing with milk and honey- a land of promise given to him by God for him and his descendants forever.
2.    Jacob – Abraham’s grandson dwelt in Canaan until the famine.
3.    Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to get food for their families.  There in Egypt they discover that Joseph, their brother, was still alive and governor in Egypt.
4.    Joseph sends for his father who journeyed from Canaan to Egypt with his entire family and all they owned.
5.    They took up residence in Egypt and become very fruitful and profitable.
6.    Jacob died.  Joseph died.
7.    A new king came to power that did not know Joseph nor about the importance of his family.
8.    The new king and the Egyptian people were threatened by the bounty of the Israelites and set them in bondage.

You notice there was not one single decision or action that removed the Israelites from the land of promise in which they resided.  It didn’t happen overnight that they ended up in bondage.  It was a gradual journey from the Promised Land to bondage.  As each individual made choices they would not have guessed that is where they were headed or they would have chosen differently.  These series of decisions made over generations ended up in 400 years of bondage.
I know this is a very long Victory Call, not my typical writing, so I hope you have made it this far.  But let me make these observations.  Your life, your choices, your decisions do not affect just you.  Seemingly inconsequential decisions can lead you away from God’s best for you and generations to follow you.

I think a good question to ask ourselves with each choice, each decision, is this: Am I living by God’s promises (walking by faith) or am I living by the inclinations of my own flesh (walking by sight)?  The best way to ensure we don’t end up in Egypt is to never leave the Promised Land.

I hope you have persevered through this lengthy exposition and been as blessed as I have in meditating on it as I wrote.

Blessings,
Diane

Diane Hunt served for 16 years on the staff of America’s Keswick until recently when she and her husband relocated to North Carolina. She now continues serving as a contributing writer and Partner Care consultant. Diane is also a Biblical Counselor, speaker, teacher, and author. She delights in the opportunities she has as a women’s conference and retreat speaker to share from God’s word.  Many of her illustrations are drawn from her relational experiences as a wife, mother, and mema. They are the very relationships that bring her the greatest joy and the most fun!

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