Multiplication in the Desert

It is possible to be known by God, to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, saved and on your way to heaven when you die...and not know God yourself. 

I would like to think this malady is uncommon, but I’m fearful such thinking is wishful. I run across folks who know a lot about God. They can quote chapter and verse from the Bible, serve in His name, and are adept guides at navigating church and Christian concerns, but when pressed, they appear to know about God but not know Him. There are folks who speak kindly of God, pepper their language with references to Him, and feel passionately about concerns they attribute to Him, but I just don’t sense they know God’s ways.  

Whoever wrote the book of Hebrews notes this lament from God, “Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways” (3:10).  

If you know God, you know His ways. If you know God, you know what makes Him tick. If you know God, you understand—to some degree—what He’s thinking. The indictment that Hebrews is delivering is that God’s people saw God’s works (in the wilderness), benefited from His blessing and watch care, yet they continually lost sight of God’s goal: knowing Him.  

When Israel first moved to Goshen in Egypt, at the invitation of the Pharaoh, they found themselves blessed with the best that Egypt had to offer. As Israel prepared to move to Egypt, Pharaoh gave Joseph strict orders to pass on to his family, “Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours” (Gen. 45:20).  

Over four hundred years later, when Moses was preparing to lead Israel out of Egypt, the Lord instructed that the people were to ask for the best from their Egyptian masters. “Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Ex. 12:35-36). 

Plundered them, the text says. That’s amazing! Israel left Egypt in better shape than when they moved in. But it’s the in-between time that we need to look at for a moment. 

Exodus 1:12 notes, “But the more they (the Egyptians) afflicted them (Israel), the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they (the Egyptians) were in dread of the sons of Israel.”  

Pharaoh decides the way to solve the Israelite problem is to kill all the male babies born to the Hebrew women. Instructions were given to the Egyptian midwives and their murderous task. But the Hebrew women were so strong from their rigorous toil for the Egyptians that they would birth their babies and be up working again before the Egyptian midwife could arrive on the scene to kill the newborn.  

In a practical sense, the affliction of the Hebrew women resulted in the multiplication of the Hebrews. Here are two instances from Israel’s history where a principle emerges: Affliction yields multiplication—multiplication in spirit, soul, and body. 

Next, we need to look at Moses. He spent forty years hiding in Midian and the effect was profound.