8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
‘They that take counsel against the Lord and his Israel, do but imagine a vain thing, and create greater vexation to themselves.’ Matthew Henry.
Warren Wiersbe says that in this first chapter we see God’s people growing and groaning. It has repeatedly been the case that amidst the pain of oppression the church has grown the most.
Tertullian famously said, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’ It seems to me that in most, if not all, situations of persecution, you get a repeat of that mixture of threat, fear and multiplication we find in this story. At one level, it doesn’t make any sense. Outwardly Christians tend not to be all that impressive (see e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).But Satan fears, and therefore hates, God’s people in this world precisely because he fears and hates God. This is why he is threatened by the church. The problem for him is Who we belong to,Who we represent, Who we are one with. Thus fearing and hating the God he cannot touch, he turns his attention to those he can attack and hurt. That opposition is regularly ‘ruthless.’
Yet this rebounds on him time after time. They say the underground church in China is so big no-one can supply accurate statistics. It is estimated there could now be around one million Christians in Iran. Christianity is exploding in that country. In the last week I have heard it said that the Afghan church is the second fastest growing in the world. This quote is from the ‘International Prayer Connections website:
‘A country with 48,000 mosques and not one church building; ranked #3 (behind North Korea and Somalia) on Open Door’s World Watch List of countries where Christian persecution is most severe, is listed by Operation World as the country with the second fastest church growth in the world. That country is Afghanistan.
Not to diminish this fact, but one reason the growth rate appears high is because the evangelical population is so small to begin with. Still, this trend is confirmed by all of our ministry partners working with Afghans both inside and outside the country. There is, without a doubt, a significant, identifiable work of God, such as never before, taking place among Afghans today.’
Jesus is building His church, and the gates of Hell can never prevail.