ADVERTISING
 
Monday, March 25   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 
 

POLL
Bible literacy
How often do you read the Bible?







SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Michael Gowen
 

The firstborn of Egypt - Victims

Whenever God breaks into the world, there is an adverse reaction from the ruling powers.

FAITHFUL UNDER PRESSURE AUTHOR Michael Gowen 05 JANUARY 2019 15:00 h GMT+1
Photo: Gareth Harper. Unsplash

This Christmas we have no doubt enjoyed hearing once again the story of how God came to earth in the person of a human baby, even if we have heard it so many times before.



There is, though, one part of the story which I did not hear spoken about in any of the services which I attended. It is King Herod’s massacre of all the baby boys in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18), expressed so poignantly by the verse of the 15th century Latin carol which we rarely seem to sing nowadays:



Herod then with fear was filled:



‘A prince’, he said, ‘in Jewry!’



All the little boys he killed



At Bethlem in him fury.



An ageing despotic monarch nearing the end of his life, seriously ill, increasingly paranoid because only two years earlier two of his sons where caught plotting to assassinate him and were executed for it.



Mysterious Eastern visitors tell him about another possible pretender to the throne. So he desperately seeks to shore up his dynasty by killing all male children under two years of age in Bethlehem, the town where the newborn pretender was supposed to be living.



This is more the stuff of the Ten O’Clock News than the Christmas story; and it is understandable why it is rarely highlighted. It jars on the beauty and wonder of the crib scene, with the holy family, animals, shepherds and wise men.



Yet it is an essential part of the narrative because it spells out that, whenever God breaks into the world, there is an adverse reaction from the ruling powers. Psalm 2 describes in more detail that opposing reaction and the Lord’s ultimate triumph over it.



1,400 years before that first Christmas, there was another occasion when God broke into the world and a massacre took place. The circumstances were very different; but it had a direct bearing on that first Christmas.



For if God’s power had not prevailed on that occasion, there would have been no Jewish race and no Saviour born as a baby from that race.



The Israelites had been reduced to slavery in Egypt and faced a Pharaoh who was determined to wipe out their identity (Exodus 1). The only way of avoiding this genocide was to escape from Egypt.



But how could a bunch of slaves, even if there were 2 million of them, escape from the most sophisticated and advanced military nation of the time? Only God could enable that. And he did.



He chose two brothers, Moses and Aaron, to act as spokesmen for the slaves. Repeatedly they asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, but repeatedly he prevaricated and refused.



Through these refusals they brought a series of increasingly severe plagues on Egypt, culminating in a plague of darkness for three whole days (Exodus 3-10).



Finally, Pharaoh and his officials were warned that if they did not relent, “About midnight every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well” (Exodus 11:4-5). And that is what happened.



Imagine every firstborn male in your extended family and friends dead in one night! It is almost beyond comprehension. It took something as drastic as that to prise Israel out of Egypt’s grip.



Yet those deaths could so easily have been avoided – if only the Egyptian rulers had yielded to God’s will.



As we enter 2019, few if any of us are likely to get caught up in a massacre; but we all face a world with a lot of instability.



Trade agreements and missile limitation treaties are being torn up, traditional alliances are being stretched to the limit, stock markets are volatile, a new nationalism is arising, with hostility to foreigners, especially those viewed as ‘immigrants’, over 60 ongoing armed conflicts still rage in various parts of the world.



Will Christians be passive victims the power play of political and spiritual forces, like the toddlers of Bethlehem or the firstborn of Egypt? Or is there another way?



Psalm 91 gives us the beginnings of an answer, with its call to “dwell in the hiding place of the Most High, to rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. To those who do this, it gives a whole series of promises.



To see how this might work in practice, I turn to one of the bloodiest battles in history, the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith fought in that battle and tells us about its aftermath in his autobiography:




At Waterloo the whole field from right to left was a mass of dead bodies. … All over the field you saw officers, and as many soldiers as were permitted to leave the ranks, leaning and weeping over some dead or dying brother or comrade.



The battle was fought on a Sunday, the 18th June, and I repeated to myself a verse from the Psalms of that day – 91st Psalm, 7th verse: “A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee.” I blessed Almighty God.




Does God’s protection always work like that? It did for Sir Harry in one of the most extreme situations which a person is likely to encounter; and I find that immensely encouraging.



Things do not always immediately work out as God intends, because the world we live in is far from ideal. But I would rather die holding fast to the promises of Psalm 91 than allow myself to become a passive victim of circumstances and of global power plays.



Moses gave this promise to his people, and it remains valid: “The Lord will make you the head, not the tail, if you pay attention to his commands” (Deuteronomy 28:13).


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The firstborn of Egypt - Victims
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Testimony: Wildfires near Athens Testimony: Wildfires near Athens

Nico Spies, a Christian worker in Athens, gives details about the wildfires in Greece.

 
Arie de Pater: Refugees deserve a fair and efficient process Arie de Pater: Refugees deserve a fair and efficient process

The Brussels representative of the European Evangelical Alliance offers a Christian perspective on the crisis: “We can’t reduce people to just a number that needs to be controlled”.

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’ ‘Small churches, big potential for transformation’

Photos of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance’s annual gathering “Idea 2019”, in Murcia. Politicians and church leaders discussed about the role of minorities in society.

 
Bulgaria: Evangelicals ask government to protect religious minorities Bulgaria: Evangelicals ask government to protect religious minorities

Christians rallied in Sofia on November 18 to defend their rights. It is the second Sunday of peaceful demonstrations against a new religion draft law that could severely restrict religious freedom and rights of minority faith confessions.

 
Rallies in Bulgaria: “New bill on religion brings us back to Communism!” Rallies in Bulgaria: “New bill on religion brings us back to Communism!”

Bulgarian evangelicals protested peacefully on November 11 against a draft law which could severely restrict religious freedom of faith minorities. Churches rallied in Sofia and other cities after the Sunday worship services.

 
Photos: #WalkForFreedom Photos: #WalkForFreedom

Abolitionists marched through 400 cities in 51 countries. Pictures from Valencia (Spain), October 20.

 
Photos: Reaching people with disabilities Photos: Reaching people with disabilities

Seminars, an arts exhibition, discussion and testimonies. The European Disability Network met in Tallinn.

 
Photos: Hope for Europe Photos: Hope for Europe

Unity in Diversity is the theme of the conference. Representatives of Evangelical Alliances and many other church leaders gathered in Tallinn (Estonia).

 
VIDEO Video
 
Romania: God’s Word among Roma people Romania: God’s Word among Roma people

Gypsies are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Romania. According to 2013 estimates, the Roma groups make up 10% of the country's population, accounting for about 1.5 million people.

 
Latin American leaders unite to fight against imposition of gender ideology Latin American leaders unite to fight against imposition of gender ideology

Christian leaders from all over Latin America are concerned about the progress of gender ideology agendas in the region. Many are joining together in public demonstrations and training events.

 
How do fake news spread? How do fake news spread?

Tony Watkins, Coordinator of the Lausanne Media Engagement Network.

 
Lindsay Brown: The encouraging advance of the gospel in Spain Lindsay Brown: The encouraging advance of the gospel in Spain

Church planting, the amount of books authored by Spanish evangelicals and the growth of the Christian student movement in the last decades, are some of the marks underlined by Lindsay Brown.

 
What do Christian communication and science communication have in common? What do Christian communication and science communication have in common?

“As Christians, we also try to communicate a detailed and often slightly technical message”, says Kay Carter, Director of Communications of Tyndale House (UK).

 
Church planting in Strasbourg Church planting in Strasbourg

A video on how evangelicals are planting churches in Strasbourg (France).

 
Christians, resilience and a post-Christian culture Christians, resilience and a post-Christian culture

Lindsay Brown: “The biblical pattern is not one of speed, but of steady sowing and gradual reaping in due course”.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.