Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.’ So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”
Exodus 1:8-9, 13-14
Israel was thriving in Egypt. The fertile land of Goshen was perfectly suited for the growth of herds and livestock. Things really could not have been much better. The problem was, Goshen was not the land God intended for Israel to inhabit. This was a problem because satisfied people are difficult to motivate. Why should Israel pack up and leave when everything was going so well?
Eagles know how to motivate their contented young. When it is time for young eagles to leave the nest, the adult eagles will fly over them carrying freshly caught food. The eagles will chirp and flap their wings, but the adult does not come to the nest. The adult eagles will continue to do this until the young ones become hungry enough to leave the comfort and safety of home. Adult eagles create discomfort in order to motivate their young.
A new Pharaoh came to power in Egypt who had no idea who Joseph was. When this Pharaoh looked toward Goshen, he did not see the descendants of the man who saved Egypt from famine. He saw a million or so potential dissidents. Pharaoh was concerned that Israel might entertain thoughts of uprising, so he determined to preemptively crush their spirits. He subjected Israel to slave labor and ordered the killing of every newborn Hebrew boy. “The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25). Israel was feeling discomfort and it was creating in them a hunger for escape from this home that had been so comfortable and safe.
Most of us do not want to mess with things when they are going well. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t rock the boat. We want the comfortable, prosperous times to last as long as possible. Consider this: what if God gives us these good times to serve as rest and preparation for the conflict and difficulty of His mission? If this is the case, but we try to hang on to the comfort and prosperity, God must create discomfort and hunger in us. Difficulties may be God’s way of prodding us out of our nests of complacency and into His mission.