In His Time
In Fiddler On The Roof Tevye, a poor dairy farmer with five daughters, prays, “Dear God, did you have to send me news like that today of all days? I know, I know we are the chosen people. But once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?”
Faced with rising anti-semiticism, pograms, and the imminent threat of the Czar’s troops riding in to evict the Jews from his hometown in 1905, Tevye had some strong reasons to doubt whether God would be faithful to His promises.
In the 15th Century B.C. Jews in Egypt had stronger reasons to join Tevye in questioning God. The Jew Joseph, the savior of Egypt, was long forgotten. The native Egyptians became terrified of the rising Jewish population in their midst, enslaved them, and then Pharaoh began a genocide against them. He commanded all his people to begin to throw the Jewish male babies into the Nile.
Let’s read Stephen’s summary of this time of terror in his defense before the Sanhedrin.
“As the time drew near to fulfill the promise God had sworn to Abraham, the Israelite population grew and multiplied in Egypt. Then another king came to power–a king who didn’t know Joseph. Using cunning and deceit against our race, he violently abused our forefathers. He made them expose their infants so that they would not be able to survive. At this time Moses was born and he was a beautiful child in God’s eyes. For three months he was cared for in his father’s home, but then he was exposed. Pharaoh’s daughter took him up and cared for him as her son. Moses was trained in all the wisdom of Egypt and he was powerful with words and in actions.” Acts 7:17-22
Earlier in his message Stephen had reminded his people that God predicted that Abraham’s descendants would be mistreated for four hundred years in a foreign land while God gave the Canaanites an opportunity to turn away from their wickedness (Acts 7:7, cf. Genesis 15:13-14). For four hundred years under tyranny in Egypt it looked like God had forgotten His promise to deliver. He hadn’t, and in His time He even arranged for Pharaoh to pay the bill to raise Moses, the man who would set God’s people free.
LORD, four hundred years is a long time. Help me when I’m tempted, like Tevye, to doubt your goodness and faithfulness to remember that you always keep your promises in the end.
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