Israel and his sons encountered a warm welcome in Egypt because of the work that God had done through Joseph to save Egypt from starvation. The Israelites enjoyed a comfortable position in the land and the favor of the Pharaohs for many years.
Then things changed. Exodus 1:8 tells us, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” (ESV)
From being the group that formed policy and whose culture and background were dominant in the society, the Israelites became slaves and outcasts. They became political outsiders. They were abused by the system and were persecuted for who they were and what they believed.
The solution to their problem was not reformation of the political system. Moses tried that and found that it didn’t work out so well when he killed an Egyptian middle manager.
The Israelites did not suddenly find favor in the eyes of Pharaoh. They did not regain their status as it was when Joseph was alive. God had to break the Israelites free so that he could begin a new work in them for the benefit of the whole world. When God did this, it got much worse before it got better.
When the communists took over China, they announced an end to Christianity in that country. Yet, the church in China is the fastest growing church in the world. This despite significant persecution that continues.
In the west, our political systems were founded on a Judeo-Christian worldview, the same worldview that is under constant derision by much of the ruling intelligentsia. We wonder at the breakdown of the moral fabric of our country, yet that breakdown is inevitable given the crumbling support for our moral underpinnings.
It may be that God will bring revival to the countries in the west. If so, the church should play a role in that revival by being the conduit for the good news of Jesus Christ. Or, God may choose to allow the west to continue to decline.
The health of the true church is not dependent upon the political system in which she finds herself. We do not need the support of the government for our churches to be healthy.
Whether or not we have the support of the current Pharaoh, Prime Minister or President, the church is called to be counter-cultural. When the government seems to support the church, we should not be lulled to sleep by that illusion. When the government is in open opposition to the church, we should not be overwhelmed and feel that God failed us.
In the end, it is to Jesus that every knee will bow (Phil 2:10). The church should be leading the way in this and bowing only to Jesus. That is the most real and best counter-cultural move we can make.
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