Years ago there was a man who was heavily involved in drugs, alcohol, and probably other illegal activity. He was arrested and incarcerated for a while on several charges. While in prison, he met a Christian man from a local church who had a prison ministry. Over time, this prisoner received Christ as Savior and was wonderfully saved. He began to devour the Scriptures while in prison. When he was released, he became a member of our church for several years before he passed away. It was a joy for me to officiate his funeral and to tell his story of salvation for all who were there.
Being thrown into prison would not be a fun thing. But God used that horrible situation for his own glory and brought this man, Tom, to himself for salvation.
We read about the Israelite people being held in bondage in Egypt for a long period of time. They were slaves to the Egyptian people and experienced great amounts of oppression at their hands. God heard their cries and sent Moses back to Egypt to bring the people out. In Exodus 19 God reminds his people what he did, saying in verse four, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”
That final phrase strikes me in a certain way. The initial reading would make us want to finish the sentence, “I . . . brought you to safety” or “I . . . brought you to freedom.” But that is not how God finishes it. God brought them to himself.
The greatest need of the Israelites in Egypt was not freedom from the Egyptian oppression. It was not safety from the Egyptian army. The greatest need of the Israelites was their need to draw closer to God and depend upon him.
This principle is still true for all of us today. We may not have the same degree of oppression or difficulty as the Israelites did, but all of the challenging things that happen in our lives, all of the difficulties, all of the mistreatment, all of the false accusations, all of the misery, can be used by God to bring us to himself.
When we are falsely accused (like Joseph), we need God most of all.
When we are maligned and our leadership is challenged (like Moses), we need God most of all.
When we are physically abused or oppressed (Like Israel), we need God most of all.
When we are depressed and discouraged (like Elijah), we need God most of all.
When we are alone and ignored (like some of the prophets), we need God most of all.
When we are betrayed, verbally and physically abused, and forsaken by our closest friends (like Jesus), we need God most of all.
Our biggest need is not safety, a change of environment or situation, or physical wellness. Our biggest need is to draw near to God more and more.
This does not mean that we cannot do things to try to change what is going on, but we must understand that this is secondary.
God brought the Israelites out of Egypt not merely to free them from bondage, not merely to show his power, not merely to defeat the Egyptian army, but to primarily bring them to himself and a place of greater dependence upon him.
This should be our greatest desire, too. When you are oppressed, depressed, abused, maligned, threatened, falsely accused, mistreated, forsaken, or betrayed, allow God to bring you more to himself. He is your place of refuge and strength and gives you your necessary help in your time of trouble.