Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight again us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them and forced labor. (Exodus 1:8-11)
“Because I know your Dad, you can have this job. Although he helped you to get this job, by tomorrow only you can keep it if I know who you are and what you can do.”
Let me give you the background on the above words. The Dad was me. The person being addressed was my son. The speaker was a construction supervisor. Because the supervisor knew me, my son got a chance. But only if the supervisor got to know my son, and know that he was going to be a good employee, would my son be able to keep the job.
Who we know matters. Who knows us matters. One of our most basic needs and desires is to “know and be known,” otherwise we are strangers to each other.
Today’s scripture says that the “new king” did not know Joseph—that is, he didn’t know the people who Joseph had come from, the Israelites. The new king didn’t know that it was the actual Joseph who had known and interpreted the previous king’s dreams, and who had come up with the plan to save the whole kingdom of Egypt. Because the new king didn’t know all that background, he judged and feared and then subjected the Hebrews to slavery.
Although we aren’t currently in slavery, nearly all of us feel like our life is smaller, that the walls are closing in, that our prospects are diminished, that our lives are less free.
No matter how many connections or parallels that we might make between the slavery the ancient Israelites suffered and the restrictions we are now facing, there is one difference that makes all the difference. Today’s scripture says that the new king didn’t know Joseph, but all the rest of scripture tells us that God knows us. And because God knows us, we are accepted, forgiven, and loved.
Many of us have the secret fear that if people really knew us, they wouldn’t love us. What a sad and lonely way to live. The opposite is actually the case: only if we are known, can we be accepted, and only if we are accepted, can we be loved.
What hope can we derive from these reflections? Unlike the new king not knowing Joseph, our God knows us; in fact, our God knows us better than we know ourselves. Our God knows all there is to know about us, and He still loves us; in fact, our God couldn’t love us anymore and will never love us any less. Jesus is God’s love letter to us for all eternity.
- During this season, what are you hoping for? What do you think God wants you to be hoping for?
- Does God know things about you that you have a hard time changing? If so, what would help you to truly believe that with God “all things are possible”?
- Pharaoh didn’t know Joseph and the Israelites were enslaved. God knows us and we can be freed. With God’s help, what might you need to be freed from and freed for?