Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
I’ve noticed that this pattern happens often. For example, when I first began teaching I had an administrator reviewing me who was helpful and insightful and praised the good things happening in the classroom without feeling like she needed to make up some kind of bad if she had not seen one. That year was a wonderful year. Then came the administrator who seemed to find fault with what I did every time. Some of the things mentioned in the reviews I didn’t even remember being a part of the lesson. This is just the “under new management” phenomenon and it happens to everyone.
But, as with Israel, I’ve noticed that God may have a purpose for His children in their hardships today. See, I loved teaching that first year, but every year thereafter became progressively more difficult to find the wherewithal to keep getting up and going in to be told everything I was doing wrong and never being told I had done anything right. I, eventually, crossed paths with an administrator who dealt the hand open and told me precisely what was likely to be expected of me by other admins who shared her views. Her input convinced me that it was time to consider leaving the teaching profession. For her, by the way, I have nothing but respect. She was difficult and demanding and utterly devoted to what she perceived as the good of her students. But God (often my favorite words) used that. I left the teaching profession and have been with the company I work for since then. My stress level has gone down, the demands on my time and attention are far less, and things are just plain better. Sometimes God’s purpose in afflictions is to prod us to move.
There are other purposes: to test our mettle, to reveal our character, the list goes on for quite a distance and we don’t have a complete accounting of why God does what He does when He allows us to be afflicted. In the psalms is the verse, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray.” Affliction disciplines us. During war time, America has been known—not recently, as we have not been in a conflict of WWI or WWII magnitude—to buckle down and be a disciplined, sacrificial group of people. It was those afflictions; those hardships that disciplined us. But they also changed us.
Israel, despite all the issues they faced there, had grown comfortable in Egypt. They had grown accustomed to their rations and acclimated to the work. When, eventually, God does lead them out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, they complain because they were leaving behind all that they had known. There is that same danger when God moves a Christian from one place to another. I can be comfortable and not want to move. When my wife and I married, I left the fellowship I had been with since I was eight years old. I had grown up in that fellowship and was comfortable there. When I started attending the fellowship where we are now, I had to rein in my impulse to complain about things that weren’t the same anymore. The pastor’s teaching style is different and the fellowship is smaller and I had to step out and get to know people again — the last is proving the most challenging, as I am not energized by social interaction.
So, a change in management; in leadership is often a signal that God is about to do something new. In this verse, it is a signal that He is about to make Israel uncomfortable so that they’re asking to be moved. When the kings of Israel are succeeded, it goes both ways. Sometimes it is a signal that the new administration is going to be terrible and lead the people astray while other times it is a signal that the king will be calling Israel back to faithfulness to God. In my life, I need to cooperate with God when He starts moving things around. He has been teaching me that lesson where I am now and I do not anticipate He will stop teaching me that lesson until I have mastered it.