God’s plan for the Israelites included more than freedom. His plans for us extend far beyond our comfort and convenience.
For The Israelites
The Israelites would have preferred to move home soon after Joseph died rather than be enslaved for four hundred years. However, God had a bigger plan.
God wanted to transform a small nomadic shepherd family into a nation of millions with skills, leadership, traditions, education, and wealth.
(The Egyptians gave the Israelites gold, silver, and clothing before they departed, fulfilling a prophecy God gave Abraham centuries earlier.)
God wanted the Israelites to forge a collective identity that would endure throughout history, despite subsequent dispersion and persecution. Moreover, he wanted to be an intrinsic part of that identity.
God did not orchestrate the Israelite enslavement to achieve these goals. He never instigates evil.
The Egyptians willfully enslaved the Israelites without his interference because free labor suited their economic self-interest, and they were powerful enough to make it happen.
God let this evil persist across centuries—only he knows why it had to endure that long—but he used it to produce his intended outcome.
God allowed that which he abhorred—the Israelite enslavement—to achieve that which he treasured—their emergence as a nation.
Amid affliction, we want God to protect and pamper us, but he has a higher aim. He wants to perfect us.
God prompts us to seek him during distress. He wants us to discover that he is the sole source of true contentment.
He wants us, and those in our orbit, to realize that he is always good, his ways are always superior to ours, and his love is unfailing.
He wants us to willfully reorient our lives around his plans, priorities, and precepts, much to our ultimate delight.
He wants us to learn to love him when he disappoints us in the same manner that he loves us when we disappoint him, i.e., unconditionally.
God never sponsors affliction to teach us these lessons. He can only do good things. He dislikes our suffering more than we do. He grieves when we hurt.
But God providently uses the suffering we inevitably encounter in this fallen world to produce this goodness in and around us as we walk in harmony with him.