“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.’”
(Exodus 3:7, NIV)
In the year of 2017, 215 million Christians experienced “high, very high, or extreme persecution.”1 Open Doors, an international organization documenting cases of persecution and advocating for persecuted Christians, stated in their 2017 report that now, more than ever, Christians are being heinously persecuted in places such as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Sadly, the news gets worse. Pakistan, a country that is mainly Muslim, has risen above “even… Northern Nigeria” in terms of violence toward Christians. There was a 62% increase in the murder of Christians in Nigeria, and now, there is even a broader range of places where Christian persecution takes place—now reaching even to some places in Mexico and Columbia.
There have been high profile cases of Christian persecution, many of which have been written about on this blog (such as the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini). A well-known persecuted Christian, Asia Bibi, is living in prison, sentenced to death, for refusing to renounce her belief in Jesus; the Pope met with her daughter, Eisham, and Asia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, on February 24th to honor persecuted Christians worldwide. The pope also met with freed Christian Chibok girl, Rebecca Bitrus, during the day to honor persecuted Christians.
Around the world, on a daily basis, regular people like you and I are having to sacrifice greatly—sometimes their own lives—for the name of Jesus. They love Him with all their hearts, and have suffered horrific things for the love of Him.
Similarities between the Oppressed Hebrews & The Early Church
Reading Exodus 1-3, these precious, yet persecuted people have come to mind. The Israelites—a people who started with only the family of Jacob, about 70 people total (Exodus 1:5), were a blessing to the Egyptians, with God using Joseph to warn Egypt of a great famine, saving the lives of millions of people all over the area (read more about this in Genesis 41). The Pharaoh at the time knew that “the gods” were with Joseph (when of course it was truly YHWH with Joseph, only YHWH is God), and made him second in command over all of Egypt; but Exodus 1 says that “…a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1:8, NIV). During this time, the 70 people who belong to Israel’s family exploded “greatly.” This huge amount of people was a real threat to Pharaoh—and so, he made them slaves, oppressing them and cruelly causing them to work incredibly hard, hoping it would hinder their population growth. The Israelites did nothing wrong to Egypt, and even blessed Egypt (through Joseph)—and yet, Egypt forgot how they had been blessed, and treated them cruelly instead.
But Pharoah’s cruel idea did not thwart God’s good, Sovereign plan. Instead of hindering the Hebrew’s population growth, their population growth grew even more rapidly! At this, Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill every boy that was born; but they did not bow underneath the extreme pressure of Pharoah (Exodus 1:15-16). Instead, “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” (Exodus 1:17, NIV).
As many of you readers know, the Israelites only grew in the face of oppression—and were more and more cruelly oppressed, because of it—at this point, for 350-400 years2 (Exodus 1:22- Exodus 6). In fact, the Israelites had been so horrifically oppressed that their cry was heard by God, and He was deeply concerned for them (Exodus 2:24-25).
Many know the story from here. God saves Moses through Moses’ mother, sending him down the river in a basket made of papyrus; and he is adopted by the Pharoah’s daughter. He kills someone and flees to the land of Midian for 40 years; and God speaks to him through the burning bush, asking him to go back to Egypt and deliver God’s people, the Israelites, from their suffering.
But what does ANY of this have to do with the Persecuted Church? It can be seen as a vivid picture of the worldwide Church, and the suffering that is happening within it, today. Let me show you what I mean:
- The worldwide Christian Church, like the Israelites, are people chosen by God—a people that started with a small population (1 Peter 2:9; Acts)
- The early church, and the church in general, was and is extremely persecuted—yet it did not stop faith in Jesus Christ from spreading, “multiplying” Believers3 (Acts 11:19-21)
- Those in the early Church refused to stop speaking of Jesus and the Gospel, even under heavy political pressure (Acts 5:17-33)
- Because the early Church was from God, it could not be hindered, just like the Israelites (Acts 5:34-39)
- A “mixed congregation” left Egypt with the Israelites; this can be somewhat applied to how Gentiles came to know Christ (Exodus 12:37-38; Acts 28:28)
The worldwide Church today—Jews and Gentiles alike as the “true Israel” Paul speaks about in Romans 9, especially verse 24, is still thriving in underground/secret fellowships despite increased terrorism and persecution. People continue to come to know Jesus Christ in spite of suffocating political oppression, in countries all around the world. Missionaries and regular, everyday Christians risk their lives, speaking of Jesus and His Gospel despite fierce opposition, disdain, and rejection. And, because even “the gates of Hades will not overcome [the Church],” no one—no matter the amount of persecution, evil, murder, violence, or political/religious/worldly power—will be able to deride or overpower God’s People.
An End to the Suffering
But what about the exodus? The Israelites got freedom from their oppression; but what about the Persecuted Church? Revelation 6:9 speaks of these horrifically persecuted Christians—and Jesus’ comforting promise to them.
“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been”
(Revelation 6:9-11, NIV)
Ultimately, Jesus will rescue those who are being persecuted—either through death and entering heaven, or through the rapture. “Just a little longer,” Jesus says to those who have been killed for their faith, as they wait for Justice. It will all be made right in His time.
As you and I pray for those who are suffering persecution of any kind, right now, let us thank our Jesus that we are able to worship Him together in freedom (if we are able to do so). And let’s also remember this: that Jesus wins out, every time. That no pain is wasted; and that Jesus is Sovereign. God came through before– He will come through, again.
This post is dedicated to those Christians currently suffering in Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria. Please pray for them—and for the kidnapped Christian Chibok girls, still living in muslim captivity.
Do you know Jesus?
Most people know Moses as the one who God used to deliver the Israelites from their disgusting bondage to the Egyptians. But, most people might not know that Moses never entered into the Promised Land, Himself (Numbers 20:12). A man named Joshua did.
Though it might sound confusing, Joshua is a “type” of Christ: that is to say, he foretold of the Messiah to come, who would liberate the people and carry them into their Promised Land, a land of freedom, faith, and complete life transformation from the oppression the Israelites were under.
The Jewish people expected a King to overthrow the oppression of Rome from them. But He had much more in mind. Read more about Jesus Christ—and why He is THE Messiah—here.
Please pray for (Print out a “Prayer Points” sheet here)…
- Those who are being persecuted for their faith, right now. Click here to get a good understanding of which countries have the most persecution, here.
- For those who have family members and loved ones die from persecution. Pray that Jesus would comfort and strengthen their hearts, after losing those they love so much.
- Those who are currently in prison for their faith, and their families & loved ones. Pray that Jesus would carry them through; that they would not be ashamed of the Gospel, and that He would set them free from prison, be that His Will, soon.
- The country of the United States of America. We have, in our luxury, forgotten how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to believe in Jesus Christ—and worship Him openly—however and wherever we would like. May we have boldness to continue to worship Jesus and share His Gospel.
- For the Chibok girls (and all other kidnapped people from Boko Haram). Pray they would become free, very soon.
- For all Believers– including ourselves!– that we would be full of the Holy Spirit, bold, and loving as we share the Gospel!!! That we would be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in that.
Thank you for your prayers!!!