But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day. (Deuteronomy 4:20)
Moses reminded Israel that they are a people of “inheritance,” which is to say, they are a people called to be distinct from all nations. It is a call that cannot be renounced by them, even if it is not acknowledged by their actions because, as Paul reminds us, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” Therefore, the call to be a holy nation and the people of God — an inheritance — is a responsibility that stands for all time. And so to those who wished to be like all the other nations, He said:
“What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, ‘We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.’ As I live, says the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you.” (Ezekiel 20:32-33)
God’s laws and instructions are intended to place limitations on our inclination to do evil whereas Egypt’s way was to remove boundaries and allow for self indulgence. Nevertheless, God used Egypt to ready a people who would distinguish God’s way from that of Egypt and the world. That is why Egypt (מצרים mitzrayim) is referred to as a furnace. In fact, the Hebrew root from which the word mitzrayim is derived (צרה tzarah) means, “pressure, trial.” Therefore, it is in the furnace of affliction that God’s people come to realize that the call placed upon them is unwavering and for all time. And if need be, pressure is applied to bring that purpose to pass.
Consider that it was the furnace of Daniel 3 that provoked three righteous men to boldly proclaim to the most powerful man of that age, “We will not conform to the ways of the nations.” Though the furnace was heated seven times hotter, they would not forsake the covenant but proved themselves to be true to their calling — to be set apart, an inheritance of the LORD. And so it must be with us all; we must determine not to conform to the ways of the nations. Furthermore, we must willing to be subjected to the furnace so that, by our commitment to Him, His great name is sanctified. Just as Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to acknowledge that the God of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego was “the Most High God,” may it be that those who we encounter will be compelled to acknowledge that our God IS GOD!
Blessings and Shalom,