The Tug of Egypt

TheTugOfEgypt

As I read through Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus in my daily devotions, I am again drawn to the lessons God has for us in all the books of the Old Testament. I understand that:

  1. The Old Testament is God’s Story to show us our need for Him.
  2. The Old Testament shows us our sin state.
  3. Egypt is a picture of sin.
  4. Joseph is a prototype of Jesus.
  5. God wants to show us that, without His intervention, we could not, would not leave Egypt/sin.

Questions arise as I read:

  • If Joseph is a prototype of Jesus, why did God use Joseph to invite his family to Egypt? I don’t think Jesus invites us to sin.
  • After Jacob and all the Israelites moved to Egypt, life was good. But then a new Egyptian ruler came to power. The Egyptians slowly but surely put the Israelites under subjection and forced them into slavery. Why didn’t the Israelites escape while they could, and go back to their homeland? Why didn’t even a few families decide that they should return to Canaan instead of staying in Egypt?
  • After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, and all the Israelites witnessed with their own eyes the power and magnitude of God, why, when any little problem popped up, did they cry to return to Egypt?
  • What is God’s lesson to me when the spies went into the Promised Land? Only two of the spies (Joshua and Caleb) gave a favorable report and encouraged them to go because God would be with them. And all the people sided with the scared reports; they spoke of selecting a captain to lead them back to Egypt (Numbers 14.4).

As I prayed and continued reading, God brought these lessons to me:

Jesus doesn’t invite us to live in sin. He goes before us, to prepare the land so that we may live there in God’s grace. God knows we choose sin (Genesis 6.5), and that we will be enticed into more sin, and that we will want to stay there. As Joseph was placed in Egypt to prepare for the Israelites to live there, Jesus came to Earth to live in our sin with us, to show us how to live and give us hope; and, ultimately, to show us that there is a way out if we obey Him.

The Israelites did not escape from Egypt while they could. It is the same with us and sin. We are enticed to live in sin. It looks good. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Life was good in Egypt. Jacob and his sons, the first generation of Israelites who lived in Egypt, established a home there. They had children who grew up there and had children and grandchildren of their own. They considered Egypt their homeland. The new pharaoh began putting stiffer and stiffer burdens on them. Still they did not leave.

Look at the Jewish people in Germany and surrounding countries in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. They did not try to escape their homes, even after they were required to wear the Star of David. They couldn’t imagine the evil to come until it was too late.

Look at the Jews exiled in Babylon. Even after they were allowed to return to their homeland, many stayed in Babylon.

Look at America. We live in a sinful culture. We are sucked into it: television shows we shouldn’t watch; products we shouldn’t buy but we do because we’re enticed by the ads and we believe they’ll make our lives better somehow; clothing we wear or allow our children to wear; jobs we take; music we listen to; movies we watch; ministries we assume without consulting God; friends with whom we associate and how we associate with them; Internet sites we visit, and amount of time online, both of which detract from our walk with God; words we use or continue to listen to that do not glorify God. These are every day sins we don’t even think about because they are an integral part of our lives, and EVERYBODY DOES IT. We are using our families and friends and neighbors and media as our plumb line, instead of God.

Is there any escaping this? To where do we flee? We haven’t a “homeland” as the Israelites did, no physical Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. My heritage is Irish and Czech, among others; am I supposed to try to go back to one of those countries, to live with “my people?” I was born an American, and this is my home. Just like the children of Israel: they were born in Egypt, their families were born in Egypt, and that was their home. They became slaves to Egypt / slaves to sin in a subtle way, and then there they were, crying to God to save them. [I think, in America, many of us have not yet come to the point to realize that we must cry out to God to save us. We have it too good, and we don’t want to be saved.] [We, as Christians, do have a homeland, by the way: it is the Person of Jesus Christ, and God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We get to carry our homeland with us all the time, and go to it for all eternity.]

God allowed the children of Israel, living in Egypt, to come to the point of crying out to Him. He needed them to understand their need for Him, to know that they could not save themselves; but to know that they needed to be saved. [God still works the same way. He brings each of us to the point where we know we must cry out to Him, know He is the only One Who can save us because we are slaves to sin and cannot save ourselves.]

After God displayed His glory to Egypt and the Israelites, after He saved His people from bondage, after His people witnessed miracle after miracle, proving that God loved them and had in mind a beautiful life for them; after all that, when the Israelites faced hardships and seemingly insurmountable odds, they cried to return to Egypt. (Exodus 14.11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Numbers 14.1-3 And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?)

In our own lives, we easily forget the power of God that saved us, and that same power that is still available to us. The lure of sin is strong. Sin is our comfort zone; it’s where we lived for a long time, and we had conditioned ourselves to arrange our lives around it and make do. This new life of blind obedience to God, depending on Him for our daily need is too scary. We can’t see what it will look like, so we go back to what we knew before. The Israelites could not see into a future with God, could not imagine His glory in their lives on a day-to-day basis.

As modern Christians, we are fortunate to have God’s Word at our fingertips. We are infinitely blessed to have God’s very Holy Spirit living within us! Even with what God has given us, it is a hard thing to live in day-to-day obedience to God and depend on His mercy and grace. It takes strength to step out in faith all the time, and to depend on God to provide whatever we are going to need. We can empathize with the Israelites in their desires to go back to what they knew.

[Sometimes it’s not we, ourselves, who are struggling with sin and the desire to return to it. Sometimes it’s a loved one. We can see it in someone else’s life. We must have compassion on those who struggle with sin. It is a strong force. Thanks be to God, He is stronger; but we must have patience, and pray for those who struggle.]

When the Israelites had finally reached their promised destination, when they were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land, when they had traveled in the wilderness for months, when they had lived day-by-day upon God’s provision of water and manna and protection, when they saw the gorgeous fruit of the land they could have; they gave up. The spies came back with a scary report, and everyone believed that the giants living there would swallow them up. They really thought that all this was for nothing, and they wanted to return to Egypt.

REALLY??? Well, yeah. It’s hard to believe that sin has such a strong a pull on us. Hard to believe unless you’re in the throes of temptation, yourself (or love someone who is). Whether it’s finances or sex or power or tobacco or alcohol or drugs or language or anger or fear or bitterness or food; we hear that siren call of sin – the one that’s personal to us. We’re ready to give up all the promises God gives us for the future, in order to have that one little taste again of the past.

If we want sin, God allows us to follow it.

FALL ON YOUR FACE BEFORE GOD, just as Moses and Aaron did so many times. Beg for mercy, beg for grace and forgiveness and strength and guidance. When faced with temptation, turn around and face God. Embrace Him instead of the sin. Ask Him. He’s there. He longs to jump in to save you from whatever it is.

But we must obey God.

Remember: God created the universe, and He created you. We live by His rules. [Also remember, His rules are for our good, and because He loves us.]

God is holy. He will not compromise; but He will forgive.

Read, ingest, swallow and digest God’s Word. He gives it to us for our good, because He loves us so much.

Read what God has to say. Learn His ways. Obey Him. God always blesses obedience.

Joseph so Blessed; Brothers Blessed-Anyway

JosephSoBlessed

Joseph, favored son of Jacob, had a hard life. His brothers were jealous of him and almost killed him. Instead, when he was 17, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. They thought they were done with him.

In Egypt, Joseph soon rose to the top of the totem pole in the house into which he was sold. God showed favor to Joseph, and the man of the house (Potiphar) trusted him with everything. Joseph must have been trustworthy, smart, kind, respectful, creative, and gracious. He must also have been good-looking, because the wife of the house lusted after him and did him wrong. Joseph refused the wife’s advances, the wife lied to her husband, and Potiphar had him thrown into prison.

As an aside, the verses dealing with this are Genesis 39.19, 20: And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. My personal perspective is that Potiphar’s wrath was kindled against his wife. I’m guessing that he knew his wife’s heart, but could not publicly cross her. I think he was intensely upset that his wife had messed up a very good thing.

As in Potiphar’s house, once Joseph was in prison, God showed favor to him, and Joseph rose to the top of that totem pole. Genesis 39.21 – 23: But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.

Keep in mind that there is no record of Joseph being whiney or disobedient, or of his giving up or being subversive. We can assume that Joseph was obedient in all he did, as evidenced in his dealings with the king’s cupbearer and baker (Genesis 40). Again, even though Joseph was obedient, the cupbearer forgot about Joseph, and Joseph remained in prison for another season.

God caused Pharaoh to have dreams. Aha, says the cupbearer, I do remember my faults this day. And he led Pharaoh to call for Joseph to interpret the dreams. Joseph was candid about the interpretation of dreams being God’s hand, and was obedient to correctly divine the dreams. Pharaoh immediately discerned Joseph’s gifts, and promoted him to the top of Egypt’s totem pole, save only for Pharaoh himself. (Gotta wonder what Potiphar thought about that!)

The dreams foretold great abundance in the land for seven years, followed by seven years of great famine. Joseph arranged all so that Pharaoh prospered. And God arranged all so that His people prospered.

Meanwhile, back in Canaan, the brothers were miserable. They got rid of their insipid brother, but their father was suffering. There was no consoling Dad over the loss of his favorite son. Jacob’s only consolation was Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin, whom Jacob smothered with protection. The saving grace for the brothers was that they daily lived with the guilt of their actions, and were evidently repentant.

Came the time of dearth in Canaan, and the brothers had to go to Egypt to buy food, else they die.

Joseph put them through some pretty tough paces before he revealed himself to them. He had to make sure they repented, and that they had not been treating Benjamin poorly. Joseph was satisfied, and revealed himself to his brothers.

The brothers, of course, were aghast. They believed Joseph to be dead or a poor and harshly-treated slave. They could not have conceived that he would be second in power to Pharaoh. All Joseph’s long-ago dreams came true, and the brothers bowed down to him, along with their father.

Granted, there are numerous applications and lessons to be derived from God in Joseph’s life. Mine are this: obedience, and God’s blessings. Joseph saw that at once. Look at what he thought was most important for his brothers to know first, in Genesis 45.4, 5 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. Joseph’s understanding was that it was GOD who sent him into Egypt, so that Jacob’s family could thrive.

In all that happened to Joseph, he remained obedient to God. He did not fight against his slavery or imprisonment; he didn’t try to escape. He could have become disgruntled, he could have developed a lousy attitude toward God. It might have been easy to think, “Well, if this is how God treats His obedient children, then I want out.” Joseph could not have foreseen, any more than his brothers could have, the future that God had planned.

And Joseph and his brothers would never have seen that future had not Joseph remained obedient.

At any point, if Joseph had rebelled, he would have taken his own life on a different path. And God could not have blessed it. God does not bless disobedience, but He loves to bless obedience. Granted, God will still bless those who are disobedient: look at the brothers. They were disobedient, but they were God’s children, and God blesses His children. Look at the nation of Israel: they were continually disobedient, and God still blessed them, even though they didn’t appreciate it. Look at America: as a people, as a culture, we are in full-blown disobedience to God. But He hasn’t annihilated us, and we aren’t eating worms as we deserve.

But the blessings of obedience are different from the blessed-anyway blessings. Disobedient people receive the fringes of blessings, like the dog eating crumbs under the table. Obedience brings full-on blessings, like a father beaming proudly at His beloved children, feasting at the table; like those children knowing they are fully loved and appreciated and respected; and blessings like living in peace, knowing they are fully taken care of.

Please: be consistent and single-minded about obedience to God. Obedience puts you in the palm of God’s Hand. It brings you into His protection (even though it might not feel like it sometimes). Obedience positions you to receive God’s full-on blessings.

And one of the greatest blessings is simply knowing you are pleasing your Lord.

How many Christians today are walking around, just being blessed-anyway? Missing out on God’s greatest blessings that He wants to shower on us? Thinking we’re doing okay with our own plans, doing it our way? How many Christians believe their way looks like a better plan than whatever God has? Can’t we just wait and see what God has in mind?

Please: be patient. Fall on your faces before God and commit to obedience, no matter what everything around you looks like, no matter what other people are saying or what their faces look like. God’s opinion is the only one that matters. Eternity belongs to Him, after all. You’re not just living for what you can get right here and now. You are living for God, for eternity. And when you live for God, your right-now is protected and blessed. We cannot comprehend what God has in store for us; and we will never see it unless we are obedient.

Ephesians 3.20, 21 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Lessons from Exodus

LessonsFromExodus

God gives us so much in His Word! Salvation, teaching, edification, He gives it to us “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3.16, 17).

I believe God gives us a picture of the story of His salvation in the book of Exodus. There are parallels and lessons to be drawn, important for us to know in our walk with Him. This is why the Exodus story is re-told throughout the Bible (Psalms, Acts, etc.): it’s important! God has a lesson for us, a message.

I’m pretty sure a whole book or books could be written on the subject, but here is a short list of lessons from Exodus:

    • God chose His people Israel. There was nothing in them that they did or performed or thought that made them special to God among other people. He simply chose them out of the world to symbolize His love and grace; and to be a light for Him in the world to others. Abraham was their father; Jacob (later named Israel) was the patriarch of the twelve tribes.

     

    • Egypt symbolizes sin / the life of sin / our darkness / death / that which is not of God.

     

    • God placed Joseph in Egypt before the family of Israel moved there; Joseph was there to save them. God already had a plan in place for His people.

     

    • Egypt looked pretty good to the Israelites when they first got there. It was a land of plenty (because God had placed Joseph there to provide). They were free to come and go and conduct their business. They were given a special place to call their own when they moved there, Goshen, separate from the Egyptians.

     

    • The Pharaoh who knew the Israelites died, and a new Pharaoh came in. Just like that, Satan and evil can change from looking good to showing his true colors.

     

    • The Egyptians slowly enslaved the Israelites. The Israelites could have moved away prior to their complete enslavement, but life was good, this was their home, and they stayed. They didn’t see what was coming. God gave us another picture of this in the Holocaust: people could not imagine the evil that was coming, this was their home, and they stayed.

     

    • Sin entices us to stay by looking good and/or comfortable. We are slaves to it by the time its true nature is revealed.

     

    • Pharaoh symbolizes worship of false gods. In Egypt, Pharaoh was considered a god. The people looked to him for sunshine or rain or providence, and believed he provided for them. The Israelites, while they lived in Egypt, were drawn to this false worship. They had the stories handed down to them of their fathers, of God and His provision and care; but after 400 years of living in Egypt and of being slaves, they were in complete bondage. Although they believed lies, they still knew the God of their fathers (the midwives feared God, in Exodus 1; in Exodus 2.23, “the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage,” the Word does not specifically say they cried out to God, but He heard them; at the Red sea, in Exodus 14.10, “the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD”).

     

    • God created Moses. Pharaoh’s daughter was kind, and took Moses in. Sometimes the world looks kind and takes care of us. We must see the world for what it is, and obey God in it.

     

    • God called His people out of Egypt. There was no way the Israelites could save themselves. God provided the only way out, and it was miraculous. No one else could have saved the Israelites. The Israelites were God’s chosen people.

     

    • Only the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the Israelites saved the firstborn from death. Only the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, saves us from death.

     

    • God made the Israelites a stench in the nostrils of the Egyptians. The Egyptians shoved the Israelites out, and gave the Israelites spoils to send them on their way. God’s people are often a stench in the nostrils of the world.

     

    • The Egyptians and Pharaoh wanted the Israelites back after they’d gone. Often, the Israelites wanted Egypt back after they’d gone (“And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt“). Both Egypt and Israel wanted life to go back to the way it was before. The Israelites were in bondage, but at least they knew what to expect in their everyday lives before God started interfering.

     

    • God led Israel out of Egypt in a miraculous way. It could only be via a miracle that they were saved. The Israelites had only to obey God, and follow Him, and He saved them. Even when they did not obey Him, He still saved them: they were His chosen people.

     

    • Moses was a man of God. He stood between God and His people as a beacon, a prayer warrior, a leader, an example, and a governor. God still uses His people in such ways.

     

    • God provided a pillar of light in the darkness and a pillar of cloud in the day, to guide and protect His people. He still provides His Light and Protection in our lives through His Word, and His presence in His Holy Spirit.

     

    • When Pharaoh chased after them with his army, God had His children in a spot where no visible way of escape presented itself. God protected His children with the pillar of fire; He also protected them by allowing no other way of escape. He needed them to know that HE was their salvation, He and no other. When the children of Israel thought there was no way, God made a way; a way no one could think of or invent. God is our only way of escape; we need to look to Him, not anywhere else or to ourselves.

     

    • After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, God allowed them to witness His destruction of Pharaoh and his army. After God saves us, He will allow us to witness His destruction of our enemy: sometimes in this world, but surely at the end of the world when Christ returns. (Note: God destroys the enemy; we have no power to do so.)

     

    • Even after miracles of God’s provision in the desert, the Israelites still complained and turned away from Him. They wanted to depend on other gods.

     

    • In our lives, we all have times in the desert: times of wandering, of wondering where God is, of doubting, of hardships and pain and terror.

     

    • While still in the desert (after He had called them out and saved them from death), God gave His children commandments, rules to follow, ways to behave, and strict mandates on how to worship Him. Why? Because they needed it! They had no idea of how to live righteously, how to live in a healthy manner, how to live in harmony with their brethren, or how to worship God (no idea of His holiness). If they didn’t have rules, they would make their own (as they often did, anyway), and disaster would follow. With rules and commandments, the Israelites had a blueprint, an outline of what a holy life looks like. They would know when they obeyed it, and they would know what disobedience looked like.

     

    • The Israelites feared greatly, and many of them never did depend on God. They said, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” Yes, for some, God did take them into the wilderness to die. Better for God’s people to die in the wilderness than to die in sin. When they refused to enter the Promised Land because of fear and doubt (and refusing to follow God), God put them back into the wilderness until that generation had died, and a new generation grew up in the fear of the Lord. God knows the end of our days, and how we will respond to Him. He knows when it is better that He take us out of the world.

     

    • God fed them every single day with manna. He always provided water, even in a dry and thirsty land. He still feeds us every single day, and provides Living Water.

     

    • After their wanderings, God led His people to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. This is what a saved life looks like. This new generation was fit for the Lord’s work. They had been toughened in their wilderness journeys, they were brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’s commands, they had not only heard the stories of God’s miracles from their parents, but had witnessed God’s miraculous provisions themselves, each day. Deuteronomy 29.2-6 And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.

     

    • God’s children were not led to Canaan to sit back and receive everything. No; they had to fight battles, they had to defend against the enemy, they had to work to provide food, they had to be on the lookout always. They had to keep their eyes on God, and remember where they had been, and what God had done.

     

    • In the Promised Land, the Israelites had God’s testament and commands to follow. Moses had written everything down, had taught it to the people, and had taught it to Joshua. God’s people started out well. But, just as we all do, they fell away.

     

    • The Israelites devastated their Promised Land, just as we have devastated ours. No, not every single child of God forgot Him (God always has a remnant), but as a people, they turned away from Him and invented their own ways and glorified themselves.

     

    • And God judged them. Just as He judges us. He allows and intervenes and provides situations and circumstances and people so that we will look to Him, love Him, follow Him. He still calls to us.