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:
- The Old Testament is God’s Story to show us our need for Him.
- The Old Testament shows us our sin state.
- Egypt is a picture of sin.
- Joseph is a prototype of Jesus.
- 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.