So You Want To Go Back To Egypt
By: Kristen L. McNulty
At the beginning of the book of Exodus we learn about the plight of the Israelite's. They were trapped in a land that didn't belong to them and were forced to live and work as slaves. The text tells us that they were ruled over by brutal slave drivers who sought to wear them down with crushing labor. In an effort to stop the spread of their tribe, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, ordered for every newborn baby boy to be killed by being thrown into the Nile River. Babies were torn from their parents arms and senselessly murdered. Then those same parents were sent back into the fields, working endless hours under harsh conditions with no hope of change on the horizon.
But then one day God did something pretty miraculous. He raised up Moses and instructed Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. The nation willingly followed Moses out of slavery and across the Red Sea as God destroyed their enemies in a way that only God could do. But then God takes it even a step further. Rather than just lead the nation from a distance, He instructs them to build a tabernacle so that He, God Himself, could fill it and dwell among His chosen people. Amazing isn't it?
Yes, but Israel soon wouldn't see it that way. In Numbers 14 when the nation is on the border of the Promised Land, the very place that God promised to His people, what does Israel do? After hearing reports of giants in the Promised Land, they ask to be taken back to Egypt.
"Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. 'If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!' they complained. 'Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?' Then they plotted among themselves, 'Let's choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!' (Numbers 14:1-4)
So they wanted to go back to Egypt. Why? Because their eyes were so consumed with reports of the large men living in the Promised Land that they couldn't look back and see how God had proven time and time again He was big enough to deal with the problem.
While it would be very easy to criticize the lack of faith that they had, I can't help but relate with them. I think we have all found ourselves in a place at one time or another where the size of the problem in front of us blinds us to the evidence of who God is and what He can do. Maybe you're in that place right now.
A place where so many prayers have answered by a "no" or "not yet" that you you're losing faith that could be strengthened if only you'd look back and see how He used "no's" in the past to bring you exactly where you needed to be.
Or a place where your broken dreams have invited despair to move in and take up residence and your current disappointment is wiping out any memory of the amazing things God has done in your life in the past.
If it's possible for Israel to allow the giants in front of them to replace the memory of the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and the way God used it as not just an avenue of escape, but a way to wipe out their enemies, then it's certainly possible for you or I to be equally blinded by the things we face in this life. But the real tragedy happens not when we lose sight, but when we lose faith and ask, like Israel did, to go back to Egypt.
So this is my encouragement to you and it's the same challenge I'm giving myself, let's allow God's character, not our present circumstances to be what dictates our faith. Let's commit that when we are faced with problems or obstacles or disappointments we will stop focusing only on what's in front of us and instead look back and recall all the times when God did perform a miracle, answer a prayer, provide a way or even when we've seen in hindsight that our unanswered prayers turned out to be the best possible thing for us. When we do that, when we let our present circumstances be filtered through memories of who God is and what He's done, we will find in us a faith that can see past the present and trust God with not just today, but also with our future.
Because I don't know about you, but I for one have no desire to go back to Egypt.
Reprint rights available on request. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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