Returning to Egypt

Old habits — we all have some unhelpful patterns that we’ve learned to break, haven’t we? From biting nails to eating too much junk food to refusing to make the bed, we’ve learned the value of making better decisions. But that didn’t happen overnight, and if we are not careful, slipping into those oh-so-familiar habits can become second nature at the drop of a hat. And the same could be said of us spiritually too.

In Deuteronomy 17, God gives clear instructions for what to do if Israel wants a king when they come into the land:

“When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭17:14-17‬

Even though Israel was a distinct nation with God as their King, He knew they would someday want an earthly king and so gave them specific instructions through Moses. One thing I’d never noticed before: The king must not ever cause the people to return to Egypt because “the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’”

God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt, but how many times did they want to go back, even on the journey to the promised land? And now, God is speaking through Moses to the people, “You shall never return that way again.”

The Draw of Egypt

Egypt is the past, the old life of slavery – remember they had cried out to God for deliverance – but when times got tough where did they want to go? Back to Egypt.

The warnings to the future king in Deuteronomy 17: Don’t go to Egypt for horses, don’t marry foreign wives, and don’t gather abundant silver and gold. These instructions were all violated by King Solomon, who, humanly speaking was the wisest man ever, but human wisdom didn’t help him when he disregarded the Word of God. Not only did he go to Egypt for horses, he made a marriage alliance with Egypt, and then proceeded to add wives, concubines, and all sorts of riches, leading his heart, and the nation, astray. Things continued downhill for Israel, as king after king followed his own ways, with the occasional bright spot – a king who followed God “with the whole heart.”

But, for Israel and Judah, running away was the standard. We see it clearly in Jeremiah 41 and 42. The remnant of God’s people were in captivity but rather than listen to the prophet Jeremiah, stay where they were, and trust God to care for them, the people determined to go to Egypt.

God said clearly, “Don’t go to Egypt.” But they did. And their fears – all the things God said would happen – found them in Egypt.

When it comes to our own fears, are we any different?
When things get hard, where do we run, to the Lord or back to our own Egypt – to things that enslaved me in the past but God has delivered me from, yet I’m tempted to run back to when I’m tired, overwhelmed, disappointed…where do I put my hope on the hard days?

The Danger of Our Own Egypt

If fear of man can clamor for our attention, we can be prone to compromise. We make decisions from a place of insecurity because we care more about pleasing people than God. Our identity has become more connected with what man says than God. And, if this sin goes unconfessed, the reaction becomes a consistent pattern, just like the Israelites turning to a human king rather than their Heavenly One.

Or maybe, when life gets overwhelming and bleak, we over-rely on ourselves. We decide we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and figure it out on our own instead of asking the Lord for wisdom and direction. In those moments, we exhaust all our human understanding before approaching the throne of grace (going directly against Proverbs 3:5-6 and Hebrews 4:16). And we forget the precious promises of the One who knows all things.

The Hope of Our True Homeland

God in Isaiah 43:2,
“When you pass through the
Waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall
Not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire you shall
Not be burned,
And the flame shall not consume

Jesus in Matthew 11:28-32,
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

God delivered His people from Egypt and then led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Along the way, they were continually tempted to go back to Egypt, forgetting that there was no freedom there, only slavery.

We have been delivered by God the Father, through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of God the Son, and we have the promise of eternity with the Triune God. What an amazing promise! We are given freedom from the enslaving power of sin because of Jesus, but when times get hard, where do we go? To Jesus, who loves, comforts, and gives us rest, or to our old enslaving sin – back to Egypt?

By Your grace Lord, help me always run to You!

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