Shortly after their deliverance from Egypt, the Sons of Israel began to complain, yearning once again for the familiar misery of bondage in the land of Pharaoh. Mere weeks after their miraculous escape, they waste no time complaining, and expressing their eagerness to return to the land of “plenty.”
Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it
not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”
- Numbers: 14:3-4
We are familiar with this scene, of course. God Himself became so fed up with Israel’s grumbling and constant idolatry that he nearly wiped them out and started from scratch through Moses. But Israel’s love affair with Egypt does not stop after they settle in the Promised Land. The land flowing with milk and honey was apparently not enough to satisfy their needs. Egypt’s lure of safety and abundance lasts well into the waning days of Israel’s Kings. This desire is sprinkled throughout Israel’s history. Even at the point of its imminent destruction, Israel was longing for Egypt. Below are some highlights I managed to extract from the Old Testament text:
"Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt…"
- 1 Kings 3:1
Note that one of Solomon’s first acts as king is to form an alliance with Egypt by marrying Pharaoh's daughter. Solomon sought to shore up his new kingdom against attack by invoking the protection of Egypt. This wife is perhaps the first of many foreign wives that led his heart away from the Lord.
Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death; but Jeroboam arose and fled to
Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.
- 1 Kings 11:40
Jeroboam, the first king of the newly divided kingdom of Israel, fled for safety to none other than the land of pyramids. I find it hardly coincidental that the beginning of his reign is marked by the construction of two golden calves in Israel (1 Kings 12:28).
“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord,
“Who execute a plan, but not Mine,
And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,
In order to add sin to sin;
Who proceed down to Egypt
Without consulting Me,
To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh
And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame
And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.
- Isaiah 30: 1-3
"And they went and stayed in Geruth Chimham, which is beside Bethlehem, in order to
proceed into Egypt because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid of them..."
- Jeremiah 41:17-18
But if you are going to say, “We will not stay in this land,” so as not to listen to the voice of the Lord your God, saying, “No, but we
will go to the land of Egypt, where we will not see war or hear the sound of a trumpet or hunger for bread, and we will stay there”
- Jeremiah 42:13-14
Both Isaiah and Jeremiah dealt with God’s people and their desire to flee to Egypt. Apparently, the promises of God were not sufficient to warrant their trust in Him, so they sought satisfaction elsewhere. They trusted in Egypt to make them feel safe from the mistakes they had made, and the wrath they had brought on their own heads. In so doing, they justified their sin in their own minds. How strange it is to seek refuge in the land of enslavement, and safety in the nation of chains!
Israel constantly looked to Egypt to provide something they possessed all along. They already had access to the abundant blessings and protection available to them through Jehovah. Yet they constantly turned from Him to run back to the nation that enslaved them. Egypt seemed to offer satisfaction that it constantly failed to supply. Yet, God’s people repeatedly sought fulfillment there, forgetting that it was the land of their own bondage.
Does any of this sound familiar?
In our own lives, we often reject God’s wisdom and blessings in favor of returning to the empty promises of sin. It’s a constant cycle in which we continuously attempt to escape from our bad choices by hiding away from them, forgetting them, and numbing out the negative emotions of fear and shame they bring us. Rather than face our problems, admit our guilt, and change our ways, we choose to flee from our problems. Each of us seeks to return to his own enslavement - to his own Egypt.
As Jesus tells us, “...everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34) Just as Israel was enslaved in Egypt, we too are enslaved by our own sin. This is especially the case with addiction. We feel a deep compulsion to return to our old slave masters, despite knowing (or perhaps choosing not to care about) its dangers. It's a type of familiar misery wherein we have become accustomed to living with the negative effects, yet we continue to seek it out because that misery is all we know. We become distracted by the memories of sin’s pleasure: the pots of meat, the bread, the fish, the melons, etc. But these passing pleasures blind us to the emptiness, depression, and guilt - the slavery - proposed by sin. Sin and addiction, like Egypt, are ultimately nothing but an empty promise.
If you desire an authentic relationship with God, then the lure of Egypt will never truly satisfy. Only God, and the pleasure of His will, offers contentment that will truly last, and truly delight your soul.