When the going gets tough to whom or what do you turn? The children of Israel, a mere three days into the wilderness after seeing God miraculously deliver them from Egypt suddenly felt quite comfortable complaining about their circumstances. The first water they came upon was bitter and so they grumbled to Moses. They had left Egypt on such a high: behind them they left their oppressors, and the life of slavery and abuse so long endured; and they brought with them the spoils of victory, having plundered the enemy of the riches of the land. In Exodus 15 we read of the song Israel sang in worship and thanksgiving to the Lord:
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
You have guided them by your strength to your holy abode…
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode…
The Lord will reign forever and ever.” (from Exodus 15:11-18)
Obviously, the awe and gratitude did not last. In spite of continued provision as the Lord miraculously provided water, manna, and quail for the entire nation, the Israelites would not be satisfied. In fact just a month into their newfound freedom they so despised their circumstances that they actually longed for the ‘good old days’:
“on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt…the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:1b-3)
Unfortunately, we have the same tendency to look back with unreasonable longing for the ‘good ol’ days’ when the going gets tough in our walk of Christian faith. Paul warns the Galatians of this very thing in this Sunday’s passage from Galatians 4:8-11. What entices us as believers, and what allows us to be enticed – to turn from freedom in Christ to the slavery of Satan? Sometimes it is comfort. Perhaps your stand of faith has challenged relationships in your life, or hindered business and career advancement. It then becomes easy for us to long for the past, just as the Israelites longed for the comfort food they had even under their enslaved oppression, or the Galatians as they faced persecution if they dared place their confidence only in the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As any newcomer to our country can tell you there are many difficulties when you don’t ‘fit in’ with your new culture. The bible calls us strangers in a strange land, exiles as we live out our lives as Christians in our world as it stands today, and so the temptation to turn back to the ‘fitting in’ familiar. On the other hand sometimes even though we are out of Egypt, not all of Egypt is out of us. Egypt was known for its idols, and all of us hold on to certain idols even as Christians. Idolatry is a heart matter, the rooting of our ultimate satisfaction in anything else but Christ. So, in short, we have pressures both external and internal to tempt us back toward living in Egypt. We settle for slavery when we turn away from Christ. We turn away when we don’t trust him to be for us, forgetting that “every good and perfect gift comes from God”. We turn away when we seek the approval of man rather than God. We turn away when we forget his everlasting faithfulness and look instead at short-cut solutions and temporary pleasures. I can’t say exactly what your turning away looks like, but the Holy Spirit can. Invite him to show you how you can grow in trusting Christ and Christ alone through your trials.
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.