Thousands of years ago, the people of God were held in bondage as slaves in Egypt. They cried out to the Lord for salvation, and in His timing, God sent his servants in power to liberate Israel. The Lord brought His people out of captivity and led them on a journey, promising to lead them to a bountiful new land.
But the people did not trust God. All along the journey they found one thing or another to complain about or be afraid of. They did not trust God to help them, and statements like the following can be found all over the Exodus and following books:
“They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'” – Exodus 14:11-12
We so often chastise these people for their unbelief, but are we truly better than they? I try to follow the Lord’s commands, and when I prosper and am happy everything is fine. But when things are bleak, or I am tempted, or I am pressed by the Accuser, I feel abandoned by God. Once I caught myself thinking this:
“Is this the reward of those who follow the Lord? Aren’t I supposed to have peace, joy, and so on? Has the Lord forgotten me? At least with sin I got what I wanted when I wanted it. Would it not be better to be a slave to sin again?”
It shocked me such a thought could pass through my mind, but I wonder if we don’t say this more often with our actions. Do any of us really walk through this life with full assurance that God is in control? When we sin, we are choosing evil over God. We are, in effect, returning to Egypt. God has delivered us from all sin and death, and yet we constantly turn from Him, longing for the life we had back in captivity.
Why do we do this? It is because we who have lived in the world know no other life. He unlocked our chains, but we put the chains back on, because they are what we know, what we feel comfortable with. I think Red put it best in Shawshank Redemption:
“These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”
If you haven’t seen the movie, Red eventually is released on parole, but finds he himself is institutionalized, unable to live outside of captivity. The only thing that keeps him from committing suicide as his former inmate did was a promise he had made to a friend. That promise was to find his friend who had earlier escaped prison himself. He goes seeking his friend and finds a new life and a new purpose.
Friends we must do the same. If we sit around and believe this world is all there is, we too will despair of life. Even Paul admits that “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”- Cor 15:19 But it is not only for this life we have hope, for Christ has made a promise to us, that if we follow Him in this life, we will be with Him in the next also.