Saturday, February 27, 2010

Running back to Egypt

I remember watching Cecile B. DeMille's "10 Commandments" in the theater during the 70's. I would watch it every year on commercial TV. It was only as an adult could I find humor in the casting of that film. Edward G. Robinson as Dathan was perhaps the most humorous. He is best known for his depression-era gangster films. To hear him say, "Where's your Moses now?" with that same inflection he used in mouthing off to other gangsters was just too funny.

But another thing that makes his appearance memorable in the film is that his character, Dathan repeatedly attempted to convince the newly freed Israelites to return to the comfort of the known back in Egypt.

There are quite a few references in the Old Testament to this sentiment. Exo 14:10-12, 16:2-3, 17:2-3, Num 11:4-7, 11:18-20, 14:1-4... just cite a few. This sentiment is also evident in the New Testament. Paul, in his letter to the Galatian church had this to say, (Gal 3:1-3), "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? [2] This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [3] Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"

In times of stress and uncertainty, we in our human nature have a tendency to want to go back to the familiar... even if it was oppressive, hurtful, and sinful. At that moment in time, we immediately forget all that God has done for us up to that point. We forget His faithfulness. We become fearful. In the Bible, "Egypt" is a symbol for the (unbelieving) world of idolatry and false religion. And all of these examples in Scripture show how believers are so willing to quickly turn from God and toward the the comfort of the known. Even if it meant back to slavery.

That isn't just some ancient historical account with no relevance today. It is happening today too! There are some who have received the gift of pardon by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone but are now rejecting that truth and turning to religious systems....for some it is a return to a religious system. A return to Egypt.

But it is not just fear that causes some to "return to Egypt". Pride is another reason. Pride in wanting to have a part to play in their own salvation. Pride in not wanting to submit to Biblical authority but to the authority of man-made rules and regulations. Pride that allows one to pick-n-choose what Biblical commands and prohibitions to embrace and which ones to reject. Pride that convinces one that the outward mechanics of religion are a measure of spirituality. Pride that justifies one's personal ambitions when it conflicts with God's sovereign will.

These days are dark and getting darker. Uncertainty, fear, and doubt are running rampant. There are 365 verses in the Bible that make reference to the phrase, "do not fear" (or some combination like "fear not"). Fear is that easy to fall into. Scripture talks about a great falling away (apostasy) from the faith in the last days. Now more than ever believers need to be in God's Word, prayer, worship, and fellowship. Whether it is fear or pride, there is no good reason to return to Egypt.


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