Studying the Old Testament is not always the easiest thing to do. The Lord knows my heart and that I don’t always “get” what He’s trying to tell me. I have to read, read, and read again. Even then, it’s not always clear.
And from what I can tell, I’m not the only one. When God spoke through His prophets, he repeated himself again, and again, and again so His people would get the message. The passage that illustrates this point today is Jeremiah 42.
The Isrealites ask a prophet to pray for them and ask for God’s direction. They say they’ll do whatever He tells them.
God’s answer (paraphrased) — “Stay put in the land I’ve put you. I’m on your side and you have nothing to be afraid of, even though you are living smack dab in the middle of the enemy’s territory. It’s not where you wanted to be, but I put you there and I’ll protect you. I’ve heard your prayer and I’ll deliver you to where you want to go — in my time. But don’t say you want to go back to Egypt. You’ll die there. I’ll bring calamity on you. Again, do as I say and you’ll be blessed. Stick it out and do what I’ve said. You’ve romanticized where you used to be. But I’ve made it clear — DO NOT GO BACK TO EGYPT.”
(I repeat the above is my paraphrase… Read Jeremiah 42 for the actual wordage!)
So, after reading that passage several times, I asked God what He wanted ME to get out of it. I know what he was telling the Israelites. He repeats it more than 3 times in those verses.
God told the Israelites to NOT go back to Egypt — a physical place of perceived and romanticized comfort and ease. The truth is, they’d been slaves in Egypt, but all they remembered was what they wanted to remember — and were tempted to go back to the place God had saved them from. But what did it mean for me?
What in the world could he be telling me?
The exact same thing He was telling them…
Don’t go back to Egypt.
If I run to places that God has not told me to go – whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual- they are my “Egypt”.
What is yours?
Do you return to old habits that God has freed you from?
Do you run to old relationships that brought “comfort” for a while… but didn’t bring life?
They are your “Egypt”.
When I’m upset, who do I run to? What do I run to? Where does my mind wander when things aren’t going my way? How about you? If it is anywhere other than God — That is an “Egypt”.
When I’m frustrated and angry, do I air my grievances to others before taking them to the throne? Do I try to find comfort in the world’s view of me and get its approval? How about you? That is an “Egypt”.
When I’m in a place of peace and abundance, do I forget where that peace came from and attribute it to some other source? Friends? Money? Status? Good things happening? Do I forget to praise God in the good times? Or when I have what I need, but not what I want, do I long for something that is not in God’s plan for me? Do you? If so — we’re running away from God and running toward our “Egypt”.
Do you lay awake at night and worry about things, instead of taking them to God – and leaving those cares with Him? Yup… Egypt.
Do you try to manipulate situations so you get what you want, instead of allowing God to work things out in HIS time? That’s an Egypt, too.
I truly believe that true peace, God’s Shalom, can only be found in Him, regardless of my status in life. But does that mean that I am 100% faithful and never turn my eyes to my “Egypt” instead of Him? Nope. Too many times I’ve run back to old ways of thinking/old habits. But running backwards is not way to win the race. Paul slaps down some truth about this very thing in Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message version):
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
That means there’s no time to be running back to Egypt… and no reason to. So why do we keep doing it? Too often we turn back to the things that we used to find comfort in, conveniently forgetting that it is a “right now” comfort, not the “right” comfort.
There is an old Hymn that’s called. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. I had only heard the chorus, but there is more to it. Take note of the second verse and third verse. If we believe those words to be true, we can rest assured that we don’t need to run back to our “Egypts”.
Here are the lyrics:
- O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
- Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
- His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
But Jesus is THE comforter. He is THE Healer. He is THE Provider. He is THE Author and Finisher of our faith.
So what are your Egypts? What do you need to leave behind so you can run forward in your faith?