OVERCOMING THE STRANGE PULL OF EGYPT
Exodus 1:7-14 (NKJV)
7 But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.
8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. 13 So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.
One of the most important sciences of study when it comes to the Bible is the field of study known as “hermeneutics”. The word refers to “the science of biblical interpretation”. Within hermeneutics, there are many principles that can be applied to a text to determine the proper meaning. One of those principles is the “principle of first mention”. This principle states that how a subject is used when it is first mentioned in the Bible determines its usage throughout the Bible.
In our text today, one of the subjects mentioned in the land of Egypt. If we apply the principle of first mention to the land of Egypt, we have to go back to Genesis 12:10-20. In those verses, Abraham walks out to the will of God to go to Egypt and experiences some very negative consequences as a result. Therefore, the first time Egypt is mentioned in the Bible, it is mentioned within a negative context. This sets the tone for how Egypt is to be viewed throughout the Bible.
In fact, the land of Egypt is a type of the world. This is true because it holds the people of God in bondage and captivity, it leads to death and it is ruled over by an evil tyrant (Pharaoh). With this in mind, it is fascinating to see the strange pull Egypt had over the lives of the saints of the Bible. For instance, Abraham went down to Egypt during a time of famine, Gen. 12:10-20. His grandson Jacob did the very same thing, Gen. 42:1-3. When Hagar wanted a bride for Ishmael, she took for him a bride from Egypt, Gen. 21:21. And, even after they had been delivered from terrible bondage in that land, the children of Israel longed to return to Egypt.
Before we look down at such people as Abraham and Jacob, maybe we should admit to the fact that we too experience a strange pull from our Egypt, the world around us. In truth, many of the Lord’s people spend a significant amount of their lives either looking back to Egypt, or actually living there full time.
Today, I want to use the experiences of Israel with Egypt and talk to you for a while about Overcoming The Strange Pull Of Egypt. You and I do not have to live defeated, cold, carnal spiritual lives. We can, by the grace of God, walk in victory and power. The thoughts I want to share with you will tell us how this is possible.
I. WE SEE ISRAEL DOMINATED BY EGYPT
A. The Pain Of Their Domination – Ex. 1:10-22; Ex. 11:1-14 – As the Bible relates, the pain and suffering endured by the Israelites was almost unimaginable. Of course, this pictures vividly the bondage endured by those who are captives of this world system, Eph. 2:1-3. Being out of the will of God should never be viewed as a pleasure trip. It is a time of severe bondage, darkness and enslavement.
B. The Progression Of Their Domination – Ex. 5:5-19 – After time, the bondage felt by Israel grew worse instead of better. This is always the way with those trapped in the world. Their attractions grow stronger over time. Their addictions grow stronger over time. They find themselves more deeply rooted in the world than ever. (Note: This is why it is harder for older folks to make a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Time and sin sears the conscience and hardens the heart!)
(Note: Does this remind you of where you were before Jesus found you and saved your soul? It should, because He delivered us from the most terrible bondage imaginable, the bondage of sin! We should praise the Lord for the day He set us free from the bondage of sin!)
C. The Product Of Their Domination – Ex. 2:1-10 – In the midst of the slavery, a redeemer was born in their midst. They took little notice of him at the time, but one day, he would rise up to deliver them from their bondage. (Note: It was into this sin cursed world of darkness that God sent His darling Son JESUS to be born, to live and to die for humanity. Few recognized or received Him when He made His appearance, John 1:11, but what He accomplished while He was here broke the shackles of sin for everyone who will trust Him by FAITH, Luke 4:18.)
II. WE SEE ISRAEL DELIVERED FROM EGYPT
A. They Were Delivered By The Plan Of God – Ex. 3-4 – God’s plan to deliver Israel was older that Moses. In fact, a few of the details of that plan had been leaked to Abraham hundreds of years earlier, Gen. 15:13-14. In the council halls of Heaven, God had determined how and when He would deliver Israel. When Moses came along, God put His plan into action. It was a plan that demanded faith and obedience, but it was a plan that was destined to work.
(Note: The plan of salvation that delivered you and me from the bondage of sin was not thought up as an after thought when Jesus died on the cross. It was not a plan B. Since before the foundation of the world, there has been but one plan to save the lost sinners of the world. It was a plan conceived in Heaven, Rev. 13:8. Details of this plan were leaked here and there over time, but it was finally and fully completed on a hill called Calvary when Jesus Christ gave His life and shed His blood to redeem lost sinners. It is a plan that demands faith and obedience, Eph. 2:8-9, Acts 16:31; and it is a plan that will work for all who receive it as their very own.)
B. They Were Delivered By The Power Of God – Ex. 5-13 – Ill. The Context in Egypt. God unleashed His wrath against Egypt and delivered His people in a tremendous display of power. He redeemed them by the exercise of His great ability. (Note: Salvation does not come about by human reasoning, human goodness, or human deeds. Salvation is solely the work of Almighty God. He formulated the plan. He supplied the blood. He calls the sinner. He saves the sinner. He keeps the sinner. He does it all without our aid or intervention!)
C. They Were Delivered In The Praises Of God – Ex. 14:8 – Ill. Context. These people left Egypt behind praising the Lord that they had been delivered. They were redeemed and they were excited.
(Note: Remember what it was like when it first dawned on you that you were saved? Remember the excitement and praise the filled your heart for the Lord? Remember how you longed for His house, His Word, His singing and His worship? Can you remember what it felt like to be redeemed? Does it still feel as real this moment?)
III. WE SEE ISRAEL DESIRING EGYPT
(Ill. Even though they had experienced such a great deliverance from their bondage in Egypt, the people of Israel continued to experience a strange pull back to that land of slavery, bondage and death. I see the same thing happening in our lives as believers. Even though we have been set free, there is still a continuous pull back to the world and its attractions. Notice a few areas where this was true for Israel and where it is also true for us.)
A. They Desired The Safety Of Egypt – Ex. 14:10-11 – Ill. The Context. In Egypt, they were slaves, but if they did their jobs, they were safe and they knew what to expect. Pharaoh may have been their enemy, but at least he wasn’t trying to kill them! Now, he is in hot pursuit of Israel and he intends to put them to death!
(Note: It is a shock to a new believer when the first spiritual battle takes place. Satan, the old master, does everything in his power to defeat those who are committed to serving Jesus Christ, the new Master. Sometimes, these spiritual battles and the battles with the lusts and desires of the flesh overwhelm the believer and he or she desires to return to Egypt.)
B. They Desired The Supplies Of Egypt – Ex. 16:2-3; Ex. 17:3; Num. 20:4 – Ill. The Context. In Egypt, the Israelites could depend on having plenty of food and water at their disposal. When they left to follow God, they were required to live their lives by faith. Trusting Him to give them what they needed moment by moment.
(Note: The world’s way to get ahead is to lie, steal and cheat your way to what you want and need. God’s way is to wait on Him to give you what He wants you to have, Matt. 6:33. This does not appeal to many of His saints. Israel’s problems were impatience and ingratitude! They wanted to return to Egypt, where at least they could count on their meals. Many of God’s children also succumb to the pull of the world when they feel unable to trust the Lord by faith for all their needs. But, you can trust Him, Psa. 37:25; Phil. 4:19.)
C. They Desired The Spirits Of Egypt – Ex. 32:1-8 – Ill. Context. The people of Israel tried to make for themselves some new gods to worship. Their new gods were merely the gods of Egypt. They desired the things they worshiped when they were slaves.
(Note: The same thing can happen to the redeemed people of God. When we look back at the things which occupied our minds in the world, we can begin to desire those things again. Maybe we worshiped money, power, sex, attention, possessions, etc. The gods of the world can be a strong rope to pull us back into the world’s grip.)
D. They Desired The Stability Of Egypt – Num. 21:4-5 – Ill. The Context. The Israelites complained about the “way”. They thought it was too tough and too difficult. They longed for the life they lived in Egypt, where each day was as predictable as the day before had been. It may have been a life of drudgery and slavery, but at least they knew what to expect when the sun came up.
(Note: The life of faith is different! The redeemed of the Lord never know where the path of life will lead them. Some days, He leads us through the green pastures and beside the still waters of His blessings. Other days He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. But, always He leads us! That is important! That is what makes the way bearable. When we lose sight of the Shepherd, we will grow weary of the way and long for the predictability of the world and its way of life. That is why we must always look at the face of the Shepherd as we journey, Heb. 12:2.)
E. They Despised Their Savior From Egypt – Deut. 1:27 – These carnal people even had the audacity to speak out against the God Who had delivered them from bondage! They falsely accused Him of hating them when, in fact, everything He did was for their benefit!
(Note: You may think that you would never say anything like that, but we say it without opening our mouths. When we refuse to worship the Lord as He has commanded, then we are despising Him. When we neglect Him and His house, we are guilty of despising the Lord. When we live carnally and worldly, we are openly despising the Lord Who redeemed us from sin and saying, “I would rather have the world than the Heavenly Father!” It is a tragedy when the people of God live as though they hate the One Who bought them from bondage!)
IV. WE SEE ISRAEL DYING TO EGYPT
(Ill. It is possible to die to the influence of the world in our lives. This can happen in one of two ways. Both of those ways are portrayed for us by Israel.)
A. The Majority Died In A Polluted Land – Num. 14:3; 22-45 – Ill. The Context. Because they refused to walk in the plan of God and they decided that their way was better than His, He allowed them to wander in the wilderness until they had all died! For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, longing for the pleasures of Egypt. Perhaps they had forgotten that they were slaves in Egypt. Perhaps they had forgotten the sting of the taskmaster’s whip upon their backs. Perhaps they had forgotten the mindless toil that produced nothing for them but more bondage, more labor and in the end death. What they looked back on with such lust was not what really existed! But, because Egypt was so deeply rooted in their hearts, they were prevented from entering the promised land of victory. They died with Egypt in their hearts, and it was only at their deaths that they truly died to Egypt.
(Note: Many people in the Lord’s family are in the same sad shape today. They are so enamored with the world and with what they long for there, that they are never able to overcome the pull of the world and die in defeat, never having walked in the victory of the Spirit. The only time they truly die to the world is when they lay down this flesh. That is a sad way to live, and it is not what Jesus saved us for!)
B. The Minority Died In The Promised Land – Num. 14:30 – Ill. The Context. Only two men (JOSHUA and CALEB) who had left Egypt as adults were permitted to enter the promised land of victory. They were allowed to do so because they looked forward instead of looking backward. They wanted what God had for them out there instead of what they had left behind back there. They saw Egypt for what it was and wanted nothing more to do with that land. They wanted the best God had for them and they received it from the hand of the Lord. By the way, it is interesting to note that after Israel crossed Jordan and entered the promised land, there is no mentioned on anyone longing to go back to Egypt.
(Ill. Jordan is often pictured as death and the promised land as Heaven. This is just not good theology! The promised land is the life of victory as a believer and the Jordan represents that barrier of separation between the old life and the new life of victory in Jesus Christ.)
(Note: Just like Caleb and Joshua, victory over the pull of Egypt is possible for you and me today! The way to achieve this is laid out for us by the Apostle Paul in Phil. 3:13-15. The secret to overcoming the past lies in reaching forth for the things God has for you out there in the future. You can leave Egypt behind forever, but it will never happen until you want it to! Egypt will always be a problem in your life until you admit it is a problem, 1 John 1:9, and you take some concrete steps to but a Jordan between you and it. How do you do that? By putting some distance between you and your Egypt! You have got to let go of that land and all that is holds for you and promises to you, 2 Cor. 6:17.)
If we were honest today, many of us would have to admit that we have a lot of Lot’s wife in us. She was a woman that was so full of her Egypt, Sodom, that she died with it buried deep in her heart, Gen. 19:26. Someone said that she “ran in a rut, lived in a strain and died in a twist.” Why did she end up this way? Because she was looking back to her Egypt. It killed her and it will do the same to you!
Maybe that’s why Jesus counseled us to “Remember Lot’s wife”, Luke 17:32. On the other hand, Lot never looked back and he was delivered. Which of the two best describes you today?
Overcoming the strange pull of Egypt in your life will never be easy. But, it can be accomplished by faith in the Lord and by putting some distance between you and those things that draw you back. If you are battling the pull of Egypt in your life, why don’t you come before the Lord today and find the help you need in getting a Jordan of separation between you and it?