It’s true . . . denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. I’m reading in Jeremiah this morning and a bit astounded at the story that plays out in Judah immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah’s elite to Babylon. Amazed that denial of God’s faithfulness is often the road back to Egypt. And the question I can’t help but ask is, What is it about Egypt?
In Jeremiah 39, the mighty Babylonian hoard have landed. King Zedekiah of Judah, rather than surrender, flees. He is apprehended and is sentenced by his ruthless captors–his family is slaughtered before his eyes and then his eyes are put out. Jerusalem is razed. It’s inhabitants are taken into exile. But the poor of Judah are left as a remnant in the land. They are given vineyards and fields. And they are given a governor, Gedaliah the son of Ahikam (40:5).
So, they are the poor of the poor. But they are still in the land . . . and they have land. What’s more, they are under the protective custody of mighty Babylon.
But any sense of stability doesn’t last long. The Ammonites decide to take advantage of the largely vacated Judah and murder Gedaliah the governor. Long story short, Gedaliah’s death is avenged but it leaves the people in the land with a huge amount of political instability and uncertainty. And so they go to Jeremiah and ask Him to seek the LORD.
Then all the commanders of the forces, . . . and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the LORD your God for us, for all this remnant–because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us–that the LORD your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do. . . . Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.”
(Jeremiah 42:1-3, 6 ESV)
Okay. At face value this is looking good. Your world’s a bit upside down? Don’t know what to make of it? Take it to the LORD in prayer. But what catches my eye is that they want God to “show us the way we should go.” Wait a minute, who said anything about going anywhere? God had left them in the land . . . God had provided for them from the land . . . it was the land God had promised to them . . . what’s this talk of going somewhere? What is it about Egypt?
Jeremiah goes to the LORD and inquires on behalf of the people. God says in effect, Remain in the land and it will go well with you. Do not fear the king of Babylon for I am with you. I know what you’re thinking but don’t go to Egypt . . . they can’t protect you . . . it will be disastrous . . . no one who goes there will survive. Trust Me . . . obey Me . . . stay put and “I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up” (42:10).
“You are telling a lie,” is the insolent response of the remnant to Jeremiah’s word from the LORD. God didn’t say stay put. It’s trickery and treachery that we might be delivered into Chaldean hands. We’re outta’ here! Egypt or bust! And you know it was Egypt AND bust. They went back to their world of bondage and there they died. What is it about Egypt?
What’s the allure of the world out of which God’s people have been saved that causes them to look back at that world for their safety, security, and fulfillment? What is it about the domain of the prince of darkness that somehow convinces us that when the going get’s tough that trusting God is not enough and it’s time to get going back to the ways of the world? What confusion fills the mind of the child of God during hard times that makes them think that where God has led them is not where God will sustain them? That His care for them will ultimately come from the land from which He has already redeemed and rescued them? What is this crazy, crazy allure of Egypt?
How is that one moment we can be singing, “This world’s not my home,” and then the next, when life gets hard, we head back there because we think God can’t be trusted with where we’re at? What is about Egypt?
O’ that I might rest in the land He has brought me to, even if it gets a bit out of control and unstable at times. That I might trust that He who said He would never leave me or forsake REALLY WILL NOT leave me or forsake me. That I might faithfully believe the promise . . . that I might faithfully pursue the promise . . . that I might not look back to Egypt.
By His grace . . . for His glory.