I was taught as a young believer, and have believed ever since, that in the Scriptures ancient Egypt is a type of the world. That this land of great power is but a land of slavery and bondage. That though it seems to be the place to go back to when the going gets tough, nothing good really comes out of Egypt. That though it has a certain allure of being a good land of fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, and onions which draws the freed captive back to it, ultimately it is a distraction and detour from sojourning to a better land, the land of promise.
And you read the prophets and still God’s people had the propensity to look to Egypt for help in time of need. The place you’re tempted to go back to when you’re feeling cornered. Where you ask for help when you’re no longer seeking help from above. But it’s the place, when all is said and done, which is really of very little help and of no eternal value. That’s why the LORD’s characterization of Egypt, of the world, catches my eye this morning.
“Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD. Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel, when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake.”
(Ezekiel 29:6-7 ESV)
A staff of reed. A flimsy crutch, says the Message. Breaking under the burden. Ultimately that’s what Egypt was for Israel. What the world is for God’s people.
Something appearing to be of substance, something advertising itself as having the answers, but hollow and with nothing of eternal value to offer. A straw walking stick. Woefully inadequate for the journey.
And the Spirit also emphasizes this reality this morning through John.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
(1John 2:15-17 ESV)
The world is passing away. So for those of us journeying to a better land, “that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16a), who are looking forward to a city which actually “has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10), why would we hamstring ourselves with a flimsy crutch? Why go back to a land of bondage? Why seek aid from that which is, ultimately, of no help? Why pursue pleasures that, at best, are for a season, yet rob the treasures of our eternal inheritance? Why take up a staff of reed when what we need is a solid Rock?
Do not love the world. Don’t get fooled and compromised by a reed staff. Instead, John says,
Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He made to us — eternal life.
(1John 2:24-25 ESV)
That’s the promise, eternal life. And it ain’t by going back to Egypt. We’re not going to get there depending on a staff of reed. But solely by trusting in the Son of God.
Only by His grace. All for His glory.