This is part 5 in the Bible study series: Let Us Keep the Feasts. Why is Egypt a type of sin? God was determined to deliver Israel from the shackles of Egyptian slavery and plant them in a land of promise. Why was this event so important to Israel’s history? The tyranny of Egyptian culture enslaved not only the Israelites but the Egyptian people as well. As we prepare for the spring Holy Days we’ll explore many spiritual lessons from this account.
[Darris McNeely] …with us live in the audience tonight and for those of you that are online listening to this live and others that will be picking it up later on, welcome, and we’re glad to have all of you with us here tonight. I was just commenting a few minutes ago that this is a bit different than two weeks ago here in Cincinnati. We had five inches of snow coming down about mid-day and decided to cancel the Bible study, and Gary Petty quickly taped it in advance. We had about one person show up to sit and listen to it, but many, many more tuned in that night, as I understand from the count that came up. So, we’re glad that the weather has changed, and now it’s more springtime here, and we’re hoping that all the snow and the cold weather is behind us for this year. We’ve had plenty and hope that wherever you may be out there, that it’s going well for you and the weather is going well as well.
Let’s go ahead and get started. I’ll just ask you to bow your heads and you can remain seated. I’ll ask God’s blessing upon our study tonight. Our God and our Father, we bow before You, giving You thanks for another day and for a mid-week opportunity to gather here as friends and family and for many who are connected to us by the wonder of the Internet and will be also watching this later. We ask, Father, for Your blessing in every way upon the presentation tonight and for the edification of all who would hear this as we come to study Your Word and as we come to focus upon a part of it that has to do with the Holy Days, the spring festivals that are now upon us in just a few short days.
We ask Your blessing and ask Your guidance in all that is said here tonight and that our teaching would be accurate, that it would be clear. Guide the understanding of all who hear and listen as well. Help us, Father, to prepare our minds and especially our hearts for the Passover, for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, to enter into it with a clean heart and with the right spirit, Father, that we might be renewed by Your Word, by the keeping of these days, and all that it means to us. We pray for Your blessing tonight and commit this study into Your hands, and we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
All right. Last time when I gave the study, we talked about ancient Egypt and what Egypt was historically. We talked about the Exodus, the proofs, some proofs of the Exodus, and put together a timeline for you at that point. I’m going to continue tonight talking about Egypt and a bit more about it, more from a bit more of a spiritual perspective as we go into some of the Scriptures that talk about Egypt in relation to, certainly, Israel coming out of Egypt during the Exodus, at the beginning of what became the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the events of that Passover evening. But also just the concept of Egypt to itself and what that means to us as we talk about the Days of Unleavened Bread, putting the leaven out, focusing upon overcoming sin and putting sin out of our lives.
And in this particular time of year, we have a connection of Egypt, the nation out of which Israel came, the concept of leavening, which is we see in the very event of the Exodus. They left so quickly that they couldn’t have raised bread. They had unleavened bread, and that became forever after a symbol connected with that season and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, as they had to leave so quickly.
But it’s connected with Egypt and it’s connected with another concept that we focus on, which is sin. As we put the leaven out, as we focus upon the enormous consequences of sin, and we connect this sin back to Egypt, even as a type. And we generally talk about Egypt being a type of sin out of which God brought Israel. And connected with the unleavened bread and the leavening and all of that works together for physical symbols – a nation, bread – to teach some spiritual lessons.
And so what I want to do tonight is connect all of this together with the idea of why exactly we are told to put sin out, not go back to sin, but specifically when it comes down to the matter of Egypt itself, and why God has always told His people, “Don’t go down to Egypt,” and why He brought them out. And focus the study tonight around that particular idea.
I want to begin the story of our discussion tonight, not with Israel coming out of Egypt, but let’s begin tonight with a story that’s a bit later in time, that is told more toward the end of Israel’s initial period of time within the Promised Land as a sovereign nation. We’ll fast forward to the story of the fall of Jerusalem at the hand of the Babylonians. Jeremiah, in the story of the prophet and certain episode of his life there at the end of his ministry near the end of the book as it deals with the actual fall of Jerusalem and the fate of the nation of Judah.
In Jeremiah chapter 42, this very long prophecy of Jeremiah, there is a story of the remnant of people who are left after the Babylonian defeat of the city of Jerusalem and the nation. The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II have razed the temple. They burned the city. This is the second time, at this point in the story, that they have come and done this. In the earlier invasion, the Babylonians didn’t destroy the city but they subjugated it and they took a number of people captive, among whom were Daniel and the men we read about in the Book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
That was initial conquest that the Babylonians came in, they swooped up a lot of people, and put Judah under their thumb, but they took a lot of their intelligentsia with them to Babylon. A few years later, the king of Jerusalem still was not completely subservient. The Babylonians came back, and this time they made a complete waste of the city.
Jeremiah had foretold all of this, warned them that if they didn’t repent, they would have this calamity take place. And sure enough, it did. Now when we come down to chapter 42 of the prophecy of Jeremiah, we find essentially it’s all done and there’s a remnant of people. We’re told here in the story that it’s a group of old men, women, and children, and the poorest of the land are left. All the others had either been taken – the cream of the population had been taken to Jerusalem, or to Babylon – and/or they died in the siege of the city in fighting the Babylonians. And those that are left are the weakest, the poorest, the oldest, and perhaps the least valuable to the Babylonians. But our prophet Jeremiah is still alive. He’s still with the people. He stayed with them through that time.
The people are being gathered up, and there’s a governor appointed over them, a man by the name of Gedaliah. He is their leader, but there’s a lot of intrigue among some of the leading men of the Jews at that point. Jeremiah’s kind of their spiritual leader. He is still with them. He endured the siege. He never left his post. He’s still there.
And Jeremiah is approached after there’s an attack upon this man named Gedaliah. It’s kind of an insurrection, and one of the other Jews, a man by the name of Ishmael, kills Gedaliah. And so it just throws everything up in a turmoil, and there basically are two options before the people. They can either go to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar has offered Jeremiah the opportunity to go to Babylon, basically given a pension. He could go there in retirement with the group of people, but he elects to stay with the people.
Now the people either could go to Babylon, or they could go to Egypt. There are basically two options to them as you go through the story. And what they did in chapter 42, they came to Jeremiah. And in verse 3 we see that they made a request, that they asked him to pray to God for them and to ask what they should do. They say in verse 3, “That the Lord your God may show us the way which we should walk and the thing we should do.” Should we go to Egypt? Should we go to Babylon? Or should we stay here? What should we do?
And so Jeremiah says, “Okay, I will take this matter to God.” He does, and a few days later, God comes back to Jeremiah with an answer. And in verse 10, we read that God says to them, to the people, through Jeremiah, “If you will remain in this land, I will build you and not pull you down. And I will plant you and not pluck you up, for I relent concerning the disaster that I wrought upon you.”
God had a way of doing that. After His fury and His judgment was poured out, God, too, came around and, out of His mercy, looked upon the people with a different frame of mind. He tells them, “Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon of whom you are afraid. Don’t be afraid of him. I’m with you to save you and deliver you from his hand. I will show you mercy and have mercy upon you if you stay in the land.”
He basically says, “Stay here and I will protect you.” Of course, keep in mind, Jerusalem, Judah has gone through this war, but it is still the land of God. It is where God has set the stage to work with His people, and He tells them to stay there. Down in verse 19, as God concludes this message, “The Lord has said,” as Jeremiah reports it, “Concerning you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt!’ Know certainly that I have admonished you this day.”
Don’t go down there. Jeremiah says, “You’re a bunch of hypocrites in your hearts.” He knew them pretty well. But he says that God has said that if you go down to Egypt, that which you think is going to happen to you here or in Babylon – sword, famine, problems – it’ll surely come upon you in Egypt if that’s what you choose to go. “Do not go down to Egypt.” This is what God says to them, “or the very thing that you seek to escape will come upon you.”
Now the rest of the story shows that they rejected that. They respected Jeremiah for what he was by this time, but they didn’t want to obey God. And they wound up going down to Egypt, and Jeremiah goes with them. He stays with the people. This is one of the fantastic lessons from Jeremiah’s life and his ministry as a prophet that he not only scolded the people and warned them, but he stayed with them even through the siege. He goes down with them into Egypt, the very thing that God says that they should not do.
The prophecy goes on, but that’s not what we want to be concerned with today because here, at the very, in a sense, the end of the story of God working with Israel and then Judah in the land, and then the first major sovereign episode that they had there. He brought them out of Egypt and put them in the land under Moses and Joshua.
And now, centuries later, after the whole story of Israel and the split, Judah and Israel going captive at the hand of the Assyrians, now Judah’s taken captive by the Babylonians, and still Egypt is in play. They want to go back into Egypt. And God says, “Don’t go there. Don’t go down to Egypt.”
Now, again, how does this all connect in our story? If we just leave this here for a moment with this story: Egypt, leavening, sin. We have been in the church, for many of us, so many years, and we take for granted that Egypt is a type of sin. Leavening is a type of sin. Unleavened bread is a symbol of righteousness for us at this time and there are many, many Scriptures.
Jesus made the statement in Matthew chapter16. He said to His disciples, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” He goes on to show in that passage where He makes that statement, “The leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, that they teach you to do things that you should not do, that are contrary to the commandments of God, which is sin.”
So the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Christ says is leaven, which is, in that connection, it’s something that’s sin. Christ is the bread of life. Paul talks later in 1 Corinthians 5 about the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. So we put all of this together and we understand with the episode from Exodus 12 and 13, with the beginning of Unleavened Bread, seven days of eating that unleavened bread, we put it all together, and it does form a picture from which we draw these conclusions that certainly leavening is seen to be here, by what Jesus says, a type of sin. We put the leaven out for seven days that coincided with the initial Exodus from Egypt, which in itself is a place that God here, we just see in the case of Jeremiah delivering the message, he said, “Don’t go down there. Don’t go to Egypt.”
And when we put the story together here with the Exodus and other events, we find a very, very interesting set of lessons for us and something upon which to hang the question and the position that we put out here tonight about why we don’t go back to Egypt. Why we should not go back to sin. Why should we put this out, and how does it all connect and tie together to tell us something?
Let’s go back to Egypt for a few minutes. In the previous study that I gave to you, I talked about Egypt and what it was, and I showed you some slides from both what I picked up off the Internet plus a trip that we made to Egypt after the Feast of Tabernacles a few years ago. And we talked about the history of it. And it’s a fascinating story.
But when you look into the story of ancient Egypt and the culture that it was, it tells us of a civilization that broke out of the pack of nations very, very early in its time and became an empire, a civilization whose remnants are still with us today, many, many parts of it. But they became something there in that area of water by the Nile, in that part of Egypt. In the ancient world, Egypt was kind of a paradise. Water by the Nile, they had food. When the Nile rose and inundated the land, left behind the nutrient-rich silt, they were promised an abundant harvest of wheat and other vegetables and all that they could eat. In fact, throughout the ancient story of Egypt, they were an exporter of goods and foods to the world, especially down in the time of Rome.
It’s a well-ordered world, with the pharaoh at the top and the whole society as it was structured there and able to build the monuments that they did. It was relatively safe. We don’t find a lot of invasions and rampaging of other armies and empires into Egypt. They expanded out and they expanded their empire down through their story. But we don’t read about Egypt being overrun all the time by so many other great powers like till we come really down to the time of Babylon.
They’re safe. There was a predictability about Egypt. It was a well-ordered life. Even as we see the Israelites in bondage and slavery down there, there was a certain order to their life that appealed to a few in the story there. As you look at the story of Egypt, it was a very clear place geographically. They had the Mediterranean Ocean to the north. They had the Nile that stretched the entire length of the nation, and its rise and fall every year. Everything was ordered around the rise and fall of the Nile.
Architecturally, it was also a very clear and well-ordered place. The pyramids, I showed pictures of last time, were monumental buildings that have yet to be equaled by modern building techniques. They still try to figure out how they did it and the precision with which the pyramids were built.
We see the temples that were regulating the religious life, the tombs. And what remnants are still there show us a country that was, in a sense, mathematically exact. It was imposing, and it controlled all aspects of life.
Egypt was also very clear as a culture in a theological sense. The unseen spirit world that they envisioned was something that they translated into visual, tactile, hands-on methods. They wanted to be able to touch, see, and feel their spirit world that they worshipped and thought to be out there. All the gods that they had were made into images. The cat represented a god. A hawk represented another god. An ibis represented another, while a bull or a hyena would represent still yet other gods. The sun was worshipped.
Reality came alive in the carved stone that we still have with us today. The religion of ancient Egypt was one of absolute, rigid control. There was no room for deviation. And even when a reforming pharaoh came along by the name of Akhenaten in the period after the Exodus, some feel a remnant of the theology perhaps of Israel. Upon his death, they erased his reforms and went right back to the polytheistic form of images of god that they had.
Egypt was also a very rigid clear social structure. Everyone had a place, and it was defined by a rigid hierarchy. As I said, the pharaoh was at the top and the serfs were at the bottom. Everyone else was in between. Under the pharaoh would be a cast of priests, and in descending order, all the various tradesmen and other officials and peoples, but at the very bottom were the serfs. And if you were at the bottom, that’s where you were. You had no hope of ever rising beyond that.
As a result of that, life was, in a sense, uncomplicated. You had less to deal with because you had less choice. You didn’t have to choose whether or not you wanted to be a mechanical engineer. It just wasn’t going to be open to you.
In his book called The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, Toby Wilkinson writes about this in his preface about the rigid structure of the Egyptian society. He said there was a darker side to the royal government. We tend to see the pharaoh and the pomp and splendor of his court and his rule. But he said, Toby Wilkinson said, “there was a darker side to the royal government in Egypt. The appropriation of land, forced labor, and a scant regard for human life. These were the characteristics of the pyramid age,” when the pyramids were built and then the age subsequent to the time of Joseph and Moses and Israel there. “There was a scant regard for human life,” which is why we see the Israelites enslaved.
“The ruthless exploitation of Egypt’s natural and human resources was a prerequisite for achieving the state’s wider ambitions and it set the scene for the following centuries of pharaonic rule. While kings ruled by divine right, the rights of their subjects interested them very little. This would be an abiding theme in the history of ancient Egypt.” The pharaoh ruled by divine right, and the rights of their people, all the way down to the serfs and the slaves, interested the pharaohs very, very little.
That was the culture of Egypt, along with their religion, their architecture and all that it was. And it was a place that God said to His people, “Don’t go there. Don’t go back there.”
Now it’s interesting to look at the progression of the story of Egypt. If you turn back to Genesis chapter 12, you see the story of Abraham. When God called Abraham in Genesis 12, but He said, “Get out of your home in Mesopotamia. Go over to this land that I’m going to show, and there I will make of you a great nation and a great people.” Which Abraham obeys God, and we find in the story that he goes.
Now he gets into the land of which is to become the Promised Land, the land of Palestine, the modern state of Israel. This is where he goes, here in Genesis 12, and verse 10 tells us though, after Abraham settled there, that one year the crops failed and a famine developed in the land. What did Abraham do? Well, it says in verse 10, Genesis 12, Abraham went down to Egypt to dwell there when famine was severe in the land. He went down to Egypt.
Now keep this in mind. Later, as we’ve already read in Jeremiah, God said, “Don’t go to Egypt.” And in Abraham’s case, He told him to “go to the land that I will show you and there I will make of you a great people.” He didn’t say go down to Egypt, nor did He say, “Hey, oh, by the way, Abraham, if the going gets tough, something unexpected happens, there’s this place of escape. There is this Vegas in the desert called Egypt. Go on down there.” He didn’t say that.
He said, “I’ll take care. I will make of you a great people. Your descendants will be thus and such. I will be with you. I will be your God. Go where I tell you and obey Me.” That’s summing up all that He eventually told him.
But when the first sign of problems, as Abraham goes out walking in faith, in a sense as he begins to obey God, like when you and I began to obey God, or our parents or others, we step out in faith. We begin to obey God. We accept a different life. We are baptized. We repent of our old life. We start off going into a new direction with God. We put our hand in God’s hand. We begin to walk with Him. And then something bad happens. What do we do? “Oh, God’s forgotten us. Where’s God? Whoa, zoom, let’s go to Egypt. Let’s go to what we know to be comfortable,” or, “Let’s go to where we know there’s food. Let’s go down to where we know things are civilized.”
Abraham was way out in the…there was no Jerusalem nor Tel-Aviv in the land where he was at that time. It was raw land. There were other nations, other peoples here, but they weren’t the type of neighbors that you wanted to have a block party with. But Egypt was different. Egypt had cities, metropolitan cities. And Egypt had food. So Abraham goes down there.
And what happened to Abraham when he went down in the story in Genesis 12? You know what he found? He found a guy called Pharaoh who wanted his wife. And what did Abraham do? He lied. “Oh yeah, she’s just my sister. She’s not my wife. She’s my sister.” So Abraham got caught up in a web of deceit when he went to Egypt. Big problem.
He’s not walking with God. He’s not walking by faith. He’s walking by his own instinct. And he’s pretty smart guy. He knows how to walk the streets. He can talk their talk and survive.
I had somebody tell me – he was a native New Yorker years ago, he’s one of the members – he tried to tell me I’d never been to New York. He said, and he used to live just a few miles up upstate New York when he would go into what they called the City. He said you got to just change everything, know how to walk the streets to survive. He was a bit paranoid to say the least, but he was trying to…I remember him telling me how you managed and maneuvered in the City, New York, different than in the…and certainly there’s a bit of truth to that.
Well, Abraham knew how to walk the streets and talk the talk in Egypt. That’s where he went. But he got into a totally different way of life. He forgot where God was working with him. He got tired of living by faith for a brief period of time. Now he got himself out of that, went back and you know the rest of the story.
Isaac comes along. He doesn’t go down as far in Egypt. He kind of wandered off and got himself into a similar bit of intrigue, but he didn’t go down into Egypt. Of course, Jacob comes along with his sons and they got jealous of Joseph. You know what they did. They wanted to get rid of him. Where did they send him? To a Midianite caravan who’s going down to Egypt, and Joseph winds up down there against his will. He didn’t choose that, but God was working out a plan that actually started back in the early episodes of Abraham’s life when God said to Abraham, “Your people are going to be down in a strange land for 400 years, and I’ll bring them out.”
Well, that worked as a result of intrigue within the family. At the end of the story, Joseph’s there. And ultimately Jacob comes down with the rest of his family to escape again another period of famine that’s not even, at that time, on Egypt. But it wasn’t of their choosing. Joseph didn’t choose to be down there. And Jacob, once he recognized what was going on, he wound up there.
But you know something about that story as it ends, the end of the book of Genesis? When Joseph dies, he basically says, “Look,” in his will, his last will and testament, he says, “When you leave here, take my bones with you.” He didn’t even want his bones to rest in Egypt. And he’d grown quite influential down there.
And so when Israel went out, they carried Joseph’s bones back out, and Jacob’s had already been taken by Joseph. But Joseph didn’t want his bones down there. And they carried those bones around with them for 40 years until they finally went into the land. Interesting story right there.
Of course, we know the story of the Exodus. After 400 years, the Israelites are brought out. And they come out, and you would turn over to Exodus 14, and what do we find? They want to go back into Egypt. Exodus 14.
They come up, and this is actually during the Days of Unleavened Bread. They haven’t even crossed the Red Sea yet. They’re up against the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s chasing them in the rear. “Pharaoh drew near the children of Israel,” Exodus 14:10 Exodus 14:10And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.
American King James Version×, “and Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.”
So they should have been strengthened by all the miracles and the Passover experience, and they were to a degree, but it quickly left them when they are now up against what they’re facing, the sea in front of them, Pharaoh to their rear. They said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?” Not a very strong endorsement of Moses, of God, or of faith. “Because there were no graves back there?” Well, of course they knew there were plenty of graves. Lots of sand to be buried in.
“You brought us out here that we might die out here? Why have you so dealt with us to bring us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than we should die in the wilderness.’”
A people who are enslaved over a period of time, their thinking changes. They grow a bit sympathetic. There’s something called, today, the Stockholm syndrome, where a person who’s been kidnapped, in time, can become actually sympathetic to their kidnapper. And in a sense, in some cases, been known to even then participate with the kidnapper in the illegal activities that they are doing. It’s called the Stockholm syndrome.
The Israelites had still a level of sympathy for the Egyptians and for Egypt in itself. “We could have just been doing just fine back there instead of trudging out here through this wilderness and getting ourselves in trouble with you, Moses.” Immediately, they wanted to go back into Egypt because, as bad as being a slave was at the bottom of the Egyptian cultural pyramid, they figured it was ordered. They knew what they were going to do when they got up each day. They knew what their next meal was going to come from. Life was a bit more uncomplicated. They didn’t have to make many decisions. “Okay, another hundred mud bricks? Okay. We can knock that up before noon. If we work real hard, we might get extra day off this week. We can manage.” That’s how they looked at it. That’s the extent of their faith at that particular time.
On another occasion, we find them in Numbers 11 saying that “We remember the fish that we had in Egypt, so free. And the cucumbers, they were this long. And they didn’t get tough. You could use them as baseball bats. Melons, leeks, onions, and the garlic, oh, could we make pasta with that garlic.” And they said, “but we’re out here, Moses. Our lives are drying up. There’s nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.” That’s in Numbers 11. They had all kinds of episodes like this. And they kept wanting to go back, and they, through that story, they wanted to go back to Egypt. God says, “Don’t go to Egypt.”
Fast forward the reel to the time of King Solomon. And we all know the story of King Solomon, son of David. He was endowed with wisdom, wealth, a united country that he had then, a very powerful country that it was. But then his heart turned against God. He took all kinds of wives, and among them was a daughter of Pharaoh.
Solomon, he went down into Egypt, and probably for political alliance reasons, married a daughter of Pharaoh and brought Egypt into Jerusalem because she brought with her the Egyptian culture, her religion. And along with the other wives who had different religions, it was quite a mix. Hard to imagine for a man like Solomon, but that’s what the story in Kings tells us exactly happened.
There’s always this allure among the people of God – good, faithful people, the father of the faithful, Abraham, and Solomon, Israelites – to go back to Egypt instead of walking with God by faith. A lot of lessons there. Why did they want to go back, and why couldn’t they walk in faith with God? It comes down to a matter of, really, of faith or Egypt in their life. Would they walk by faith, or would Egypt be the allure and the walk that they would have?
This is the story. Egypt was where God’s people wanted to go when they got scared, when they lost faith, when they wanted the safe and the certain, when they wanted a religion that they could see, taste, and touch. Even down to the food, they wanted to go to Egypt.
When they wanted anything but faith and the wilderness of life, which is – they were in a literal wilderness, but that wilderness is really for you and I something to consider in terms of our own life and our walk of faith because our lives at times can be somewhat of an unexpected wilderness we’re walking through as we have a relationship with God. When we look at the story of Israel and ancient Egypt, and we learn our lessons for today as we keep Unleavened Bread, we put the leaven out and we come through our Passover memorial of the death of Christ. We put the leaven out. We for seven days eat unleavened bread. We focus on putting the sin out of our lives. We keep it certainly with the new covenant, New Testament experience of Christ, which opens up a vast dimension there.
But we don’t forget the stories from the Old Testament, going all the way back to Egypt and the Exodus. And those stories there of Israel wandering through the wilderness, as Numbers tells us, because that’s part of the story as well. And it’s part of the story that comes into our lives and shows us that, as we endeavor to walk in faith with God, we’ve got to recognize that at times that walk is going to be along a well-laid out path. And at times it might take us on a route through a bit of a spiritual wilderness, where things are uncertain, where there’s kind of an unexpected famine, like Abraham had to experience.
Or a test, as the Israelites had to experience, of whether or not they would obey God, whether we would want to go back to something in our past, some part of our life that we had walked away from already and been delivered from. And we might want to go back because at times we might find that the life of faith that we’re now in has certain uncertainties about it. And that’s really the major lesson for us to understand as we look at the life of challenges that we have before us.
Solomon would later write the book of Ecclesiastes. And it’s one of those interesting books that weaves a story of a path where he shows the folly and the futility of life, where he also shows that it’s the whole duty of man to obey God and His commandments. And he says all things are empty and vain and futile. And he makes a statement early in the book of Ecclesiastes that he says that the things that happen to the wealthy also happen to the poor, and the things that happen to the foolish happen to the wise, and the unrighteous sometime seem to get along better than the righteous people do.
And all through that book of Ecclesiastes, he’s really sketching what really is a life about faith as he weaves his way through his own experiences. And at the end of it, the book ends, and my personal belief is that it’s his own conclusion. He says, “The conclusion of the matter is fear God and keep the commandments.” That is what you have to do to get through the wilderness that life can be at times, even as we have been called and are walking with God in a life of faith.
A life of faith, a life in the church, and for many of us, we are several decades into this. I’m six decades into it. Is that right? And can that possibly be? Five decades anyway, into this way of life. I’m in my sixth decade, let’s put it that way. All my adult life, and for many of you, many, many years as well, and we all know the thrills. We can know the lows that can be there as well because we’re not always shielded from everything. God calls us, but He doesn’t take us completely out of the world. That’s what faith is, and we have the challenges that we’ve got to meet as we are called to a life of faith.
We don’t want to be like the Israelites and want to go back to Egypt. We don’t want to go back down there. We don’t, when it all might seem to be lying around us in dust and ashes like it did with the Jews in Jerusalem, we still don’t want to go down to Egypt. We want to listen to what God says and say, “Hey, even in the midst of this calamity, I can build you and plant you. There is My life with you.” And there is hope even as we make our way through that.
One of the problems with Egypt is the same problem that we have today with our past, or even at times as we try to even wrestle with the Bible and faith and God in our own life. It’s something called legalism. Legalism. Legalism is an interesting concept in terms of, as we obey God, as we keep his law, as we develop a relationship with God. Anytime we think we can do it all ourselves or should do it all ourselves or that by being righteous, we merit and earn God’s favor, grace, or brownie points with God. We’d never admit that we were trying to earn our salvation, but we might think, “Well, we are earning right – by our righteousness, we are earning something aren’t we? For all of this.” We’re touching on legalism when that happens.
But the problem with Egypt for the Israelites was that Egypt was a form of legalism. It was highly structured. Their gods and their religious theology was something that they could see, do, touch. They broke every one of the commandments. And yet they did it trying to bring the spirit world into their own physical world by making it physical, things that they could see and do in ritual, and thereby appease their god, earn merit, and earn favor with their god.
We have our own other forms of legalism that we have as well. Anytime that we can be discouraged by the physical, without seeing the spiritual and seeing God’s hand within it. When people impact our spiritual, and that’s another form of legalism. We can be enslaved emotionally. If we rely on people, they’ll let us down. When the physical is all over, or when it gets tarnished, or when it gets broken, we’re not satisfied. We want another experience.
The Sabbath experience, the sermon experience, the fellowship experience, the prayer experience, the observance of a Holy Day, a Feast of Tabernacles – regardless of whether it’s at the Holiday Inn Eastgate, in our homes if that’s the only place that that year allows us to do, or the most fabulous physical spot that we can go to, regardless of where it is – as we keep it, it should be nourishing us spiritually so that when we come out of it, we don’t want to go back in a sense because that’s where the best was. We take the best out of it spiritually and it feeds us in our life. So that when the physical part of it is over, we’re spiritually energized and ready to keep going.
That’s a life of faith, and it evolves around a relationship with God. When we turn over to Hebrews chapter 11, we come right into the story of faith in the Bible that does deal with Moses and Israel. And there are, in this passage in chapter 11 beginning in verse 23, five statements about faith that are made here. Five statements about faith. Hebrews chapter 11, the faith chapter.
We pick it up in the story of Moses in verse 23. And it’s a good recap of some of the things we’ve been talking about because it puts the spiritual overlay on it for us in the matter of faith. There are five statements of faith here, beginning in verse 23. The first one is this. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.” Now it wasn’t Moses’ act of faith in this case. It was that of his parents, who would not give in to the decree by Pharaoh that the male children born of the Israelites had to be killed because they’re just overpopulating the land.
They didn’t do it. They hid him for three months before they then put him into the basket and set him upon the river where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter as the story tells us back in Exodus. What might we learn from this?
It’s very scanty in one sense. You’re tempted to read in a little bit, but for Moses’ mother and dad to do this, you had to imagine that at some point they sat down, and they said, “We’re not going to have him killed.” They said he’s a beautiful child, which could mean in terms of just likely more than a…I think it was more, there’s more than just a physical appearance here. I wonder if that they knew of that part of the promise to Abraham made back in Genesis 15, and this one episode where God covenants with Moses, I mean with Abraham, and a darkness descends upon where they are and a fire and a sacrifice that just is a kind of a scene right out of some fantastic movie conjured up by a director about the supernatural.
And God covenants with Abraham there, and he says, “You’re people are going to be in a land for 400 years. I’m going to bring them out.” That story, as Moses later wrote it down, would have been a story that his parents knew because of the traditions of the people. And I just wonder did they think for a moment that maybe “enough is enough and we’re not going to kill our son.” Maybe, they’re thinking, just maybe in their thought, maybe he’ll be the one to deliver. Maybe that’s what is meant here.
And so they stepped out on faith, in the unknown, and they wouldn’t let him be killed to the point when they couldn’t keep him any longer, they put him on the river knowing that he would be in God’s hands. It was an act of faith.
In verse 24, we find the second statement of faith. “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Forty years old, as we’re told in the book of Acts, by Stephen in his sermon, he comes to that point where he refuses to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” Sin. The culture of Egypt, that life, which a life completely opposed to the life of faith that God had revealed through Abraham and to the others, he was not going to enjoy that. He was willing to walk away from it “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, where he looked to the reward.”
A lesson from this: faith and consumerism don’t mix. Faith and consumerism. We’re all consumers. We love to consume. I as much as anyone else, but faith and consumerism ultimately don’t mix. That’s why they kept wanting an easy life and why, when you read the subsequent story there in the Exodus and as we read in Exodus 14 and 16 and then Numbers 11, they kept wanting to go back because they knew at least they’d get three squares and life would be predictable.
And they wanted what everybody else wanted. They wanted what you and I want today: an easy life. It wasn’t that they were returning to slavery and bondage. What they really wanted was bottled water when they were thirsty in the wilderness. They wanted their food handed to them through a little window in a drive-thru. Okay? And they give you a little sack with a quarter pounder in it and steaming hot French fries and a cold Coke. And all you have to do is consume. Life is good, right?
That was the life they wanted – a life of comfort, a life of ease – anything but where they were in the wilderness. And Moses, by his example, Paul is saying here, it didn’t mix. He had to forego that and push it aside, esteeming something of spiritual value, esteeming faith better than the riches of Egypt.
In verse 27, the next statement of faith, “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” Pharaoh’s power, his splendor, the stage on which he stood when Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh… Look, it was not a stage like this today, kind of a little, very small, postage stamp-sized stage. Sorry, Tim, no matter your very good efforts here, a little blue curtain behind us. No, Pharaoh stood on a huge stage and the backdrop of Egypt was what he operated on. He had power to command their death. They didn’t get afraid of that. Pharaoh was not a giant to them. They willingly delivered God’s message, fearlessly did it time and time again until the end, and they finally took the people out.
Faith is not afraid of anybody. Faith is not afraid of anything that is a giant in our life. Remember the Israelites wouldn’t…the spies went into the land later and they came back and they said, “Ho, ho, wow. Let me tell you. These guys are NBA giants. They make Shaquille and Lebron look pretty tiny. We can’t go up there and take them.” And they persuaded everyone, “Oh, what have you done?” They were overawed by men, by giant people, by big cities.
We have to face our giants. What’s your giant? What is it that kills us, causes us to shrink up and step back and say, “I can’t do this”? Is it another person? Is it fear? Is it a lack of trust? Is it pride? What are your giants? Usually they’re emotional giants for us today. And sometimes there might be people, and they might be certain physical circumstances. We all have our giants that might destroy our faith. We can’t let anyone or anything stand in our way.
The fourth lesson of faith here is in verse 28. “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.” He kept the Passover and sprinkling of blood.
Later Moses was to write under God’s direction that the life is in the blood when he was talking about the sacrifices in the book of Leviticus. The life is in the blood. And they had to kill a lamb and take its blood and put it on their doorposts as part of that ritual on the night that the Destroyer went through the land, and the firstborn of the Egyptians died. And they were granted life, the Israelites were, as death passed through Egypt.
They had to do something that was a bit of out…it stretched their imagination to do what they did that night. Stay inside, put the blood on the doorpost, don’t go out. Eat it hastily inside. Don’t let any of it remain until morning. All those things that were part of the instructions, a little bit out of the ordinary. They hadn’t done it before. It takes faith to do things that we don’t always understand why we must do them in our walk with God. It takes faith to do that. And that’s the type of faith that Moses and the Israelites had that as they kept the Passover and with the sprinkling of blood.
We have to do things without fully understanding. And that even goes through to just living our life by faith in the spiritual wilderness of life, as it can be at times in today, not letting the wilderness overcome our faith. True faith, true godly faith will invade a wilderness. And it’ll chop its way through the vines and the undergrowth, and it will clear a path. It will clear a way to where we can see where we are as well as where we’re going. True faith will do that. It takes us on the path through the wilderness. We’re never promised a thorn-free life in our walk with God. It can at times be a bit of a muddle, testing us and seeing whether or not we want to go back to Egypt.
And verse 29 is the fifth statement about faith. “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.” Moses stretched out his hand, the Red Sea parted, dried up. They went through, but they had to stand and see the salvation of God, they had to witness this miracle, and they had to move through it, and in so doing, they set another great spiritual example for us because later Paul writes about that as they…it was like a form of baptism, a type of baptism where they went between the walls of water through the sea in that and came out safely on the other side.
But just as we have to go into the waters of baptism, come under the blood of Christ, enter into a way of life, our destiny and our faith is being tested and strengthened, challenged and buttressed, all along the way as we go along. And we have to be able to recognize that we have been called to walk in a way of life and to walk with God in that way of life.
In John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
American King James Version×, Jesus makes the statement through His disciples, on the night before He is killed. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I am the way. Which tells us that it is with Christ that we walk in this way of life, and we walk with Him, not always problem-free, that there will be the seasons of life, the challenges of life, the ups and downs, the times of strong faith, the times of weak faith. And that Christ is there to get us through, just as He got the Israelites through the Red Sea. And by faith they walked through that.
We by faith walk through our life with the Way, Jesus Christ, His truth and His life guiding us. That takes faith. And every step of the way, we’re walking away from Egypt, just as the Israelites, every step that they made through that Red Sea took them one step further away from Egypt. And finally when they came out of the other side of the Red Sea, the waters came back together drowning Pharaoh. Egypt was behind them. It was a point of no return there, and they had no way to go but on into the wilderness.
And had they done it right, they would have made a direct beeline straight to the Promised Land, but as we know the story, they had to take about a 38, 39-year, 40-year total circuitous route to get there, and a generation had to die off. It’s an amazing story in itself of faith. But every step that they took, took them away from Egypt and along the way with God in that way of life. They couldn’t go back.
Now we see their story. We began with that of Jeremiah, where the people had a choice to either stay, go to Babylon, or go to Egypt. God said, “Stay where you are. And even where it looks kind of bleak here, I’ll plant you and build you up. I can do that. Will you trust Me?” But they wouldn’t, and they went down to Egypt when He said don’t go to Egypt, because Egypt has never held anything for God’s people, then or now, for any of us. The past, what God has delivered us from, the spiritual bondage of sin, any part of our past that might even be an allure to us to go back to or to keep with us hidden in our basement or some part of our life is not anything that we need to help us walk in faith. That can be a part of Egypt if it’s something that keeps us from walking in faith with God.
The great lesson from the Days of Unleavened Bread, as we really are a few days away from keeping all of this now, as we’ve looked at quite a number of stories about Egypt, about sin, and helping to prepare our minds is, if I can leave you with this. God always brought his people out of Egypt, and He never wanted them to go down there. He wanted them to be planted and kept and walk with Him in the place that He showed and placed His name and learn faith there. If we can follow and learn from that example, then where you and I are today in our lives, is right where God wants us to be. And sometimes it’s only a matter of being able to, in a sense, turn our backs completely upon anything in our past that is like Egypt to us and move resolutely forward with God in faith toward His kingdom.
I hope you have a very prosperous Holy Day season, which will be upon us here in a very short period of time, and I hope these Bible studies have been helpful to all of you. We’re going to be continuing the Holy Day theme when we resume our Bible studies after the spring Holy Days. The next Bible study will be on April the 15th. All right? So you want to mark your calendar for that; those of you that are watching online. Steve Myers will be conducting that Bible study, and he will be talking about firstfruits, and we will begin a short series that will lead us up to the Feast of Pentecost in this series of Beyond Today Bible Studies.
So we’ll see you then. Hope you have a very good spring festival season. Thanks for coming out. Thanks for watching, those of you that are online even tonight and will view this at a later time. Take care to all of you.