Life on the mission field hasn’t always been easy for us. Many were the times we had no money and no food. But you know, the Lord has always provided. And still does. Folks asked us, “Why keep on? Don’t you long for stability? Security?”
And of course, a part of us always does long for those. But if I’ve learned anything from our 25+ years here, it’s that stability and security are fleeting things. Today they’re here, tomorrow gone. That fine house wiped out in a storm. The greatest job ever disappearing with financial crunch.
And then the Lord brought to mind the Israelites living, happy and prosperous, under slavery in Egypt.
Content with slavery. Because at least it was stable and predictable.
The book of Exodus opens with the Israelites living peacefully by the Egyptians, happy and prosperous. God had taken them there, and he blessed them, even making them multiply. But he had always planned on them leaving there to live separated, holy lives that would show who he is, and display his glory.
But content and settled, they had no thought of leaving. They’d always had it good there. And even slavery hadn’t made them any too anxious to leave.
In fact they didn’t even cry out for help until the Egyptians started harshly oppressing them.
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God, (Exodus 2:23).
So by his might and power, the Lord took them out — and into freedom, dignity, and worth. But they wanted to go back to the known and predictable.
They were willing to trade God’s freedom for slavery. Because they had left their hearts planted there in Egypt, among the onions, garlic, and leeks.
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at, (Numbers 11:5-6).
- Did this Moses bring us out here to die without a cemetery? At least in Egypt we had funeral plots.
- It would have been better to stay there. At least there we had meat in the pot and plenty of bread.
They overlooked God’s miraculous provision. Forgot how he had saved them, and guided them step by step. Nothing was good enough, because their hearts were in the wrong place.
“Had they lost their senses?” we wonder. “Egypt held nothing for them but slavery and hard labor. They even had their children torn from their arms and killed. Yet they missed the place?”
The Israelites were willing to trade the known dreads of Egypt for the unknowns of following God by faith.
Even though they had already seen that God’s path leads out of slavery, into freedom. From good stuff, to true treasure. And from death, to life. And that the future, though unknown, lies safely in God’s care.
But with their hearts set on Egypt and the free fish, they didn’t see any of that. They just wanted the known stability (though filled with hardship) they’d left.
And what do we have our eyes on?
The carrot of security that sometimes dangles before our eyes? The onions and garlic and leeks — that seem to offer stable security? Or the great adventure of stepping out into the unknown — flying safely on God’s wings?
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25).
I don’t want to settle for things like carrots — not when God’s got so much more for us! Do you?