So, You Wanna Go Back To Egypt?
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. Exodus 13:17-18
When I first read this passage, there was an easy assumption for me that God took the Israelites the long way because they weren’t ready for battle. But, that’s not what the text says: ”If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”
War is persecution. It is oppressive, it requires commitment to a cause and commitment to a side. War requires commitment even at the risk of death. I think it would be limiting God for us to assume the reason He took them the long way was because He didn’t think they were physically ready for battle. There are enough accounts in the Bible to testify that God can start and end a battle with whatever army He has on hand. So, what’s going on?
As I poked through the rest of Exodus, I noticed a thread I missed before. Every time the Israelites rebelled or complained against God or Moses, they continued to make the statement, “It would have been better if we never left Egypt! Why don’t we go back?” And it clicked. “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”
The Israelites had been in Egypt for four hundred years, so all they knew were the Egyptian gods, customs, and ways. God had become one among the many, and out of the blue he showed up with Moses. These people didn’t know the God of their ancestors. They’d follow Him because He managed to annihilate Egypt with ten plagues and free them from slavery. But, God knows they don’t trust Him. They didn’t know Him. They didn’t love Him. But, they knew Egypt. Egypt’s gods could perform some of the same miracles as God, they were pretty decent gods, and Egypt was a decent place (you know, minus the slavery and all). Egypt was their home. Egypt fed them, clothed them, mistreated them, sure, but, the bottom line is, the Israelites had a relationship with Egypt. They had a dependence on Egypt.
God knew Israel had to build a new dependence on Him. They had to see Him as the one and only God, the only one worthy of their dependence, their affection, and their hearts. This necessity echoes through the laws God hands to them through Moses.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Deuteronomy 6:4-6
What’s funny is, Israel was oblivious to this. If you look back at the verse, they are marching out of Egypt, ready for battle. They think they are ready for a fight. But, what they didn’t know is that God had intentionally instructed Moses to lead them to the Red Sea. He walked them in between a rock and a Red Sea.
The Israelites were probably starting to ask some questions when a horn started blowing, and behold, the Egyptian army was coming. The Israelites were filled with fear, and, in that crisis, they showed their true colors: ”Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11-12)
They were Egypt-dependent. What’s your Egypt? Where do you run, or to whom do you run when God starts pulling you closer? In trials, where do you go? What do you romanticize?
I’ve realized that I run to myself. I’m far too me-dependent. I trust my control of a situation, my ability to understand a situation, my strength to push through a situation. It’s been a long four months of God stripping me of me, because I need to be God-dependent. I realized He isn’t looking for me to say the perfect string of words, or to be the most righteous, or the strongest, or the most independent. He’s waiting for me to come humbly back to Him from wherever I’ve run and say, “Lord, I need you.”
That prayer only comes from a stirring of love, and the acknowledgement that, ”Yes, Jesus, I choose you. Not because you’re the God offering me what I want right now, but because I love you.”
So, where’s your relationship with God right now? What are you dependent on? Are you ready to step out in faith and trust the God who has brought you this far?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amelia Sanders loves sunflowers, words, old hardcover books, and fountain pens. She adores Jesus Christ and seeks to listen and obey Him in her life. Her life verse is Isaiah 52:7, and her prayer is for every girl to grasp the height, weight, depth, width, and power of Christ's love for them. You can find her on Instagram at @misadventuresofanunusualgirl.