Imprisoned By The Past
After being enslaved for four hundred years, Israel was freed from the bondage of Egypt.
It had taken ten plagues to break the powers of Pharaoh, finally millions are following Moses
toward the land promised to Abraham.
After departing Egypt, the prodigy of Jacob would face great challenges.
The barrier was no longer the chariots of Pharaoh, but now it was the unbelief in their hearts.
God's purpose for His children was a prompt entry into the land flowing with milk and honey.
The Lord's wish for Israel was to leave and never return to the bondage of Egypt, physically or spiritually.
Though Israel exited as a free people, the covenant congregation retained spiritual tendencies
to return to the land of slavery.
Contemporary Christians, liberated from spiritual bondage the cross of Jesus Christ, resemble Israel
by being less than free from the pitfalls of worldliness and evil.
The disciples of Jesus, like Israel, are called to leave and never return to the boundaries
imposed by our disobedience.
Like Israel, believers are called to come out of Egypt, and stay out.
Delusions of the past are powerful when our provisions fall.
Nostalgia causes a longing for days and things of the past.
Nostalgia makes some desire old automobiles, outdated gas company signs, and antique bathtubs.
Nostalgia makes others hang old implements on the living room wall.
Nostalgia includes a significant element of illusion.
When desiring relics of the past, we forget the hardships that accompanied the good old days.
For instance, when we long for that 1955 Chevrolet, we forget that the classic Chevy lacked air conditioning,
an automatic transmission, power steering, AM FM stereo radio.
If our wish for a old car were to come true, we would soon discover that we missed the smooth ride
and the other comforts and conveniences developed since the 1950s.
The Israelites had a nostalgia of sorts when they thought back to the abundant food of Egypt. (Verse 3)
These illusions were triggered by the food shortage in the Desert of Sin.
Even though just a month before the answer, they had experienced the miraculous intervention of God,
they were now under a test of their faith.
In the days preceding this incident, they had consumed all the bread they had carried out of Egypt.
The plagues were amazing, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground was great, but now they were hungry,
and there was nothing to eat.
With parched lips and empty stomachs, they begin to think back about how things used to be.
They remembered the good old days sitting around the banquet tables in Egypt.
They had never been hungry in Egypt it seemed.
In their thinking, the slaves grub of Pharaoh seem like a choice leg of lamb.
The course, moldy bread of bondage was recalled as baked goods of the finest quality.
In the illusion prompted by Satan, they could smell the loaves just pulled out of the oven.
Of course, the illusion was missing a few realistic details.
In Egypt they had suffered the slaughter of their children.
In Egypt they had borne the heat of the day in back-breaking labor to build the storage cities as monuments
for the lofty pride of Pharaoh.
When the supplies of food ran out and stomachs began to growl, the look back to Egypt was transformed
from the horror of fact to the deception of the illusion.
When hardships come, the illusion of past comforts presents itself as an alternative,
and a return to past life-styles is prompted.
The recovering alcoholic under stress of marital problems may think that he can relax by taking just one drink.
Instead of remembering those sickness, the financial problems, and even worse marital problems
related to the bondage of alcoholism, and illusion of ease and comfort is recalled.
When confronted with difficult, teenage children, some parents begin to question their commitment
to the church and Jesus Christ, and think that their past days were full of tranquil times.
There is the temptation to chuck the present spiritual discipline of prayer and seeking the Lord's will
and attempt to go back to the old days of faceless living.
Living between miraculous interludes.
The grumbling of the Israelites caused a rift in their relationship with the Lord and established a pattern
of behavior in their lives that would be difficult to break.
At the next trial, instead of being stronger, they would be weaker and more susceptible to disobedience
to their loving, heavenly Father.
The succeeding chapters reveal that after the powerful plagues and the parting of the Red Sea
the Lord had miraculous plans to feed His people.
Soon the manna from heaven was to fall for bread, and quail would be sent to provide choice meat
to appease their aggravating hunger.
Thereafter, God was to bring His chosen people to the southern border of Canaan,
and alow them to see the land of promise.
Although their hunger was great, God was even greater.
The Lord had not abandoned His people.
He would soon act to meet their every need.
The trials of hunger were intended to build the faith of the covenant people as they saw that their every need
was provided for in their trust of the Lord.
Instead the people clung to the illusions of past comforts, and these thoughts and actions
left an indelible constructive print upon their spiritual lives.
In today's struggles, believers face the same challenge of faith.
In the midst of trials believers are not to despair of faith, but to believe in the One who is greater than the world.
We are not to conclude that we are in the valley of death, but that we are in an interlude
between God's miraculous provisions.
The miracles may not be as noticeable as the parting of the Red Sea, but they will be decisive acts of God
on our behalf all the same.
"Have you any rivers
That seem uncrossable?
And have you any mountain
That you cannot tunnel through?
In things thought impossible
And He will do what no other
No other power but holy power can do."
--God Specializes" was written by Gloria Griffin..
This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White