Why Came We Forth Out of Egypt?
Numbers 11:16-20, 16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. 18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. 19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; 20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
There are many “why” questions in life and those contained in the Holy Scriptures, are often a question that comes from the depths of despair, but when answered, it lifts souls to the highest heavens. It is a question asked sometimes when we are out of focus or seeking for direction or meaning.
In our day of so many matters in this world being at odds against God we can be easily set off course. This principle of focused is no new thing, it is a biblical principle, businesses push to attain goals of more profit and growth, educators are called upon to say things like, “pay attention, now; stay focused, stay on task”. The military calls out, “Attention”! to focus respect to their officers. Even false churches embrace such books as The Purpose-Driven Life which focuses your attention away from the true Christ from the beginning in its watered down gospel which is not the gospel.
The children of Israel had asked this question when they were out of focus, forgot their purpose. Their focus was on themselves and their circumstances as they perceived them to be. We put ourselves in a precarious position when we focusing on ourselves and thus, out of focus with the Lord.
One thing we know for sure is that the longer we stay out of focus, the worse our position becomes and the more out of focus we become. It compounds our problem and entertains an awful time in getting out of it and becoming at least what we once were to come to glorify God. If I took a t-square and made a vertical line, being time, and a horizontal line, distance. Now, let’s say, the goal is to stay straight and perfectly on the vertical line heavenward. If I were to go just a degree or two of that vertical line, over time the vertical line, my distance, the horizontal line would begin and go further and further off course. This is what happens spiritually, it starts as a seeming small matter and next thing we know we are following Christ afar off like Peter did.
One of the old Baptist Confessions of Faith tells us that the chief end, the chief goal, the chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. This we must focus on. But, to answer the question more fully of Why came we forth out of Egypt? We will ask three other questions—Where Did They Come From?, Where Did Their Complaint Come From?, and Where Do We Go From Here?
First, let us examine, Where Did They Come From? Consider the context of the Book of Numbers from chapter one and following: Consider Israel in bondage in Egypt with taskmasters breathing down their necks with whips beating down on them, the heat beating down on them, being weary and afflicted by the burdens put upon them. And they ask, Why Came We Forth Out of Egypt? Consider the setting in order and getting organized and packed to march towards the Promised Land where they would be free from the atrocities in Egypt and they ask Why Came We Forth Out of Egypt? Consider Israel’s deliverance wrought by God with a high hand, not even one hoof left behind, not to mention the spoil they took from the Egyptians, and they ask Why Came We Forth Out of Egypt? Consider the parting of the Red Sea before their eyes to deliver them from Pharoah’s hateful hand and they ask, Why Came We Forth Out of Egypt? Consider being led by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night to lead guide and direct their steps, and they ask Why Came We Forth Out of Egypt? Consider the manna graciously provided by the hand of God for their nourishment and they ask, Why Came We Forth Out of Egypt?
It is understood that the applications could be directed to the believer as well as the unbeliever, as not all Israel was the true spiritual Israel. To the unsaved, would you really rather go Satan, that cruel taskmaster who is your enemy, than to go to Christ Who could be your Greatest Friend; would you rather go to your own fragile flesh than to go the Almighty God Who can save you from your sins and give you eternal life in eternal Paradise; would you rather go to the world which has in line with Satan and your sinful flesh, than to go to the Lord Jesus can give life and that more abundantly?
To us who are saved we can lose focus and lose our direction, leave our first love, and forget what manner of person we were before God saved us when we were in the darkness and cruel bondage of Egypt.
Now, let’s give thought to: Where Did Their Complaint Come From? If you begin reading in Numbers 11:1—The word ‘complained’ carries with it the idea of their complaints were coming from the heart and not vocally expressed. But, at any rate, it is out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. This is where their complaint came from—their own depraved heart. It shows itself in facial expressions, tones of voice, body language. Does our heart show itself in such outward manifestations that we are not pleased with God’s Providence, but rather murmuring and complaining against God’s graciousness and lovingkindness which above our ways and thoughts?
When our children were smaller I used to sing “Rise and Shine Again” to the tune of “On the Road Again”, their facial expressions and body language sometimes didn’t show they ready to rise and shine! When we lose focus, it is because we lose heart, it starts with the heart. Therefore, as Proverbs counsels us, keep our heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life. Mere outward forms, formulas, and fashions won’t do. It is likened unto whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones. It is what Jesus said to the religious leaders, ‘You honor me with your lips, but your heart is far from Me.’
In reading Numbers 11:1-9, the murmuring (which, for you English enthusiasts, is a synonym for whining—don’t get me wrong, I fully understand this more than I wish that I did, but the bottom line is…no whining), came from the heart, and then was rendered vocalized and spread like wildfire; they murmured among themselves now, the leaven began to leaven the whole lump, the whole congregation, and the whole multitude commenced to murmuring, complaining, and whining, if you will, like a pack of dogs. The plague of the pity party paralysis was setting in and breaking out and progress was petrified. Just like the grateful saint cannot hold back his thanksgivings unto God, the murmuring mongrel can’t hold back his complaining.
In Numbers 11:10-15, note that the murmuring and complaining, this root of bitterness, this cancer, begins to take its toll on Moses as well. Have you ever complained about someone’s complaining so much that you sin, and complain about the vocation God has called you to be providentially around this complainer? We will deal more with Moses’ complaining later. However, you can be sure that it is a telltale sign that we are out of focus and we are not glorifying God or enjoying Him (doesn’t mean we won’t have sorrow, but it does mean we can overcome overmuch sorrow and it does mean we can be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing in our God).
They looked back and remembered the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the onions, the leeks, and the garlic, but forgot the bondage, the taskmasters, the heat, and the affliction. Looking back when you should be looking forward is dangerous. There’s a commercial where a news reporter is look sideways at the camera and not forward and runs into a sign, there was a boy driving down a highway when I was pastoring in Mississippi who looking down at his food and slammed head-on into a tree and wound up in the hospital. We, probably all know about Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird, and that big Bulldog. Sylvester would be running away from that big dog looking back, not knowing that the dog doubled back and had a trash can lid waiting for Sylvester’s face. We lose our sense of direction, when we keep looking back. We act as if God has not given to us that gift of a sense of direction, the Word of God which is as a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path. We act as if we are lost.
The last thing we want to examine is: Where Do We Go From Here? The children of Israel were evidently at a loss as to the proper place or person to go to. They were non-examples for us to avoid. These were written for our learning and admonition that we might not repeat the same mistakes they did. The correct answer to the question, Why came we forth out of Egypt?, had apparently, escaped the minds of the Israelites in our text. They forgot that it isn’t all about them, but it is all about God. They misplaced their spectacles of faith, so to speak, and had, at best, blurry vision.
To start off with, if you find yourself out of focus, it is helpful to have God search you and try you, to see if there be a wicked or an evil heart of unbelief within you. It may be that you have never been born again of God’s Spirit, never been made a new creature in Christ. You may have lost focus because you have no focus. Your body may have crossed the Red Sea, but your heart is still in Egypt. Your lips may honor God, but your heart is far from Him. You are blind to spiritual matters, blinded by Satan, dead in trespasses and sins, and you need to cry out to God to save you from your iniquities through the cleansing sacrifice that Christ made on the cross for all those who would truly believe on Him to save them.
What you need to do to glorify God and enjoy Him forever is to see your sins as a stench in the nostrils of God, repent of your sins, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ that you may be saved form the power of sin, the penalty of sin, and in eternity, the presence of sin. This was the problem with many, if not most, of the children of Israel who entered not into the Promised Land because of unbelief—they did not believe God, (not that they did not believe in God, for the demons do that). They did not trust in the Lord, nor had they faith in Him. Their life was characterized by unbelief which showed itself by their constant complaining.
Notice what Jesus said in Luke 9:62, And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. This has more reference to preachers, but contains broad principle that could be appropriately applied to any who are stationed in God’s Kingdom whatever their vocations may be. Looking back makes one unfit to serve in the Kingdom of God and may be evidence that you’ve never been translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. Instead, there is as Hebrews 10:27 puts it, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. Or, from the warning given against looking back, it is evident that this man’s discipleship was not yet thorough, his separation form the world, not entire. It is not a case of going back, but of, looking back; and, as there is here a manifest reference to the case of Lot’s wife. The ploughman is obliged to look forward to his work, or he will never draw his furrows either straight enough, or of just depth.
Moses, on the other hand, is set forth as an example of what we ought to do, where we ought to go from here. What did he do differently? Why didn’t God reprove Moses for his complaining? If you will notice in Numbers 11:10-11, it states, Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased. And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Moses’ complained about sin in the camp; he wasn’t publicly at his tent’s door, and most importantly, he lodged his complaint to the LORD. He uttered his complaint to God alone, in a time of personal and private petition, not with others present to hear it. Why is that important? IF we complain outwardly we bring reproach upon God. Just think if Moses vocalized his complaints publicly every time the impulse struck him (and it probably did often)? His call as a leader of the people would be even more disrespected and his experience even more miserable, not to mention, the damage that would be done to the people’s souls. Too many of us feel the need to share our complaints, our woes, to someone on the phone, or in person, before, or even, without even bringing it to the Lord! This ought not to be so among the people of God. To say, “My wife, or my husband, does this or that” as we complain in public, but are never able to, In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you, 1Thessalonians 5:18, even privately. Something is wrong with that picture.
You may be asking yourself, “But, I thought it was sinful to complain”. That is a legitimate objection, but let’s look a little more deeply at this. If you read some of the Psalms we read of honorable utterances of complaints unto God, making petitions unto the God of all power and might and Who is rich in mercy; in other words, the complaints were not against God’s character or works, but rather, they were complaining of their pain, their difficulty, and imploring the Lord of mercies to relieve them and help them.
Note, furthermore, that Moses’ petition to God was immediate; he conferred not with flesh and blood, not even in himself, but unto God. Moses didn’t permit it to fester or smolder lest it break out and wreak havoc upon him and the rest of the camp.
We need to realize that the enemy seeks to distract us and set us up for disaster. As collegiate and Army wrestler, we were taught to set up our opponent for maximum performance and efficiency. It takes more energy and strength to simply overpower your opponent, than to use his momentum and strength to help you accomplish the maneuver you are performing. Therefore, you set them up with a push to the shoulder and then use their resistance to complete your move. In war, the distractions become deadly; in spiritual warfare, the distractions are devastating for the devastation is eternal damnation to the lost, and eternal loss for the saved. It certainly doesn’t make for one to glorify or enjoy God.
So, what must we do to refocus, to regain our purpose, our chief end of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever? We first need to cultivate the habit of continual communion with our Lord, acknowledging Him in all our ways and being assured that He shall direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
What is one of the reasons why we pray? We do so because we know the God with Whom we have to do. The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits (Daniel 11:32). Be still and know that I am God, I shall be exalted above the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psalms 46:10). We remember how great our God is, His great love wherewith He loves us as was exhibited at Calvary, His great mercies which are new every morning, His great power in which there is nothing impossible!
Ponder what Moses did in Numbers 11:23-24, And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not. And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. What is so significant here? Moses simply took God at His Word, he didn’t need an entertaining song, a dramatic movie or theatrical production, or any of the multitude of other things that so many of us seem to think that we “need” to get us back on course. Do we complain because all we get is that manna every time the church door opens, or do we want something more that has a more Egyptian flavor to it? Let us not forget that the saints of old amidst the fires of persecution thought God’s Word of more value than gold, even fine gold, moreover, of greater worth than their necessary food, and that sustained them through the fiery trials, not the fancies of their day. The power of God’s Eternal Word has not changed, but I’m afraid many of God’s people have changed to their own detriment, and we wonder, “Where is the joy?”
We ought not only to remember Who our God is, but what He does. We remember and proclaim His wonderful works as they did in Acts 2—first and foremost, we recall the miraculous and wonderful deliverance wrought for us when we were delivered out of the darkness and bondage of Egypt. We recall that we have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of Light, the Kingdom of God’s dear Son! If God spared not His only begotten Son, shall He not freely give us all things?
We recall our Lord’s wonderful provision for us thus far, and the promise of an everlasting provision in heaven forever! God brought us out that He might bring us in to the Land of Promise, not to destroy us, if we are His children. (Deuteronomy 6:23; 11:9-24; Hebrews 11:13-16).
To regain our purpose and direction we must consult in and abide in the Word of God. Where there is no vision, the people perish, they languish, wallow, stagnate, are hindered, wither up and die. After all, we know about God from His Word. The vision here speaks of God’s Word—if we are not ever meditating upon, contemplating, and pondering the Word of Life, the Bible, not chewing with delight as we taste and see that the Lord is good, He is the Bread of Life, we will be wretched complainers, miserable, angry, bitter, and then dead. What a defeated way to end life on this earth. God has a much better way for us to follow that ends with thanksgiving, joy, peace, and victory, to leave a legacy to encourage future generations, and to bring glory to God after we are dead and gone.
We cannot be reminded of Who God is, of what He does, unless we confide in the Holy Scriptures, for in them we find eternal life, the life which we are to now live, which is by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved us, and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
Earlier, I only quoted part of the verse, Where there is no vision, the people perish, now, look at the rest, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. If you study and search the Scriptures, and keep the precepts therein, you will have the joy of the Lord which shall be your strength. How precisely shall we observe God’s statutes? It says in Deuteronomy 5:32 Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Also, it can only done in the power of God’s might, for then, we will be successful in God’s eyes, as intimated in Joshua 1:7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
Our eyes must be on the Captain of our salvation, Who is the blessed Hope, the Living Word, not the bare letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law, so says, Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; and Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. If we look to ourselves and others we will surely be disappointed and embittered, so let us follow God’s counsel in to be diligent in this endeavor by His grace as it admonishes us in Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Let the return of our dear Saviour comfort and encourage our hearts being mindful of the Apostle Peter’s epistle in 2Peter 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? May we surround ourselves and guard ourselves in the love of God as our brother Jude says in Jude 1:21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Have you been distracted, complaining too much, lost focus? Do you remember, Peter in Matthew 14:24-33 and the companion passage in Mark 4:38-41? Peter started out bold as a lion walking on those treacherous waves, but as soon as he was distracted by the troublesome and boisterous winds and waves, he turned into a kitty cat. We are all prone to do so. But, what did he do? Did he complain to himself, complain to his fellow disciples? No, he looked unto Jesus and cried out to Him because he know that Jesus was full of mercy and compassion and love for him. Yes, this Christ Whom the winds and waves obey, calls you to obey Him, to repent of your sins, and believe on Him, else you shipwreck your lives with sin and end up in everlasting perdition and damnation. As the hymn says, Have faith in God, He’s on His throne, Have faith in God, He watcheth o’er His own; He cannot fail, He must prevail; Have faith in God, have faith in God.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that it wasn’t until after Peter went through the storm that the Lord Jesus commanded the winds and waves to cease. It keeps us from forgetting Who we need to turn to, it aids in building our character, and helps us to be touched with the feeling of the infirmities of others that we may comfort them by pointing them to the God of all comfort who comforted us in our time of trial.
Nonetheless, Peter, like ourselves, lost focus again. John 21 records for us this occasion whereby our Lord Jesus reminds Peter of his calling back in Luke 5. Though, a strong willed person by nature, Peter lost sight of his calling, his purpose. After pride deluded him to trust in himself, he denied the Lord three times. Peter decided he would go back to fishing because he was so disgusted and discouraged with himself that all he could see was how weak and pitiful he was. He was so focused on self (and we need to see our failures as they are, but Satan desires to run us into the ground). Peter was having a pity party—strong, bold Peter! He was distracted away from Christ, but the Stranger on the shore came through for him once again. Jesus reminded Peter that He had called him to be a fisher of men, and an Apostle to feed God’s sheep. Once again, the Living Word bolstered Peter up and he was used of God to preach where three thousand souls were saved in one day! If the Apostle Peter had these struggles, is it really surprising that we have them as well from time to time? If our Saviour Jesus Christ brought Peter out of his out-of-focus hole that he crawled into, can He not do the same for us?
Barnabas, the son of consolation, encouraged the church at Antioch and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord (Acts 11:19-24). Let us follow his Holy Spirit inspired counsel to cleave unto the Lord with purpose of heart, not faint-heartedly, or half-heartedly, not cleave to some magic formulas that some self-proclaimed spiritual guru touts as the snake oil to solve all our problems. It is obvious that the church took God’s counsel and the church grew. This was not some evangelistic campaign, but Barnabas kept Christ lifted up and so people were drawn unto Christ, not Barnabas, their focus was on Christ, not in a man.
From minute to minute, people pass on into eternity. If you never come out of Egypt and unto Christ what you glory in now shall be your everlasting shame and contempt. Why will you and would you want to go to such a place called hell? The obituaries are a constant reminder that people are constantly going either to the place of ultimate bondage in the prison house of hell or to the place of absolute freedom in the paradise of God.
May God grant you repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ that you may know the joy of having Christ as your Saviour, have a noble purpose in this life, and in life eternal where eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who are called according to His purpose.
My beloved brothers and sisters, may we not lose sight of the privileged position we have in Christ as heirs of God, heirs of eternal life, and our privileged purpose we have in Jesus to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever! O Father of mercies, forgive us our sins, thank you for sending your only begotten Son into the world so that we may have eternal life, and let us never forget our calling out of Egypt, and our calling into eternal life, and unto eternal and loving service unto you our King. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.