In the story of the Israelite exodus, we see the mentality of the children of Israel as they approach the land that God has promised to give them. Wisely, they sent 12 spies into the land (at the Lord’s command) to scout out the Promised Land. They carried back one cluster of grapes, and that sounds like very little until you realize that that one cluster of grapes had to be carried by two men hanging between them on a pole. They also brought back pomegranates and figs. They all saw the land was beautiful and fertile. They all saw the people of that land, but here is the part where it becomes different. Two of the men, Joshua and Caleb, saw the people of that land and believed that God had called them to possess the land. Therefore, in turn, they also believed, the men’s size didn’t matter, God would conquer them.
The other 10 also saw the men of Canaan, and they had a different reaction: fear. When they gave their report to the people, they made sure and instilled fear into the people. They made sure to tell Moses “they are stronger than we are”. They spread rumors of giants. The people had the audacity to complain against Moses, and as you know, this wasn’t the first time that had happened. They said, “If only we had died in Egypt at the hands of the Pharoah”, and then they said one of the most ridiculous things ever: “Let’s go back to Egypt. Let’s appoint a new leader, and go back to Egypt”.
You can take the slave out of Egypt, but somewhere inside that unbelieving brain of his, there is still a slave that fears the unknown. Slave mentality is about living and making choices out of the spirit of fear. Slave mentality looks at faith and scoffs at it because all it can see are the physical barriers to the issue at hand. Slave mentality forgets that God has performed more supernatural miracles than you and I could ever count. Slave mentality disobeys God’s word because they fear man more than they fear God. “So You Want To Go Back to Egypt?” was a song written by the Christian songwriter Keith Green almost 40 years ago. It has a real 70’s type groove to it, but the comedy in it is pretty funny. Sadly, most of what Keith sings about in the song is completely true. The people wanted to go back to Egypt, back to slavery, back to the desert of Egypt when the land flowing with milk and honey was right in front of them.
So the question I pose, “Is how do we overcome our fears? How do we believe in God when the louder noise in our ears is a very present obstacle? We know that faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen. Yet even God sometimes shows up and does miracles. Christ asked the Pharisees to at least believe in him through the works or miracles he was doing, but they were unwilling to.
The first misunderstanding about faith is – is that it’s not something we can’t believe in, it’s something we won’t believe. In other words, Unbelief in God is rebellion against him. The first step in overcoming our fears is realizing that there is something in all of us (a sinful nature) that chooses to doubt God, to doubt His word, and to worry. Perhaps worry is more comfortable than believing in someone.
Israel’s slavery mentality was rebellion. They would rather have their chains than to trust. We seem to think faith is easier than some other things in the Christian journey, but faith may very well be the hardest thing we can possibly do. To leave Egypt, not just with your feet, but with your heart is to embrace a trust in God that makes you very different than the culture around you. It puts a target on your back. It means you sometimes have to voice truths that are not believed in by the majority of the people. Faith often means you stand with the few who are often misunderstood and labeled as those who would bring a nation to ruin even though the vision is to bring it to greatness.
The children of Israel never got the opportunity to go back to Egypt. They did, however, roam the Sinai Desert for 40 years waiting to die off because they refused to believe the Lord would drive out their enemies from the land he promised to give them. Refusing to believe God, and holding on to our past, to our old pet fears, causes us to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over for many years until at last, we die. The choice is simple: we either choose to believe or choose to wonder life without a purpose until we die.
Brian Taylor is the full-time pastor at Forest Avenue Baptist Church. He began his ministry in the foreign mission field of Togo, West Africa, serving with the International Mission Board of the SBC. He spent almost a decade serving as a music and youth minister in the panhandle of Texas.