The Israelites’ description of their “good ol’ days” in Egypt made me laugh out loud. “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted” (Exodus 16:3). They said this on their arrival in the Desert of Sin. Hmm. I can hear it now, “Moses, I’m tired. It’s hot out here. I’m hungry. Are we there yet?” Memories of Egypt flooded their minds, but what they remembered was not the way it was.
First of all, they were slaves in Egypt. Slaves don’t sit around, they work. Hard. All day, every day, until they fall into bed exhausted. Then they get up the next day and do it all over again. Secondly, they didn’t get pots of meat. Most likely they ate whatever leftovers they could find – stale bread, spoiled fruit and vegetables, and bits of cheap meat. Thirdly, they didn’t get all they wanted. They labored in the hot, Egyptian sun and probably went to bed every night with sore muscles and growling bellies.
Do you ever catch yourself longing for days gone by that weren’t that great? Maybe you remember partying with your friends. Have you forgotten the hangovers, waking up in your own vomit, the fear of getting caught, of overdosing, the expense, the stench, the empty feeling in the depths of your soul? And about your friends. Were they around when you really needed them? It wasn’t that great in Egypt was it?
Or maybe you didn’t party – you just did your own thing apart from Christ. You went to work, accumulated stuff, hung out with friends, went to the gym, attended school. But you felt empty until God set you free from sin and set you on a course for heaven.
Throughout the Bible Egypt is symbolic of sin and the Promised Land represents our home in heaven. When the Israelites complained to Moses about how much better it was in Egypt, it was really a slam on God’s ability to take care of them. And we do the same thing.
The trouble is we don’t get from Egypt to the Promised Land in one step. We have to do some traveling first, and there are obstacles along the way. When the Christian life seems harder than we expected, we begin to grumble. We complain about our circumstances and our leaders.
If I were God I think I would have told them, “Fine. Go back. See how many pots of meat you find when you get there.” Amazingly, He didn’t. Instead, He fed them manna from heaven, every day, for forty years. Crunchy bits of bread that tasted like honey and helped them go the distance.
Oh the mercy of our God.
So, if you’re tempted to go back to the good old days:
- when you were married
- when you were single
- when you had a job
- when you didn’t have to go to work
- when you went to such and such church
- when you got to sleep in on Sundays