Exodus 14:12 (ESV) -- Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.
Imagine knowing nothing but slavery your entire life. Think about the demands your masters pressed upon you each day. Nothing about your life is up to you. You do what you’re told, when you’re told, and where you’re told. Then imagine that rescue comes. Your enslavement ends and a redeemer saves you from the oppression and pain you’ve lived under your entire life. In this scenario, do you think you’d find yourself missing your slavery? Can you even imagine wishing you were back in it?
This is exactly what we find with the Israelites shortly after God has rescued them from Egyptian slavery through Moses. They said, “Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
“Leave us alone.” This is the heart posture of the Israelites while enslaved. They didn’t long for freedom. They would rather have remained in what they knew. Sometimes people grow accustomed to their situations, even bad ones, to the point of preferring to remain in them than venture out into something unknown. They prefer the slavery they know over the freedom they don’t. The Israelites preferred to serve the Egyptians rather than have their own freedom.
How could they think like this? What led to this kind of mentality? They were in the wilderness. It looked bleak. It was hard. The comfort of slavery—as crazy as that sounds—tasted sweeter than the discomfort of freedom. They didn’t know this God, the LORD, who rescued them. They certainly didn’t trust Him. The passage says they assumed they were going to die in the wilderness. While they may not have known much about the God of their fathers at this time, they should have known enough by the signs and wonders shown in their rescue to believe He could provide for them in the wilderness. But they didn’t.
Their hardness of heart and slowness to believe looks like our own hearts. The challenge for us today is not to prefer comfortable sin over uncomfortable freedom. The worship of the LORD is where life and freedom reside. We should not look longingly back at days of slavery, as if we had it so much better. Remember the faithfulness of God today and thank Him for the freedom He has given us in Christ.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why do the Israelites respond this way to their freedom?
- What should this text teach us about the freedom Christ provides us?
- How should this passage inform us about human hearts (and our own)?
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