The Israelite exodus from Egypt was a historical, monumental act by God to redeem the people whom He would set apart for His own ultimate purpose, the establishment of a lineage for the Messiah. The promise for this began in Genesis 3:15, but continued with the covenant to Abraham, then his son Isaac and eventually his son Jacob (see Romans 9:6-13 for additional context). Beginning in Genesis 46, the family of Jacob relocated to Egypt to survive the widespread famine that had stricken the region. While there, the people begin to enlarge so much that the Egyptians began to worry about their numbers, resulting in enslavement of the people as a form of control (Exodus 1:10).
Throughout the Old Testament God was constantly reminding His people of His gracious redemption from their bondage to Egypt. This occurred not only during their 40+ year exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, but was used as a reminder by the prophets of God’s care and mercy towards His people. They were to look upon this merciful act with eyes of worship, recognizing that Yahweh had condescended Himself to redeem for Himself a people. This great act was not to be forgotten in a generation but passed along to future generations.
Conversely, the people were constantly remembering Egypt, but not for the right reason. Their hearts were set on the idolatry and delight in the pleasures of the flesh that they enjoyed while in their captivity. Observe Numbers 11:4-6 “4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
We can see in this example during the Wilderness Years that not only were the Israelites grumbling about the provision of manna from the hand of God, but they were longing for the pleasures of Egypt even if it meant their enslavement. Think about this. They failed to remember their slavery, forced to work for little to nothing, forced to make bricks without straw, forced to labor for an idolatrous leader for idolatrous purposes; all forgotten as their focused turned to what they enjoyed during that time. What God had provided them was unsatisfying because they failed to appreciate their redemption and worship God for providing their daily bread. Instead their insatiable appetite lusted for the pleasures of Egypt. How true is that for us today as believers? Though we have been redeemed by Yahweh from the enslavement and bondage to sin, we often find ourselves complaining about the provisions of God and longing for the days when our fleshly desires were fulfilled. All too familiar is this idea conveyed in the Israelites of our own bondage and slavery. We forget all about the lack of reverence toward God, our failure to delight fully in Him and love Him with all our hearts, mind, soul, and strength. We forget about the guilt and shame that our sin brought on us or the pain that we caused others because of our enslavement to sin. Worst of all, we forget that our sin was an affront to the holiness of God. Instead, we remember the fleeting pleasures of the flesh. The momentary satisfaction that sin brought us.
Ezekiel 23 provides a helpful comparison and contrast of remembering Egypt for the wrong reasons and includes the account of how God feels about this. Please take time to read that in its context, as it is quite provocative. While the force of God’s disdain towards those who would remember the lusts of Egypt cannot be fully expressed apart from the entire chapter in context, we can get a sense of it in verse 27 “Thus I will put an end to your lewdness and your whoring begun in the land of Egypt, so that you shall not lift up your eyes to them or remember Egypt anymore.” God’s desire for the Israelites was to remember His gracious goodness in their redemption and His providential leanings towards them throughout their Exodus. However, as they looked in their rearview mirror at Egypt, they overlooked this and failed to give God the worship due His name. In actuality, they perverted the goodness of God by embracing the lusts of their flesh experienced during their time in Egypt.
Too often, we look back on sin, our own person Egypt, with delight in our eyes. Perhaps it is a memory that we allow to linger or a thought that we fail to take captive, but sin has a surprising way of appearing crystal clear in our rearview mirror. Would that our hearts would be moved to focus more on the gospel of Jesus Christ; that our memories would be set upon the redemption that is only found in Him; that the cross would be vivid in our rearview and the glories of heaven a desire for our destination. Set your minds on things above and not on things below. Remember your redemption from Egypt and give no thought to her pleasures. Her allurements are unsatisfying and she wishes nothing more for you than re-enslavement. But you, believer, have been bought with a price; ransomed from Egypt by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.