“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” – Exodus 16:3 (ESV)
The more I read the book of Exodus the more I realize how often I need to read it again. It’s much deeper than just the story of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land and the giving of the Mosaic law. Each time I read it I have to ask the question, “How could these people be so rebellious after witnessing what God did”? It’s that question that needs to be explored repeatedly because it’s a question we need to ask ourselves.
Several years ago, there was a Veggie Tales video called Josh and the Big Wall that illustrated this in a humorous way. It has Moses and then Joshua leading the people to the Promised Land, but once the reports of the spies came back one of the characters starts talking about how wonderful their lives were in Egypt, to which another character replies, “But we were SLAVES!“. Although meant to get a laugh from the viewer, that exchange speaks volumes.
The Israelites had a slave mentality. They’d been told that God promised Abraham and Jacob He would give the Israelites a land of their own, a rich and prosperous land. But after 400 years of being ground under the heel of Pharaoh in slavery and hard labor, they wondered whether God had forgotten about them. When God through Moses finally delivered them they thought their troubles were over. But when problems arose, they were ready to go back to Egypt. The people always seemed to remember having lots of food to eat but conveniently forgot their slavery. They whined and complained when the situation became difficult, and eventually rebelled against entering the land because of their fear of the inhabitants. As a result, the nation was sentenced to wander in the wilderness forty more years until that generation died off.
It’s easy to criticize the nation of Israel for their lack of faith and their rebellious attitudes. We think, “I would have never acted like that”. But if we are brutally honest with ourselves we know better. Because many of us also suffer from a slave mentality. We’ve been ground down by life for so long we lose hope of things ever getting better. When we find our way to Jesus Christ we expect our lives to be worry and pain-free. Since real life doesn’t work that way we begin to complain and grumble when things don’t go the way we want. If things get bad enough we may give up our faith altogether.
The slave mentality focuses on circumstances. All it sees is the current situation and the lack of hope that anything will ever get better. The Israelites ran into trouble when they took their eyes off God who miraculously delivered them from bondage and focused on the problem at hand. When you’ve spent your whole life wondering about your next meal or whether you will survive the day, it’s tough not to default to the slave mindset when things look bad. Slaves don’t expect anything good because that way they’re never disappointed.
The solution to the slave mindset is to focus on the liberator. As they traveled, God continually showed the Israelites He was able to overcome their circumstances and meet their needs. He gave them food when they were hungry and water when they were thirsty. God kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out during their journey. He promised if they would follow his law when arriving in the land they wouldn’t suffer from disease and the land would be fruitful. God was telling them, “Trust me: I’ll take care of you”. But after years of wondering whether God cared about them or even remembered them, it was difficult to have that trust. They couldn’t trust Him because they didn’t know him.
No matter who you are or where you find yourself, if your circumstances dictate your hope then you have a slave mentality. It’s one of Satan’s tools to take your mind off of God. If so, you need to dig deep into both the Old and New Testaments and get to know God. He wants to care for you and has provided his son Jesus as the means of delivering us from slavery to sin and providing hope. But if you still struggle with losing hope when life gets rough and dark, go back and dig deeper. Start here:
“In this world you will have many tribulations. But take heart: I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 4:19
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Stop thinking like a slave. Come meet the One who will deliver you to freedom, and let’s journey to the Promised Land together.