There Is No Turning Back
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
There is a point of no turning back. Once you've crossed that line and the decision is made, you stand in the land of freedom. Or fear. Or maybe it is both. It is the tension that Neo faced after he took the red pill in The Matrix. It is that moment of "things are about to get real" and Lucky Day draws a line in the sand and declares, “Who’s with me?” And it is certainly the point when Moses holds up his staff before the Red Sea and watches close to two million of his own walk out from a life of slavery to see what is Promised in the land in the land ahead.
It is no understatement to say that Egypt is the land of plenty, thanks to the Nile River. The Nile is everything. From the Nile flows all life in Egypt. It was a famine in Canaan that brought the tribe of Jacob to Egypt in the first place. If you were to fly over over Egypt today, there is a strip of green and fertile beauty that flanks the Nile River on either side. Once you get past the 30 miles of life outside of that range, all you see is utter desolation and nothingness.
I got a sense of this when I was in Egypt. With one foot I stood in the land of plenty while with the other foot I was touching wilderness extending hundreds of miles in front of me.
Corrie Ten Boom said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." For the Israelites, this was the God that just performed powerful miracles against their foes in Egypt. But what would this God look like in the space ahead? For the Israelites, to trust an invisible God saying, "Leave behind the "comforts" of slavery and all of your provision and enter nothingness. Enter wilderness."
The onlookers must have thought they had spent one too many days laying bricks in the hot Egyptian sun.
Isn't it funny how we will stay attached to things that aren't doing us any good? It is the mystery of the victim staying with their abuser or the addict returning to their drug. Somehow slavery felt safe and known. What would happen if we were to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar? The Scottish saying, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know," feels like a safe bet. We like safe bets. I like safe bets. But for the generation leaving Egypt, and I would assume for us as well, God is calling people out of comfort and into a relationship of trust. The next forty years tells the story of this leaving Egypt, the temptation to look back on the life that was. Was this God of promise and promised lands good? Would he actually fulfill? What if slavery was better? We fear the unknown with no guarantees. We like predictable.
Why look back? Looking back can stir feelings of nostalgia, simpler times, and the good old days. But not always. Sometimes looking back is hard. Sometimes looking back brings consequence. In the journey through the wilderness there are several occasions when the Israelites looked back and longed for Egypt. Now understand this for a second. Egypt. Not the beautiful touristy land with the pyramids, camels and Nile water taxis. The Egypt that the Israelites had known was one of slavery.
There is something about our slavery, the very comfort of knowing what to expect even though it is killing us, that becomes comforting. The thought of being free from it, of actually tasting freedom, feels too big. What would I do without these chains?
One of my top five favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. If you haven't seen it, stop reading right now and go watch it, especially because I am about to spoil the ending. Brooks 'Brooksy' Hatlen was an inmate at Shawshank State Prison from 1905 to 1955. Although his crime is never revealed, murder may be presumed although he refers to himself as 'an old crook', which may refer to a serious crime due to his lengthy prison sentence. After 50 years in prison, this is how his story ends.
You may call it a prison, but I call it home. What is the prison you need freedom from and will you trust your freedom in the hands of a God who loves you? God set free the Israelites from the prison of Egypt and there was no turning back. Would the road of freedom ahead be filled with hardship and obstacles? Absolutely. Would God be with them on the road ahead? Absolutely. Is God with us? Absolutely.