After witnessing God’s power in the Exodus, and entering a covenant with God at Mt. Sinai, the children of Israel sent spies into the land of promise. When the spies reported their findings, “All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in the wilderness!’... So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt’” (Num 14:1–4, NASB). This was not the first time the Israelites had suggested such drastic measures, but this was certainly the most unreasonable time for them to do so. The Lord responded, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?” (Num 14:11). After all that they had seen God do, why would they ever desire to go back? Consider with me what it would have meant if Israel had returned to Egypt.
First, returning to Egypt would have meant rejecting God’s leadership. Without the leadership of God, Israel would never have left Egyptian bondage. After receiving the law at Mt. Sinai these same people willingly affirmed, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” (Exo 24:7). Yet, they were in such a hurry to reject God’s leadership that they said, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt” (Num 14:4). They had a leader. God was their leader. They just didn’t like where He was leading them.
Second, returning to Egypt would have meant rejecting God’s promise. When the Israelites said, “Let us... return to Egypt,” they were essentially saying, “We don’t care what God promised us, we don’t believe He can give it to us.” As a result of this lack of faith God declared, “Surely all the men who have... not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers” (Num 14:22–23). They heard the promise of God and saw His power to fulfill it, but they willingly rejected any hope of receiving that promise.
Finally, returning to Egypt would have meant rejecting freedom. In the book of Exodus the Israelites were nothing more than slaves in Egypt. Their experience in Egypt was so horrible that the Bible consistently refers to “Egypt” as a picture of oppression, slavery, and captivity. Now, consider the implications of the Israelites saying, “Let us... return to Egypt.” By suggesting they return to Egypt, the Israelites were saying that they considered it better to give up their God-given freedom than to follow Jehovah into battle.
Consider briefly how we might apply these thoughts to our own lives. Whereas Israel was once God’s people, He now looks upon the church as His people. Christians, like Israel, are “no longer... slaves to sin” (Rom 6:6). Yet, how often do we see Christians fall away when things get hard? How easy it is for us to say, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt!” We are no different than Israel. Returning to sin means rejecting God’s leadership. Returning to sin means rejecting God’s promise. Returning to sin means rejecting our God-given freedom. May we never desire to “return to Egypt.”
There are two recorded instances in which our Lord speaks concerning the covenant of marriage: Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:1-12 (cf. Mark 10:1-12). These passages have been heavily debated in discussions surrounding marriage, divorce, and re-marriage issues. Although our Lord spoke of divorce and re-marriage on both of these occasions, I would like to consider with you briefly what the Messiah taught concerning marriage in these texts.
Marriage Is From God
In speaking about marriage Jesus appealed to the Creator—“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-6, NASB). Christ’s teaching about marriage (as well as divorce and re-marriage for that matter) is based on the teaching of the one who created the marriage relationship in the first place: God (cf. Genesis 2:27; 3:24)!
Jesus understood that marriage was created by God in the beginning. As a result, God defines marriage and determines when it is lawful. Let me be frank: government and society have no ability to alter marriage. Only the Creator of marriage can make it anything different than He established it to be. We too must recognize that marriage is from God.
Marriage Is Between One Man & One Woman
When questioned about divorce being allowed by Moses, Jesus responded, “Because of your hardness of heart [Moses] wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH” (Mark 10:5-8). Jesus went on to address the matter of divorce, but in these words Jesus reveals His understanding of the participants in marriage: one man and one woman.
This is, as we saw in the previous point, the way God created marriage. Jesus Christ, the very one who died on a cross for the salvation of many, understood marriage to be between one man and one woman. Therefore, in the mind of our Lord and Master, two men or two women cannot enter a marriage relationship. Any such relationship cannot properly be called marriage, because it is not the way the creator intended it to be.
Marriage Is Permanent
The Son of God quoted Scripture—“FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH”—and then commented on that Scripture saying, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate” (Matthew 19:5-6). Here as Jesus is answering questions about divorce, his answer is simply this: don’t separate what God has joined.
Those who claim to be Christians (and sometimes those who are Christians) are quick to jump to verse nine—“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”—in order to point out that Jesus offered grounds on which divorce can rightfully take place. If you jump to Matthew 19:9 to prove that divorce is allowed, and ignore everything else Jesus said in Matthew 19:1-8, you’ve missed the point! Jesus is not giving us a way out, but he’s describing the permanence of this relationship. Yes, there is an exception clause, but that’s not the point. Perhaps if we talked more about the permanence of marriage, we would run into fewer issues with divorce and re-marriage.
During one of His many encounters with the Jewish leaders, Jesus taught us a great deal about the marriage relationship. Many scholars and Bible students have spent years studying the intricacies of our Lord’s words, but even a cursory examination teaches us much. Jesus taught that marriage was created by God and therefore God alone dictates its boundaries. Jesus taught that the marriage relationship can only involve one man and one woman. Jesus taught that marriage is a permanent relationship. These simple principles show us what marriage is.
We need to teach the next generation to respect the marriage relationship. It starts with us exemplifying proper marriages in our own lives. Brethren, glorify God in your marriages!
It is common when exchanging pleasantries to ask someone what they have been up to. Most often the response is something like, “Nothing too much, what about you?” When making light conversation, it is not incredibly consequential that we explain every aspect of how we have used out time recently. One day, however, we will stand before the Lord and answer for how we used every second of our lives. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul memorably wrote, “Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). So, let me ask you, what did you do today?
Did you serve others today? Did you check on someone who needed encouragement? Did you teach someone the gospel?
Did you serve the Lord today? Did you glorify Him by the way you lived? Did you thank and praise Him for His love?
Or, did you serve yourself today? Did you indulge your own desires, to the neglect of the needs of others? Did you study to pass your test, to the neglect of studying God’s Word?
You don’t have to tell me everything you did today, but one day you will answer to God—“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10). So, perhaps the better question isn’t, “What did you do today?” but “What will you do tomorrow?”