“"Let Us Appoint A Leader And Return To Egypt" (Numbers 14:4)”

Categories: The Preacher's Blog

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.”

~Andrew Dow