“Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”Exodus 12:40-41 MKJV
The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for a long time. At the time of this incident, all those alive had been born there and knew nothing else. Spiritually, Egypt is a symbol of a person living in the world and in sin. When Israel first came to Egypt, everything seemed fine. Yet Pharaoh was somehow able to manipulate this nation into servanthood, and then slavery. Now, after hundreds of years, Israel knew nothing but being in bondage.
Their experience is identical to that of a person living in sin. At first things seem to go rather well. The world naturally offers exactly what seems to lead to happiness. Sadly, it leaves the soul empty and gradually man realizes that these things can’t satisfy and that he needs something new, something different. And then, when man tries to turn from sin, he finds himself unable to do so! He is in bondage, a slave of sin! The story of Israel clearly describes this situation.
The Bondage of Sin
“And they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. […] And the Egyptians made the sons of Israel serve with harshness. And they made their lives bitter with hard work in mortar and in bricks, and in all kinds of work in the field; all their work in which they made them do was with harshness” (Exodus 1:11-14). What a fitting description of a person in bondage to sin! Paul says it this way: “For that which I do, I know not. For what I desire, that I do not do; but what I hate, that I do. […] For I do not do the good that I desire; but the evil which I do not will, that I do” (Romans 7:15, 19).
So many people have struggled to free themselves of the yoke of sin and have failed miserably in all their efforts. I did! Every time I told myself, “I’ll never do this again; that was the last time,” I had to realize that I was powerless to succeed. I was doomed to failure. As much as I desired it, my own strength was insufficient to overcome or break the bondage of sin. “And the Egyptians made the sons of Israel serve with harshness. And they made their lives bitter …” (Exodus 1:13). Is this a description of your life?
Praise God, there is a way out! Even back then, God didn’t want His people to remain in bondage in Egypt. He saw their tears and the heavy burdens they carried. He heard their groaning and petitions … and opened a way to freedom for them!
What did it take to enable their freedom?
1. God had to do it. The Israelites could not free themselves, no matter how they struggled or desired it. They simply remained slaves under the yoke of their enemies. They had even resigned themselves to their fate. When Moses tried to explain to them that God had ordained him to free them, they couldn’t believe or even understand that, especially when their torment was increased after the first failed attempt! Likewise, many people have attempted to please God, but have repeatedly failed and finally given up. They have ceased to believe that it is possible for them. Maybe for others, but not for them!
2. But God had a plan! He opened a way out of slavery to freedom, a way that led to Him! He sent the 10 plagues. He did wonders. He proved His omnipotence and showed that defeating the whole might of the Egyptian army was child’s play to Him! Before the foundation of the world, God had a plan in place to free man from the power of Satan and sin. He made a way, yes, He became the way!
3. An innocent blood offering had to be sacrificed. As we have already seen, a lamb had to shed its blood and die. In Israel’s day it was the Paschal Lamb and the bloodstained doorway, a fitting symbol of the true Lamb of God that would come. Angels heralded His coming to earth, and John introduced Him to the world with the words: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) Jesus, the pure, holy God and Man went onto the cross and shed His blood for the atonement of the whole world. Yet, sadly, so few will accept Him as their Savior and Redeemer.
4. The Israelites had to be willing to leave Egypt and begin a long pilgrimage through the desert in order to reach the promised land. That may seem so obvious, yet for many people it is such a difficult decision to make. They are loath to give up Egypt, the world, and sin. They want the benefits of salvation, but to give up the joys of the world? No, that is more than they’re willing to sacrifice. Is that your view also? Then let me tell you, you will never escape the bondage of sin. And thus, you will never reach the eternal Canaan, heaven! You need to flee Egypt!
5. In order to be freed, Israel had to heed the voice and commands of God relayed to them by His messengers. We see an initial unwillingness of Israel to accept them. “Who is this Moses, that we should obey him? Moses, who set you over us? Will you kill us also, as you murdered that Egyptian?” But when they had a genuine desire that God would free them of their bondage, when it became obvious that God was with Moses and Aaron, then they submitted to their every directive. It will not be any different today. As long as people disdain a messenger of God who comes with an uncompromising message of repentance and a call to holiness, they cannot be freed of the bondage of sin.
6. What led to the freeing of Israel? They had to give up their old life and begin a totally new one as a holy nation of God. Note that God first led them into His presence, to the Mount of God, where He wanted to enter into a covenant with them. How difficult it is for many people to give up their old life! “What will this cost me? The journey leads into the desert! I’ll lose all my friends there! I’ll have to give up my comfortable life and everything that brings me joy,” etc. God’s Word tells us: “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
7. To reach freedom, Israel had to go through the Red Sea, which can be seen as a beautiful symbol of Jesus’ blood and sacrifice. God made a way where there wasn’t one, and definitively freed Israel from the Egyptians. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever’” (Exodus 14:13). Not only does the Lord cleanse our heart of all sin, He also breaks the power of sin in our lives. Just as the sea annihilated Israel’s enemies, by God’s salvation our sins are purged and those “Egyptians” no longer have power over us. Praise God! This is a symbol of a new creation in Christ, a life of victory by the blood of Jesus!
Have you been redeemed from the bondage of sin into the glorious freedom in Christ? Or are you still pining for Egypt, being held captive by a few favorite sinful behaviors that keep you in bondage? Flee through Christ, the Gate, onto the narrow Way of Life! It is a holy and glorious path, which you too may achieve by the blood, the sacrifice, and the resurrection of Jesus. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).