The question I have is about the treatment of the Israelites in the wilderness and how it applies to the Christian walk. It seems that God did not equip the Israelites sifficiently for battle compared to the major cities they were up against. He also gave them the same food everyday. A reasonable person (such as myself perhaps) would want to go back to Egypt where there was also meat and a ready supply of water. Yet the outcome is that the Israelites were severely punished for not having enough faith and for pointing out the obvious deficiencies of their experience thus far. They died never seeing their land. I can try to apply this to a normal daily experience. Just to give a small example, say I have a Christian patient who is sick and I, as a Christian, know God has taken care of us up to this point. I follow reason, observation, and prescribe treatment and prescription. Seems harmless enough. Observation/rationale and science are useful tools in our life. But the lesson of the Israelite seems to be that these very reasonable observations they had brought them away from God. So my question is: is there room for God when we follow our rationale and observations? ( even if it is for good things such as proving God exists or prescribing treatments?)


To be honest with you, I do not think it is reasonable for Israel to want to go back to Egypt. That is the whole point of the story, which is a great analogy for the Christian life. Yes, it is true that they had food and water in Egypt, but they were slaves. Freedom and hardship is infinitely better than slavery with sufficient food and water. God is very angry with his people because they are being extremely foolish. They have completely forgotten what God had done for them. They were enslaved in Egypt. He saved them by his mighty hand by miracle upon miracle, yet they were so foolish and ungrateful that they actually wanted to go back to Egypt, where they were slaves.

This is so much like Christians who look back “to Egypt” (ie to their former life of sin). Jesus said that anyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8) and that the Jews were still slaves. Imagine if God saved us from our sins, gave us his Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins and a destiny in heaven, but we decided to return to the world because the Christian life is hard sometimes. How foolish!!! How ungrateful!!! How illogical and irrational!!! The world might want us to think that it is more “rational” to live the life of sin. They tell us that the Christian life is too hard and that we are missing out on all the fun. What foolishness to listen to this!!! It would be as foolish as the Israelites in the desert forgetting their blessings and wanting to return to slavery. Sure, it was hard in the desert, but who ever said that the Christian life was easy?


So, I strongly disagree with you that it was logical for the Israelites to want to go back to Egypt. Maybe according to the logic of the world it is better for us to return to slavery–to the pigpen of sin–but if we understand what God has done for us, this is insanity, and no wonder that God was extremely angry with his people for looking back. Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 is a good study of this topic. God says that he was not pleased with his people who doubted him in the desert. I agree with God on this one. Their bodies were scattered in the desert, not because God could not take care of his people, but because they foolishly took their eyes off of God. No wonder God will be angry with us if we refuse so great a salvation (paraphrasing Hebrews), reject the grace of God, trample on the blood of Jesus and insult the Holy Spirit (paraphrasing Hebrews 6 and 10).


As to the superiority of their enemies, God gave them more than enough to overcome their enemies. They had him!!! I will admit that “logic” may seem to support the Jews fearing their enemies. I do not agree that logic says going back to Egypt was better than freedom in the desert, but I suppose you could use logic and mathematics to say that they were not likely to defeat their enemies. However, with God on our side, no battle is too difficult. The problem is that it is not a matter of “logic” but of trusting in the all-powerful God who created the universe and is more than capable of taking care of his people. “Logically” we should stay home on Sunday and rest. “Logically” we should not give to the church, but should save for retirement. Logically, we should not help the needy, but should look out for number 1. “Logically” we should not share our faith, as we might look foolish, but these are all the logic of the world, and have nothing to do with Christian “logic” which is to trust that God is in control, no matter the appearances.


Sorry to be so disagreeable, but I am afraid I do not really agree with your medical treatment analogy. There is nothing wrong with seeking medical treatment if we are sick. If I have cancer and there exists a treatment which will cure cancer, what is the analogy between seeking medical help and Israel returning to slavery in Egypt or a Christian rejecting the grace of God? Seeking medical help does not negate faith in God. In fact, one could argue that God gave us the ability to cure diseases, so seeking medical treatment is one aspect of trusting God. It is not a sin to seek medical treatment, and it definitely does not prove that we do not trust in God. It is not sinful to use logic or reason in our lives. What is sinful is to not trust in God. It is reasonable and logical for me to save money “for a rainy day.” This does not mean that I do not trust God. What would be sinful would be to disobey God’s commandment that we be generous and give to the needy because of worldly logic about money. I am not saying that these questions are never difficult, but I do not see an inherent contradiction between using logic, reason, science and common sense while, at the same time being a faithful child of God.

John Oakes


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