We’ve been trying to find a new church home since moving a couple of months ago. This journey has taken us to one of the Community Life campuses the past couple of weeks. I’m not sure whether we’ll land there for good yet, but we seem to have jumped in for part of their Detour series covering the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness just after God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Which, in all honesty, is right where I am. But that’s another story for another day. During worship today, I kept having Galatians 5:1 run through my head.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
The context of Galatians is Paul writing to the church at Galatia telling the gentiles, and any Jewish converts, that they don’t have to conform to the outward ceremonies of the Mosaic law. They don’t need to be circumcised if they weren’t already. They don’t need to give up foods they’ve eaten all their lives. But many of the Jews couldn’t handle this and they wanted to force the Law upon the Gentiles. They wanted to run back to Moses when Moses pointed to Jesus!
One of the movies I really love is First Knight, with Sean Connery as King Arthur and Richard Gere as Lancelot. I love it not only because I love movies about mythology, but because of one scene. King Arthur had set up a gauntlet as part of the entertainment for something or other. Over and over we see men dressed in padding get knocked off the gauntlet by various sharp blades. Then, after Queen Guinevere agrees to give a kiss to the man who defeats the gauntlet, Lancelot jumps up. No armor. No padding. No protection. He nails it. Arthur asks him how he managed to make it through when so many before him failed. His answer is daunting. Lancelot tells the king that the men who failed tried to go back when they should have gone forward. It was their hesitancy, their very fear of failure and of harm that caused them to fail. His answer is so intimidating because that’s exactly what so many of us try to do.
We look back at the Israelites and see them being lead by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night and wish that we saw God so visibly in our lives. Yet, the Israelites with a pillar of fire right in front of them wanted to run back to Egypt. They wanted to run back into slavery because they just couldn’t see past their current hardship toward what God really had for them. They wanted to run back to what they knew because even though they were outright being murdered at worst and severely mistreated at best, there was a level of comfort in knowing they would at least be fed and have water to drink. They wanted to trade the promised land for mild comforts.
We do the same thing in our lives. When hardship strikes, when we don’t feel God, we want to run back to when we did. We romanticize history and nostalgia gets the better of us and all of the sudden we’re saying things like “Yeah, I know I was struggling to survive in many ways back then, but I’d rather go back to that than work through this.” We want to run back to somewhere God doesn’t want us instead of running forward to Jesus and what he has next for us. We want to run back to that which held us down instead of working hard for the promises of Christ. We want to run back to slavery because so often we just don’t have the faith to run forward to freedom.
But God is merciful. Even though the Israelites were ready to let go of him, he did not let go of them.
He will not let go of us.