The Fleshpots of Egypt

Exodus

The Fleshpots of Egypt

March 24th, 1946 @ 7:30 PM

Exodus 16

And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us? And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD. And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan. Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.
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THE FLESH POTS OF EGYPT

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Exodus 16

3-24-46    7:30 p.m.

 

And the children of Israel said, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. 

[Exodus 16:3]

 

And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic:

But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.

[Numbers 11: 4-6]

 

"Would to God we had died in the land of Egypt, in the good old days when we sat by the flesh pots and ate to the full."  So murmured some.  "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic," lamented others.  "There is nothing to eat in this interminable desert, nothing but this manna," so cried still others.  "Our souls are dried up with this life.  Oh, that we were back in Egypt!" so concluded the rest.  Are these the same people who groaned in Egyptian bondage?  Who cried unto the Lord for deliverance from the land of the taskmaster?  Yes, they are the same.  They are weary of their pilgrimage to the Promised Land and wish they were back again in the bondage and slavery of Egypt.  What a people!  Yes, what a people!  Just like us!

When the Israelites forsook Egypt, they turned their faces toward Canaan with high hopes and fond dreams.  They were free now, free as the birds that fly through the air.  All chains were broken; their emancipation was complete; they were forever out of bondage.  Their deliverance at the Red Sea was final and complete.  They sang a song of exaltation over their enemies.  Dreams of ease and everlasting triumph filled their minds.  Every trouble would be miraculously smoothed away.  There would be no interval between the slavery of Egypt and the promised inheritance in the land of milk and honey.  A snap of the finger, and they were out of Egypt; "presto!" and they had arrived in the haven of Canaan!  Instead, they plunged into a wilderness of scorching heat and burning sand, a desolation where vacancy and thirst and hunger covered the horizon.  What a disillusionment!  Old things have passed away, but what are these things made new?  They are terrible things full of weariness and pain and endless travail, full of heartache and disappointment and complete exhaustion.

Their reaction was immediate and violent.  "Would to God we had died back there in Egypt; back where the flesh pots boiled, back where the garlic grew."  The astounding miracles of yesterday go for nothing.  Their past deliverances from the plagues, from the angel of death, are all forgotten.  God’s miraculous care for them through the Red Sea is but a faint, barely recalled memory.  They applauded at the time; the miracle sent a thrill through their souls, but now they are too busy finding fault with God and murmuring about the hardships of the journey to recall anything good.  There is a special meanness in their regret that they had ever followed the Lord – they would rather have died, satiated by the fleshpots in Egypt, than to have known Jehovah.  When it came to a choice between following the Lord God in the wilderness or eating to the full in Egyptian bondage, they followed the dictates of their appetites and chose the latter.  The way of the Lord may be good discipline for the saint, but it is not to be compared with the leeks and the onions and the garlic served on the tables of the Egyptians.

What do we think about all this?  We say, how could they forget so soon their heaven-pointed hopes, their efforts to be a free people, their prayers and their faith, and then drop into such base servility to the appetites of the flesh?  But look about you.  How many will follow through years and years the way of God in the wilderness?  How many will deny themselves the luxuries and vanities of life in order to serve God in the lonely, faraway places?  "The world is too much with us" and too much in us to leave it easily for the straight, narrow way of self-denial and service.  "But," one says, "if we had witnessed all these marvelous miracles, we would forego any worldly pleasure to be with God.  We would not have murmured as they did in the wilderness."  There is nothing permanent, however, in a miracle.  A wonder soon drops into a commonplace.  If our great-grandfathers could rise from the dead and live for a day in our modern world, they would be amazed beyond words at the miraculous things we have: the radio, the airplane, television, and a thousand other things.  But do our children, to whom they are commonplace, look upon them as being miraculous?  They are as ordinary as God’s other miracles: the rainbow, the stars, the sunsets, the flowers, the snow, and the rain.  We are not much inclined to be converted by miracles, nor are we of a nature to be kept converted by stupendous wonders.  The devoted, consecrated life is a deeper matter than just the thrill that comes in the presence of a stupendous sign.

The Lord God heard these bitter things which the children of Israel were saying, and in the goodness and kindness of His heart, He provided for His people.  He said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you" [Exodus 16:4].  Psalm 78:24 calls it "corn of heaven," and the following verse calls it "angels’ food."  Each day there was a fresh supply.  It came with the dew in the evening.  It was abundantly given, enough for all.  It was nourishing for child and adult.  It tasted like a wafer made with honey.  It could be cooked or baked in many ways.  It was calculated to sustain their energies for the journey, yet leave their appetites unstimulated, unpampered.  Somehow, in the providence of heaven, God expected His people to give themselves to purer joys than the gross sensualities they had known in Egypt.  Egypt’s food of leeks and garlic was not to nourish the new nature.  The soul cannot be fed on the vanity and worldliness of the old life.  There is to be a new food for the new life; it is to be manna from heaven.

Human judgment might have concluded that the people would be content with the wonderful gift from Jehovah, but the Lord God knows otherwise.  Man is ever the same, a moral failure.  The moment he moves, he breaks down; the minute he acts, he disobeys.  If God creates a beautiful garden, soon the disobedience of man has cursed it.  The moment Israel is delivered out of Egypt, they begin to worship a golden calf.  After the priesthood is set up, the sons of Aaron offer strange fire upon the altar.  Directly Saul is made king, he becomes willful and jealous.  After the church has received the Pentecostal gift, some of the members lie to the Holy Spirit.  So here in our present story.  The gracious God of heaven gives the people manna to eat, only to hear them long for the leeks and the onions of Egypt.  Their Egyptian tastes were not satisfied with heaven’s food.

It all started with "the mixed multitude" [Numbers 11:4].  When the children of Israel went out of Egypt, a "mixed multitude" [Exodus 12:38] went out also with them.  They had no real interest in Israel’s hope; they just attached themselves to a throng that seemed to be successful.  It was the popular thing to be with Israel in those latter days in the land of Goshen.  (Exodus 12:36: "And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians.") So long as everything went well, the mixed multitude did well: they caused no particular trouble.  But when the days of trial came, they "fell a lusting" [Numbers 11:4], and they carried with them the entire company of the children of Israel.

It was a good thing to get Israel out of Egypt, but how do you get Egypt out of Israel?  It is a good thing to get the church of our Savior out of the world, but how do you get the world out of the church?  It is ever Satan’s effort to link the people of God with the mixed multitude whose Egyptian appetites constantly pull the people toward worldliness and compromise.  Manna, even angels’ food, will never satisfy an unregenerate man.  "His soul is dried up" when he is offered the bread of heaven.  He likes the leaven of the world: nor does he cease his lusting until the church has forsaken its love for the spiritual gifts of heaven to go hankering and hungering for the leeks and the onions and the garlic of Egypt.

"And the children of Israel said, Would to God we had died … in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full" [Exodus 16:3].  The flesh breaks in upon the spirit, their appetites have been excited, and their hearts turn back to the old days of slavery.  Worldly memories bring back the sensual pleasures and bodily gratifications they once knew, and the heavenly appeal of God becomes a dreary, drab dryness compared to the excitement created by those memories.  The heart has turned back to live in Egypt.

There is no tragedy so poignant as when the Christian loses his interest in the heavenly pilgrimage and goes back into the ways of the world.  He thinks the manna of God is not sufficient.  His soul craves the things that once he knew in the paths of sin.  He longs to taste this indulgence, eat of that forbidden fruit, enjoy other delights of the body.  The Bible is neglected, the prayer life is lost, soul-winning is forsaken, the gospel loses its charm.  He grows weary of the way, his eye wanders back to the world, his heart follows his eye, and his feet follow his heart.  He is back again by the flesh pots, enjoying the leeks and the onions and the garlic.

But he has forgotten one thing.  That is the reason the apostasy of the child of God is so tragic.  He has forgotten that the land of Egypt is the land of bondage and of slavery.  He has lost his God-given freedom, he is a slave again and he is miserable unto death.  "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" [Romans 6:16]  The children of Israel remembered the flesh pots and the physical pleasures, but they have forgotten the lash of the taskmaster, the toil of the brick kiln, the cries of anguish that always go with slavery.

Oh, you who are enmeshed again in the tentacles of the world, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord …  and I will …  be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters" [2 Corinthians 6:18].

Shun evil companions,

Bad language disdain;

God’s name hold in rev’rence,

Nor take it in vain;

Be thoughtful and earnest,

Kind-hearted and true,

Look ever to Jesus,

He’ll carry you through.

To him that o’ercometh,

God giveth a crown;

Thro’ faith we will conquer,

Tho’ often cast down;

He who is our Savior,

Our strength will renew;

Look ever to Jesus,

He’ll carry you through.

Ask the Savior to help you,

Comfort, strengthen, and keep you;

He is willing to aid you,

He will carry you through.

["Yield not to Temptation," H. R. Palmer]