The Flesh-Pots of Egypt
February 1st, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
Bread, Complain, Desire, Dissatisfied, Flesh, Manna, Provision, Life of Moses: Exodus 1958 - 1959, 1959, Exodus
THE FLESH POTS OF EGYPT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-1-59 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Bread of Heaven. We are following, as in our own pilgrimage from this world and its wilderness to the Promised Land and its glory, we are following the children of Israel in their wilderness journey from their land of bondage and darkness to their Promised Land of life and freedom and happiness and gladness, beyond the Jordan on the other side of the wilderness.
And we have followed them from Marah [Exodus 15:23] to Elim [Exodus 15:27] to Rephidim [Exodus 17:1], and now in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, we follow them as they make their journey, their trek, through the wilderness. And these are the words that are written in the beginning of the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus:
And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came into 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…in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots—
what a noble aspiration—
Would to God we had died . . . in the land of Egypt, stuffed, satiated, filled to the full, for ye have brought us into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly…
Wouldn’t that lift up your soul? What nobility of dedication. What marvelous, incomparable aspiration. “Would to God we had died in the land of Egypt, stuffed, when we sat by the flesh pots and ate to the full” [Exodus 16:3].
Just to say it is to preach a sermon much less to expatiate upon it. For you see, when those slaves came out of bondage, oh, what high hopes and fond dreams did they entertain: out of Egypt and into the Promised Land; out of darkness and toil and slavery and into the glories of the new life in Christ; immediately, after their fetters are broken and their chains are cast off, into the land of honey and repose.
Why, I can just see them, and I can just see us, and I can just see you, and I can just see me: all of the battles are over, all of the trials are past. We are saved, converted; our shackles are broken, our manacles have fallen off. We are out of bondage and out of Egypt and out of darkness, and immediately we entertain fond hopes that we are in the Promised Land. Our trials are past. Our battles are past. Our wars are past. Our troubles are gone. Our tribulations are over, out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Oh, I can just see them as they talk and as they speak.
And another thing, and another thing, whatever their troubles were there, they were immediately and miraculously smoothed away, right into the Red Sea and the army of Pharaoh behind them [Exodus 14:15-31]. And what does God do? What comes to past? Why, a miracle opens the way, and dry shod through the midst of the sea do these people march. And on the other side, they see their enemies destroyed, and Pharaoh and his chariots overthrown, and they sing a song of exaltation and glory to God [Exodus 15:1-18]. They are on the way to the Promised Land, and everybody is happy, and everybody is shouting, and everybody is singing, and Miriam has her timbrels, and the women are joining in the chorus [Exodus 15:20-21]. Every fond dream has come to pass.
And then, and then, what disillusionments of the journey. What has it meant to come out of Egypt? What has it meant to break the shackles of bondage and darkness? Why, they plunged immediately into a wilderness of scorching heat and dry sand and vacancy, and silence, and thirst, and hunger [Exodus 16:1-3]. Immediately: just like Jesus Christ after the Holy Spirit of God came upon Him at His baptism [Matthew 3:16], the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to be tempted and tried there by the devil forty days and forty nights [Matthew 4:1-2]; immediately, the Bible says, straightway, the Bible says.
Brother, whenever you are converted and have an experience of grace, don’t you think, “I have landed in the Promised Land!” Man, that is when the devil is going to get you. That is when the dry sand is going to encompass you, and the scorching heat is going to burn you, and Satan is going to try you as by fire, just like it was with these people here [Exodus 16:1-3].
And all of their dreams came crashing down. Oh, can you see? Can you not? The disillusionment among them, every fond hope is turned to dust and ashes. And they murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. “Would to God we had died in Egypt” [Exodus 16:3], stuffed, eating, eating out of the flesh pots to the full. Here we are in this journey, in this pilgrimage. Do you notice one thing here, how quickly, how quickly all of those glorious, incomparable miracles of God are all forgot? Why, it is just like the snapping of the finger, like the twinkling of an eye.
All of those miracles are just forgot, which gives me opportunity to point out something to you about human nature, absolutely and truly and verily the solid results of miracles are nothing, nothing. Whenever you think, if I could have a miracle happen to me, if I could see an angel or have a light from heaven burst over my head, if I could have a marvelous experience, I would be saved; I would take Jesus as my Savior, but until that miraculous thing happens to me, I am going to sit down in my seat, and I am not going to be a Christian, and I am not going to give my heart to God, not unless some tremendous, miraculous thing picks me up and wafts me away.
The net result of any kind of a wonder and a miracle is mostly nothing. And I can illustrate it to you.
I have never seen or read of or heard of any miracle that is any greater than that a man could stand up in Berlin and make a speech, and I hear him in Oklahoma, but I did. Or a miracle of a man stand up in Rome, Italy, and declare war against France, and I hear him in Oklahoma, but I did. I heard Hitler and I heard Mussolini in the days of that frightful holocaust. Why, it is a miracle!
And I tell you another one just as great; it is a miracle to sit down in your living room and see as though it were before your eyes a marvelous presentation in New York City or Los Angeles, California, watch it before your eyes. That is a miraculous thing. God made that possible, but there is not a child in our midst that pays any attention to it. It is as commonplace as the fingers on his hand, which themselves are miracles. They do not mean anything.
Miracles become commonplace when they are repeated. Same way about God’s miracles, the sun that shines is a miracle of God, the rainbow, the flowers, life itself. All of these things are commonplaces to us; we do not pay any attention to them. Nobody notices them. All miracles are like that. They fall soon into the ordinary and the accepted.
And that is what happened here, exactly, in the lives of these people [Exodus 16:3]. Think of the miracles they had seen, marvelous miracles, and they forgot them like the snapping of the finger. Every marvelous, glorious, incomparable thing that God had done, these people immediately forgot, made no lasting impression upon them whatsoever. What enters into our souls is something else beside the hankering and the thirsting after the unusual and the marvelous and the spectacular.
I said the other day I do not believe in divine healers; I do believe in divine healing. And people who have to have those marvelous concomitants in order to follow the Lord will be as quickly and as easily and as immediately removed when those marvelous concomitants become commonplaces and ordinary things.
No, we are not hankering or padding after unusual, monstrous experiences or wonders or miracles in order to be persuaded of God or convinced of the Lord. These things are of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 2:14], they are of the soul, they are of the life, they are of the Word and promise of God, and that’s enough. That’s all we need.
Look at these people. There, immediately, this chronicler here, Moses writing says, “It was on the fifteenth day of the second month” [Exodus 16:1]. Now he had a reason for pausing there to put that chronicle date in the record. It was on the fifteenth day of the second month. Now they had gone out, wasn’t it the fourteenth day of the first month? Isn’t that right? The lamb was slain on the fourteenth day [Exodus 12:6], and that night was the exodus.
Look at that. They had been gone in this journey one month and one-half of a day. The miraculous things that God had done in all that time [Exodus 13-15], all of it went for naught. That is the reason the chronicler put it there. It just vanished away. And those people began to murmur against the Lord, and murmur against Moses, and murmur against Aaron in the wilderness [Exodus 16:1-2]. Now I think there is a special meanness in their murmuring: “Would to God we had died in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and ate to the full” [Exodus 16:3]. Why, there is a certain twist to that that is just as mean as it can be.
Ah, that we were back there. Ah, that we were sharing there! Ah, that we were sitting there! Ah, this dull, dry, wilderness pilgrimage of ours. Look what a good time they are having over there. Look what a scintillating, night-clubbing time they are having over there. Look over there. Ah, and we here, this dull, dry prayer meeting, this sorry, uninteresting Christian pilgrimage. Ah, how I wish that I were over there, sitting there at that table or sharing in that club or a part of all of those sensual pleasures.
You know, there is a whole lot of Christians whose hearts are in Egypt. They would like it like that. Reason not in it is because of lots of reasons, but they would be enticed by it, and they would like it. And some of them do share in it. Ah, when we were by the flesh pots in the land of Egypt, stuffed and filled to the full! [Exodus 16:3]. What an aspiration, what a longing. Ah, that I could be in the world and scintillate in it and shine it in and share in it, live in it! I would like that. I would like that.
Ah, how many of our girls would like to be a Hollywood queen? My soul, there are some of them that are fine. There are most of them that are sheer, unadulterated, brazen, unashamed harlots, most of them, most of them. How many of our people would like to share in the pleasures of the world? Ah, when we were by the flesh pots in the land of Egypt, when we ate to the full, when we were satiated with the pleasures of this life.
Mmm, how that is in us, and we are going to see a little further how much that is in us.
Well, you would think the Lord would take that hard, but He doesn’t. I have read through this chapter from beginning to end several times, and I cannot find where the Lord had any kind of a reprimand for the people at all here. The Lord didn’t say anything at all, not at all. “Then said the Lord unto Moses, Look, I will rain bread from heaven for you” [Exodus 16:4].
You know, that is an interesting thing, what they call that, in the seventy-eighth Psalm and the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth verses, “And He rained down manna upon them, and gave them the corn of heaven. And man did eat angels’ food” [Psalm 78:24-25]. Is that not an unusual description when the Lord saw these people down there? “Oh, I wish I were in Egypt. I wish I were sitting by the flesh pots. I wish if we are going to die, I could die stuffed” [Exodus 16:3].
The Lord never found any fault with them. I guess He knows there is a whole lot of that, and He understands, and in answer to their hunger, why, “He rained down manna upon them, and gave them corn of heaven, and man did eat angels’ food” [Exodus 16:4; Psalm 78:24-25].
Now let us read about that angels’ food: “Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you” [Exodus 16:4]. Now, let us look at the fourteenth verse:
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, Manna it, manna, manna, what is it, 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—
now, the thirty-first verse—
And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: what is it, and it was like coriander seed, little bitty 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 out of 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, put it in the ark when it was made.
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.
Now I want to show you why he said that, “Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah” [Exodus 16:36]. The ephah is a bushel, a dry measure, a bushel. Now thirty-two quarts make a bushel, four pecks to the bushel, and eight quarts to the peck. So four times eight is thirty-two. That would be thirty-two quarts in a bushel or thirty-two quarts in an ephah, approximately.
Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah [Exodus 16:36], and each man was to gather an omer [Exodus 16:16]. And if he lacked some, somebody gathered a little over, and they put it all together, and it came out an omer for each man. Now a tenth part of thirty-two would be just about three quarts. If there are thirty-two quarts in a bushel and an omer is a tenth of it, why, then, an omer is just about three quarts.
So each man gathered about three quarts. So for the people to live, if they ate three meals a day, like in the Bible it is described, breakfast, dinner, and supper, and all of us who are swanky in our terminology and think dinner is at six o’clock, why, you are not biblical. In the Bible, dinner is at twelve o’clock, just like I was raised on the farm. It is at twelve o’clock; dinner is at twelve and supper is at night. That is the way it is in the Book, and we are preaching the Book, aren’t we? All right, it is breakfast, dinner, and supper.
Now if an omer was three quarts, why, then, God provided that each one would have a quart for a meal, three quarts a day, one quart for breakfast, one for dinner, and one for supper.
Now God took care of His people and fed them angels’ food, bread of heaven [Psalm 78:24-25]. Now, what God was saying is this, My people cannot live—now, you listen to this—My people cannot live, My people cannot be nourished on Egyptian food. My people must be nourished on heaven’s food, on bread of heaven, on angels’ food. What they ate down there in the land of Egypt would not suffice for them now. They must have heaven’s bread now.
Now you listen to me. You cannot support and you cannot sustain your Christian life on Egyptian food. You have got to have heaven’s food for it, and God has provided heaven’s food for us. And when the source of your life is in the food of Egypt, when your life is filled with worldly things, your spiritual life is going to die. It takes heaven’s food for God’s children, manna, corn of heaven, angels’ food. And God provides it for us.
We must not fill our souls and our lives with the things, and the pleasures, and the vanities, and the tawdry cheapness of the world. God has to feed us from food of heaven, the Word, prayer, appeal, all of these things that enter into the building up of the soul. God provided for His chosen people a special kind of food. And God sustained His people throughout their wilderness journey with angels’ food, heaven’s food [Psalm 78:25].
All right, how did they receive it? Ah, when I read these things, I cannot believe it, how they are exactly like us today! Now, you want to see how they received that angels’ food? You turn to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Numbers, and I am going to start reading at the fourth verse, Numbers 11:4:
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 our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all to eat, beside this manna.
“We are at another place,” they say, “and our soul loatheth this manna” [Numbers 21:5]. Ah, you cannot believe it! Oh, how it was and how it is in Egypt; fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks [Numbers 11:5].
Did you ever eat a leek? I didn’t know what a leek was until last summer. I was with my mother, and we went to a market in California. And they had a whole lot of leeks there, and I had mother buy an armful of them and take them home. One of them would have been enough. A leek is a high-powered onion, about two or three times as big and half-again as strong, oh, brother! “Leeks, and onions, and garlic” [Numbers 11:5].
I can tell you, don’t you ever hesitate to eat onions on your hamburgers or onions in your salad or onions anywhere. I will tell you one thing that will kill the smell of onion on your breath anytime, garlic will do it. Garlic will do it. It has never failed. Don’t you ever worry about eating onions. Just take a little pot of garlic around with you. That will work.
Ah, they said, “Ah,” they said. “nothing but manna to eat [Numbers 11:6], nothing but manna, and our soul loatheth it [Numbers 21:5]. Oh, back in Egypt, back in Egypt, when we had fish, and cucumbers, and melons, and leeks, and onions, and garlic. Oh, oh, oh!” [Numbers 11:5; Exodus 16:3].
Well, sir, that is just us. You couldn’t paint a better picture of us. The moment we move, we break down. The moment we act, we disobey. That is the story all the way through. It was the story in the garden of Eden, and the first father and mother fell [Genesis 3:1-6]. It was the story after the Flood [Genesis 7:17-24]. The first thing we read, Noah is drunk and naked [Genesis 9:20-21], and the people are building a tower unto Babel [Genesis 11:1-4], in disobedience to the command of God to scatter over the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it [Genesis 1:26-28].
No sooner is Israel out of Egypt [Exodus 13:18] and the law is given them [Exodus 20:1-17] than they make the golden calf [Exodus 32:1-4]. No sooner is the investiture of holiness given to the Aaronic priesthood than the sons of Aaron burn strange fire unto the Lord [Exodus 40:13-15, Leviticus 10:1]. No sooner does Israel anoint a king [1 Samuel 10:1] than he disobeys God [1 Samuel 10:8, 13:8-14]. No sooner is the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit given to the first church [Acts 2:1-4], than in the heart of it there come Ananias and Sapphira with all lying deception [Acts 5:1-10]. That is the story. That is the story.
And it is the story here. Why, you can hardly believe it, but that is the picture, and it is always that. You look here. It began with the mixed multitude. “The mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting, and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Oh, oh, oh!” [Numbers 11:4] and then wanting all that.
The mixed multitude, who were they? Well, when the children of Israel went out of Egypt with a high hand, in great triumph and victory, why, there was a group of those Egyptians that thought, “This is a good thing. We are on the winning side; let us get on the band wagon, so they went out with them” [Exodus 12:38]. The mixed multitude, a conglomerate there from the delta of Egypt, and they were the ones, they were the ones that led Israel into this weeping again and lusting after the flesh pots, and the onions, and the leeks of Egypt [Numbers 11:4-6].
May I make a little comment here? It is a wonderful thing to get Israel out of Egypt. It is a wonderful thing to get the church out of the world, but it is also a wonderful thing to get Egypt out of Israel, and it is a wonderful thing to get the world out of the church. And brother, that is the hardest part of all. How do you get worldliness out of us? How do you do it? How do you do it? How do you get it out of me? Won’t talk about you; talk about me. How do you get worldliness out of me? How do you do it?
Ah, these things that don’t belong to the heavenly pilgrimage! They will have no part in heaven. They will not even be in heaven. Aspirations and egotistical ambitions and personal longings and easily offendings and all of those things that displease the Lord God, how do you get them out of us? How do you get Egypt out of Israel, that mixed multitude among them? How do you do it?
And so there those people are, longing for the flesh pots of Egypt and weary and weary of this manna, “our soul loatheth it. Ah, ah, ah!” [Numbers 21:5].
I have to close. May I, this little final word, make a comment, dear people, it is a tragic thing when God’s people get tired of God’s food and long for the flesh pots of the world [Genesis 16:3].
I want to illustrate this to you. You know, I try not to be offensive in my preaching. I recognize that molasses catches more flies than vinegar, but there are things that I see that I cannot help but observe. Now I want to show you one of them.
When I was called to my first church out of the seminary, it was a church where was a state college for women. They had a whole lot of girls there, a state college for women. And I did my best, just like I try here; I did my best to have a program for young people. And of course, there it was highly emphasized and heightened, the appeal that I tried to make, on account of the college for women in the city.
All right, let me show you what would happen. I would take my young people’s director, and I would take the BSU director, and we would work and plan and strive, and we would have the best program that we possibly could for those young people.
And now one part of it, one part of it, of course, was social. Getting all those young people and all those college girls, and trying to have parties for them, and trying to have socials for them, and trying to take care of that urge that young people have to meet one another and to be with each other.
So, we did our best there in the church to do it. And I want you to know, for the years I was there I saw this thing happen again and again and again and again. We would do our best, we would have our finest program, we would put into it all the ingenuity of which we were capable, and those young people who were interested in passing the bottle around, interested in dancing until one and two o’clock in the morning; they would come to our parties, and there was no liquor served, and there was no jazz band playing, and there was no close familiarity as in the modern American round dance.
And I don’t care how hard I tried, and I don’t care how hard my young people leaders tried, and I don’t care how hard the church tried, they would sit there bored to death, bored to tears. Yawn, take no part in it, and finally, get up and saunter away.
Whenever you get accustomed to the flesh pots of Egypt, you are not going to like angels’ food. You are not going to like bread of heaven. Whenever your social life is pitched on the level of the world and you get accustomed to all of your drinking and dancing and the jazz band and the nightclubbing until the wee hours of the morning, when you feed your soul on the flesh pots of Egypt [Exodus 16:3], you are going to say to God’s bread of heaven [Exodus 16:4; Psalm 78:24-25], “Our soul is dried up with it. It is a weariness to us” [Numbers 11:6].
And that is a tragedy, when God’s people don’t like prayer meetings. They are uninteresting. They don’t like Bible reading; dullest, driest book in the world. They don’t like the meetings at the church. Where is the band? Where is the whooping it up? Where is the bottle? Pass it around. When you don’t have those things, they are bored to tears. Our soul is dried away. There is nothing besides this manna [Numbers 11:6].
O God, how do you get Egypt out of Israel? How do you get the world out of the church? How do you keep our young people where they love a prayer meeting, love their Training Union, and their Sunday school class, and their Christian social life? How do you do it? How do you do it?
Well, God had a lot of trouble with these folks here in the wilderness pilgrimage [Exodus 16:1-3], and He has lots of trouble with us today, lots of trouble. That is why we need the church, and the preacher, and the Book, and I pray you understand it is not because I war against a man’s soul that I say these things. It is because we love the souls of men and want to save them out of the bondage of death and out of the fetters and manacles and chains of Egypt.
Isn’t that funny—I must close—isn’t that strange? They don’t think about the taskmaster in Egypt. Don’t think about the chain down there. Don’t think about the brick kilns down there. They forget about all that. They just remember the leeks and the onion and the garlic [Numbers 11:4-6]. God help us in our pilgrimage.
Now we sing our song. And while we sing the song, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], somebody put his life in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]. To confess Jesus as Savior, or to come into the fellowship of the church by letter, one somebody you or a family you, anywhere; on the first note of this first stanza, while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me; while we stand and while we sing?
THE FLESH POTS OF EGYPT
I. Disillusionment after the Red Sea
II. Their Immediate Reaction
III. God’s grace and tenderness
IV. Reception of God’s provision