Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt.There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. “If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” (Exo 16:1-3 NLT)
Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!” (Num 14:1-4 NLT)
I used to read this passage of Scripture and think about the loser Israelites – the weak-minded, no good, belly aching, people who simply wanted to turn around and go back for no good reason. Of course now, I have a different perspective. Now, I understand more of the story, I believe… in that while Egypt was bad, rough, rotten, filled with debauchery, beatings, and injustice, it was comfortable, because they knew what to expect. Sure, they ate…the food that they were used to. Most likely, it was less than nutritious, so the manna and other food from God took some time getting used to, digestion wise. And they were getting exercised a bit. This is a pain to anyone. Further, they didn’t know what tomorrow held. I’d imagine as well, that while they hated their overlords, they knew them and were in some ways, closer to them than they could have been to Moses. When they left, the connection to their history, their culture, their homes, the places where their fathers and mothers were buried – that was severed severally. No wonder they wanted to return. Sure, God wasn’t there, but their comfort level was, and besides, maybe they could bring God back with them. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to go back on God, but they wanted to be comfortable, doing what they had always done. It was easier that way.
I’d like to tell you that a transition from one religious culture to the next is easy, but frankly it is not. I have to be reminded sometimes that even the Apostles ran into personal roadblocks and obstacles along the way, of course, they didn’t want to turn back. They had something else, the presence of God, the spirit of God and Christ. It is this that people must hold to when transitions come, in that Egypt looks good only between the borders of the foreign country and the Promised Land, but in the wilderness the Spirit is still with us.