One of the great tricks of Satan is to tempt us to trade our freedom for illusory promises. Often, a false sense of freedom and life actually leads to slavery and death. We see that in our world today. He plays on our longing for Edenic rest to trick us into hellish torment. Instead of pointing out obvious examples from these days, I draw your attention to previous days, the days of Genesis and Exodus.
The Promise of Life in Satan
Satan promised Eve freedom. Satan promised freedom would come through food. Eve took the food, and instead of life and freedom she received slavery and death.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (Genesis 3:1-7).
By choosing food for salvation Eve chose slavery and death.
The Promise of Life in Sodom
Sodom promised Lot prosperity because Sodom looked Edenic. Sodom deceived Lot, as it was a place of sin and death.
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD (Genesis 13:10-13).
Abraham, however, learned that he should live by faith and not by sight. So he rejected the goods of Sodom.
And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share” (Genesis 14:20-24).
By rejecting the comfort of Sodom Abraham chose life.
The Promise of Life in Soup
When Esau came home from hunting, he was so hungry he thought he would die. Jacob offered him soup for salvation in exchange for Esau’s birthright. Esau found salvation in soup, which really led to death.
Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34).
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears (Hebrews 12:14-17).
By choosing food for salvation, Esau chose slavery and death.
The Promise of Life in Pharaoh (Part 1)
Facing a famine, the Egyptians looked for salvation in Pharaoh. So they made themselves his slaves in exchange for food. Take note of the Genesis 47:15, which I highlighted, to compare with Genesis 25:30 32 highlighted above. The similarities communicate something.
Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought. And Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”
So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.
Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s (Genesis 47:13-26).
Contrast the enslavement of the Egyptians within Egypt at the time with the freedom and prosperity of the Hebrews, also in Egypt at the time. While the Egyptians looked to Pharaoh for salvation via Joseph, the Hebrews looked to God for salvation.
Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years (Genesis 47:27-28).
While Egypt was depleted and enslaved, God’s people flourished and prospered. They did so in the same famine. The difference is that the Egyptians found their salvation in the food of Pharaoh, while Israel trusted God (Genesis 46:3-4) who freely gave them food from Pharaoh. Pharaoh led to slavery. God led to life.
The Promise of Life in Pharaoh (Part 2)
After the Exodus event, the Hebrews became hungry in the desert. Instead of learning from Genesis, they like Eve, Lot, Esau, and the Egyptians before trusted in the illusory promised of Pharaoh.
And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:1-3).
Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Numbers 11:4-6).
If they had only trusted in God’s promises, they would have had the bounty of free food from God (Numbers 13:27). However, they doubted God’s promise and longed for salvation in Egypt.
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Numbers 14:1-4).
Instead of salvation in Egypt, they found death in the desert. This is while they could have had good food by faith.
And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel (Numbers 14:5-10).
In the desert, the Israelites believed in the salvation of Pharaoh instead of the salvation of God. Instead of life in food, they found death in unbelief.
The Promise of Life in Sodom and Egypt Yet Again
The systems of this world were embodied by Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon in the Old Testament. Revelation picks up on this (Revelation 11:7-9). Those names refer to the great city which will persecute the church. The governments of Egypt, Sodom, and Babylon use the God-given power of the state to persecute the people of God. I’ve cited some Old Testament texts that warn against finding safety and life in the promises of those cities. The New Testament offers the same warning. The Western church finds itself under a government that increasingly resembles Sodom more than it resembles Christendom. I have a hard time believing Pharaoh when he promises me life in exchange for some freedom.