Egypt has been puzzling me for months.
I was reading 2 Kings 18 and was caught by this verse: “Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it.”
I knew there was something profound in that verse for me. But I wasn’t sure what.
So I began praying about it. Noticing where God mentions Egypt in Scripture. Pondering why it was a place of independence from the Lord. A place where the Israelites fled when they wanted to take care of themselves. A place where they stopped trusting God.
Isaiah 30:1-2 says,
“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and to make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
“What is my Egypt?” I kept asking the Lord. “In what am I trusting instead of You, that will pierce my hand when I lean on it?”
And then finally, after praying for months, I saw it in Scripture.
I was reading the story about the healing of the disfigured woman (Luke 13:10-17). Trying to put myself into the narrative. Whom did I identify with most? It would be natural to see myself as the woman who had been disabled for 18 years, yet the one I most identified with was the synagogue leader.
This leader wanted to keep his power. He wanted the people’s approval. He wanted those in the synagogue on his side.
He was more interested in looking holy than anything else.
So am I.
Then it hit me. The approval of others is my Egypt.
I lean on it instead of God. It promises deliverance, satisfaction, fulfillment. And it fills me. Temporarily. But it never really satisfies.
I identify with the Pharisees who “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43).
I seek others’ approval. I want respect. I thrive on people’s praise. And too often that matters more to me than being holy.
If I were asked to choose between being righteous, but appearing unrighteous to everyone else, or being unrighteous, while appearing holy to everyone around me, I’m not sure what I would decide.
As I look at the life of Mary the mother of Jesus, I see a woman who loved the praise of God far above the praise of men.
She, a righteous young girl, was called to bear the Savior of the world. What an incredible honor.
An honor that was wrapped in a most scandalous, humiliating package.
She was asked to look like an immoral woman, an unwed mother, an unfaithful betrothed, offenses punishable by public stoning in that day. Nothing she could ever say or do would change that in the eyes of her peers. That stigma must have followed her all the days of her life.
And yet to Mary, the praise of God was well worth enduring the scorn of men.
Mary’s faithfulness humbles, convicts and inspires me. I want to be indifferent to the praise of others and to live for God’s praise alone.
And as God gently showed me through Scripture, He wants that for my life as well.
I cannot worship approval and God at the same time. He is calling me to tear down this idol.
While it may sound easy to destroy, it is not.
Not for me. Not for any of us.
We depend on our idols; we value and prioritize them inordinately, often above our relationship with God. They may be good desires, but when they are placed above God, they become idols.
Idols are our way of trying to be satisfied by things besides Jesus.
But ironically, our idols will never satisfy us. They promise pleasure. But that pleasure is fleeting at best.
And then what idols deliver is pain. Or continual dissatisfaction. Because we’ll always want more.
Worshipping idols, relying on Egypt, is like drinking salt water. When I am thirsty, it seems like any water will satisfy my thirst. So I take a sip.
But one sip only makes my desire grow stronger. Soon I want it, crave it, feel I can’t live without it.
But somehow satisfaction always eludes me. I always want more. And just like salt water, drinking it is actually destroying me.
When someone praises me or my work, I’m excited. But then I’m looking for the next milestone to cross, or the next person’s approval. And when I don’t get it, I feel depressed and defeated. I want to know what I did wrong and how to fix it.
And the more I want people’s approval, the less concerned I am with God’s approval. His still small voice is drowned out by the praise of others.
I wish I could easily change these desires myself, but my life has been tightly wound around my need for approval.
But I know that God brought this stronghold to my attention, and He alone can transform me.
I must confess my sin to Christ daily, pray for grace, and ask Him to reveal the root of my idolatry. As I see the source, I must ruthlessly cut off everything that feeds it.
Breaking idols requires vigilance. And prayer. But most of all, the Holy Spirit must undergird all of my efforts. I am helpless without His power; I cannot do this work alone.
So what is your Egypt? What are your idols? What do you turn to besides God to fulfill you?
If you don’t know what your idols are, consider what you think about in your spare time. When you are free to focus on anything. When you are alone with your daydreams.
Inevitably, these idle thoughts will expose your idols.
And when God reveals your idols, don’t despair.
Gently offer them up to Jesus, and ask for His grace as you tear them down together. Rejoice, because He who began this work in you will be faithful to complete it.
He is offering His living water so that we will never thirst again.
What an incredible gift. For He alone can satisfy.