When You Leave Egypt You Will be Tempted to go Back
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 16:2-3)
But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3)
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?” (Numbers 14:1-3)
I suspect that I could simply post the verses above and most all of you would get the point without me even writing anything further. But I will.
One of the most disheartening and even frightening things that we experience (I imagine many of you have as well) when trying to help abuse victims is knowing that it is very likely that once they do leave the abuser, there is a likelihood that they will return. I think I read once that the average is something like seven “leavings” before it actually takes. You can correct me on that if need be.
Now, I do not quote the verses above about Israel grumbling and moaning and sinning in order to guilt any victim of abuse. They were indeed sinning, but an abuse victim who gets drawn back to her (or his) abuser is, in most cases at least, not sinning against the Lord. I simply point you all to these verses as a picture of what we can expect when we leave cruel bondage. We can count on being tempted to return to it.
As we walk through these very hard cases with victims, we feel the pressure right along with them. The danger of running the gauntlet of leaving, not to mention the difficulty of finding support when so many professionals don’t understand domestic abuse, can seem more scary than the danger of staying. Living with the abuser is living with the devil we know, when we leave the abuser we may encounter other snakes under other rocks that we had no expectation of meeting, but lo! they strike us when we are wanting them help us. When you leave, here are some things that can and most likely will happen:
- The abuser’s rage might increase in intensity (leaving can be the most dangerous time for a victim)
- The abuser goes to work even more diligently to alienate your friends and family from you, blaming you for all marriage problems
- A victim may find herself out of a job, out of money, wondering where she is going to live
- Pastors and churches go to work to pressure and condemn the victim, insisting she return. She may be shunned by people she thought were her friends
- And then the courtroom. The fear of losing child custody. Restraining orders. Legal bills.
- The abuser may seize the victim’s car, taking away her only mode of transportation
All of this and more can happen when we knock the sand off our sandals and leave Egypt. And when it does, you can be sure that the victim is going to be tempted to just give in and return to bondage.
We need to be warned in advance of these things so that when they happen we will not be taken by surprise. Something like what Jesus warned us about in regard to the world:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Sometimes when we help a victim get free we can end up on the receiving end of words rather like this:
Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23)
Or like this:
They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Exodus 5:20-21)
I have personally had this happen. One lady, in her confusion and suffering who had poured out the details of her situation to me over a period of several months, experienced a setback when she met with the elders of her church. She was scared, and I understand that. She wrote me that night and said “Oh, I wish I had just left well enough alone. I wish I had never contacted you.” I have not heard from her since.
Therefore, let’s all get a very firm hold on this truth:
When a victim resolves and sets out to leave her abuser, her situation may very well initially get worse rather than better. She needs to be warned in advance so that when that thirst in the wilderness sets in and she hears Egypt beckoning her, she won’t cave in.
Don’t go back to Egypt. There really wasn’t anything good there. It was slavery and death.
Going Back To Egypt — a sermon by Dr Liam Goligher