Maybe the very first statement should be one that tells you that I am not speaking of modern day political Egypt. The Egypt in the Bible is both a symbol as well as a spirit. Just in case anyone would read this and either get offended or start proclaiming that modern day Egypt is what I have to say, I’ve put it forth immediately.
When we read the Bible, it doesn’t take long before we find the Exodus story (second book of the Bible). From that moment onward, Egypt is recognized as the place of bondage. However, I think that we misunderstand what bondage even is. We think that bondage represents sin only. Or we think that bondage represents anything that brings stress. Or we think that bondage is something that keeps us from being able to live haply. We think bondage is oppression.
Bondage is system. To define system: System is any institution, corporation, or organization that seeks it’s own perpetuation and goals over and above anything or anyone else. Lets unpack that a little bit.
System is any institution, corporation, or organization… Basically, anything that is man-made is a system. Even our systems of religion are places of bondage, and not places of liberty. Nations can be systems – certainly government itself is a system. Institutions, corporations, and organizations have one common thread: their set up and leadership. These are places that have a small number on the top in charge, and from there people of influence, and then the common person. It is a pyramid. We have set up our businesses and organizations to even model this. From our business and corporate model, many “churches” have also modeled what church should be.
When we have one man, or only a few men at the very top, we find that the system is corruptible. The reason is twofold: man and satan. Man in corruptible. Man is depraved. We are inherently sinful, meaning we are born with the condition of sin, and we tend toward sin instead of away from sin. We become increasingly sinful. Man is not perfect. Only God is perfect. But the other aspect is satanic. There is a demonic influence over systems. The first place that we find such systems in the Bible is the tower of Babel. Ultimately, Babylon resulted from this tower. Babylon is a representation of the kingdom of darkness. Satan inspired such an idea as the tower of Babel. Why? Because it is easier to jerk and manipulate one man at the top than an entire nation or people.
However, the statement doesn’t stop there. System seeks it’s own perpetuation and goals over and above anything or anyone else. We’ll break down that first part. What does it mean to seek your own perpetuation? Think about a small mom and pop store. The hope is that they can continue their business and hand it down to their children. In a sense, there is nothing wrong with this. In another sense, this is a stepping stone to disaster. The system itself has its own hopes and desires. When you come against this machine industry, it will lash out against you. Why? What is it that would cause for such a system to lash out instead of embrace death?
This is actually at the heart of the Exodus story. Why did Pharaoh continue to harden his heart? Why does it then say later that God hardened his heart? The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is not in itself because of Pharaoh, but because of the system itself. Any threat to the existence of that system, which in the case of the Exodus was the enslavement of an entire people, is vehemently opposed. It goes back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know best, and therefore anything that challenges our rule is to be squashed. Yet, the tree of life is a death and a cross. It is trust in the Lord, that even if He has hidden something from us (the accusation of the serpent in Genesis 3), it is for our benefit, and not for our detriment.
Systems desire to perpetuate themselves. They will use and abuse people in order to do so. If the establishment is crumbling, the workers, the clients, the customers, the owners, and all others involved are going to get hurt by that system. It somehow seems that the system itself is what is causing the pain and toil.
On the other hand, when we’re dealing with systems, we’re also dealing with an abuse and misuse of people in order to reach the desired goal. That goal might be influence, it might be income, it might be growth, or it might be survival. Whatever the goal is, that goal is the ultimate, and people are only a means to that end.
I worked at Chic-Fil-A. I don’t have anything against the company. But I can use this as an explanation that even Christian owned companies are not beyond this. You have at the top of the corporation a CEO, or a board, and then others that work at corporate Chic-Fil-A under them. Then from there are the owners of the franchises, and under the owners are the managers, and then finally the common staff employee. That common staff employee gets paid what they have agreed to, but in the mind of the person at corporate Chic-Fil-A (which is an office and not a restaurant), that person is only a number. They are a faceless employee. They are a statistic. They are a paycheck, and they represent income and growth. The company Chic-Fil-A is probably one of the best (if not the best) companies to work for with this as their basis. Even though the people are numbers, the people that are at the top know that those numbers represent people. That does not stop the abuse and misuse of those workers, but it does limit it. I’m willing to admit that.
So when we read of Egypt being bondage, or slavery, many times we think that it is the harsh taskmasters and the making of bricks without straw that is the bondage and slavery. We think of the slavery itself, and the lack of mercy. What we don’t realize is that the slavery and bondage is only the result of a system. Egypt is system. System is Egypt. The two are synonyms.
When we want to talk about our freedom from sin, or our freedom from Egypt, or how God is going to destroy Egypt, we need to have this understanding. What it means that God will destroy Egypt is that God will destroy the system that enslaves. He will take that pyramid that looks at people as numbers and statistics, and He will abolish that. In fact, when you look at what God has ordained that we be, you find that He has actually taken that pyramid and turned it upside-down.
Instead of the idea that Christ is at the top and under Him are the apostles and prophets, and then under them are some of the giants from the last 2000 years, and then we eventually come down to the pastors, and then the teachers, and then the common laymen, God has set Jesus at the bottom. The idea that we have in our mind is that the anointing, or blessing, comes from the head and flows down the body. Just as when you anointed a man as king or priest, you would anoint their head, and then it flowed down.
However, God has said that He who is to be greatest must be the least. Jesus was not exalted because of His greatness, but because of His humility. The sin and need of all of the people flow down onto the pastors and teachers, who then are able to serve and minster those people. The sin and need of those pastors and teachers flow down onto the apostles and prophets, who are then able to serve and minster to the people. The sin and need of those apostles and prophets then flows down onto Christ Jesus, and He is ultimately the one who took up sin – became sin – so that all of our needs are met through Him.
God has set up an upside-down pyramid, where ministry does not mean teaching or preaching or educating, but instead it means discipling. Discipleship means taking someone into your life and living together with them. They can get more sermons from seeing your character than from hearing your knowledge. The idea of a pastor or teacher is not to somehow “lead” or “teach” the flock in a Greek style. The Greeks would hold lectures. The Hebrews would share life together. Jesus is our ultimate example of what it means to be a teacher or pastor. He took in His disciples. There were the initial 12 that followed Him everywhere, but then there are others that also seem to follow Him (He sends out the 72 at one point). The 12 are closest, and even within the 12 there were 3 being distinguished: Peter, James, and John.
This is how God has established what we’re to be about. But any religious system that is based off of Egypt will make statements like, “No church is perfect.” Of course it isn’t when you take an imperfect system and call that “church.” But the Bible says that the Bride is perfect. She is blameless. She is spotless. She is clean. She is beautiful. How long will we judge whether we’re doing church correctly on a false system – one that looks like Egypt? I am looking for a perfect church. The perfect church is one that is able to live together in unity, and confess our faults one to another. The perfect church is one that seeks humility above order. The perfect church is one that knows we are all sinners, and we all need to repent. The perfect church takes seriously the command in James where it tells us to “confess our faults one to another.” It is actually in that very thing that we find freedom. But if we aren’t living together, and we fear that we’ll be judged instead of cleansed, then what are we even doing?
Egypt is still around. It is still alive and well. Though God judged it millennia ago, we are still facing the same bondage that the Israelites faced. In fact, we seem to have these statements like, “What alternative is there?” What other option do we have? It takes the mighty works of God almighty in order to deliver us from systems. It takes miracles to get us out, and it takes miracles to even sustain us in the wilderness before we come unto the Land that He has promised. But if you are willing to hear that call, “Get thee out,” then fear not. Cry unto God for a deliverer from your oppression. Know this: the oppression is not those circumstances; it is a lifestyle that we have allowed Egyptian culture and society to form us to.
Why are so many of us unhappy? Why are so many of us not content? It is because we are enslaved, and we don’t even know it. Our enslavement is to the television, our jobs, a system that tells us we need to have a career, a system that tells us the best thing we can do is get a degree in order to “be somebody,” a system that tells us what kind of house to live in, what kind of family we should raise, what area of town we should live in, and everything else in our lives is constituted upon the value system and propaganda of Egypt.
Listen closely: do not strive to “be somebody.” You already are somebody. You were made in the image of God, and He is ever crying out, “Let me see your face, and let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet like honey, and your face is lovely.” Waters cannot quench this love; neither floods can drown it. “Whom the Son sets free is FREE INDEED.” We are called as a people to be outside of Egypt, not to become the New Egypt. In Israel’s history, Solomon reformed Israel into a “new egypt.” The only thing left after that was exile and judgment.
The church and the synagogue are identical. They are synonyms. They are both set up as the same system. Come out from her, my people. Remember the first message of our Lord at Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, and to release they that are oppressed.”