God promised Israel protection and prosperity if they remained faithful and obedient. “If you diligently obey the Lord your God … The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways” (Deut. 28:1, 7).
Thus, when Israel found themselves beaten, it was often a result of their wickedness and idolatry. “If you do not obey … the Lord shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 25).
The prophets wanted the people to think of defeat as a rebuke, as a time of humble soul searching, repentance, and rededication to the ways of God (1 Samuel 7:3).
God’s word came to Israel through Jeremiah, at the time of their defeat by Babylon. God began by asking Israel to remember the good times, “…the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness” (Jer. 2:2).
But then comes God’s rebuke. God was faithful, but Israel rebelled anyway (2:5). They forgot God’s miraculous work on their behalf (2:6). They repaid God’s bounty with defilement (2:7). They exchanged their relationship with the one true God for the idols which could provide less than nothing (2:13). And so, God made them prey to their enemies (2:14-17).
This would’ve been a good time to humbly repent! Perhaps God would save them! Instead, they doubled down on disloyalty. God found them going the wrong way.
But now what are you doing on the road to Egypt / To drink the waters of the Nile? / Or what are you doing on the road to Assyria / To drink the waters of the Euphrates? (Jeremiah 2:18).
These rivers served as symbols of these great nations. Rather than turn to God for salvation, Israel turned to worldly nations of Egypt and Assyria to find protection from the hordes of Babylon.
God had warned them many times to avoid courting alliances with foreign nations (Hosea 5:13, 7:11, 8:9). These political powers, the mere arm of flesh, could offer no lasting military help. In fact, Assyria and Egypt themselves were on the verge of defeat by the Babylonians. Worse, by appealing for aid, Israel would “drink” their culture, adopting many of their principles and their idols, plunging them deeper into the same sins that brought about God’s judgment in the first place.
They needed to stop looking for help in the wrong places, and start looking to God!
What are YOU doing on the road to Egypt?
Sin is slavery. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, we have been “freed from sin” (Romans 6:22) and freed “from the body of this death” (Romans 7:24). We have received a spirit of adoption as sons (Romans 8:15). We dare not belittle this precious gift.
But, if we do stumble into to a sinful lifestyle, the solution is not pursuit of more sin, not to throw up one’s hands and abandon oneself to it, not to keep opening doors marked “sin” hoping for a better result next time. The solution is confession and repentance! God is faithful to help us back to our feet.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 1:9-2:1).
There’s hope for the future through change (James 5:19-20). The prodigal son came to his senses and, rather than head down the road to the next Gentile city, came home (Luke 15:18). Peter faced his denial of Jesus and, rather than walking farther from Jesus, repented and helped his brothers (Luke 22:31-32).
It’s upsetting to see someone struggling with the bitter aftermath of sin—a drug arrest, an unexpected pregnancy, a gambling addiction—to hope that now the lesson has been learned and a faithful change has come, only to find the individual resorting to other sins. More drugs to find elusive highs, more sexual relationships to find elusive comfort, more spending to find elusive satisfaction.
Stop looking on the road to Egypt for some form of help or fulfillment! “The Lord has rejected those in whom you trust, and you will not prosper with them” (Jeremiah 3:1). When the world beats you, the answer is not to start down the road to Egypt, looking for help from the powerless, finding only more slavery. Turn to God! He will restore you (James 5:15)! –John Guzzetta