When I think of the day when Israel came out of Egypt, I think of a bright and sunny day, lots of high-fiving and laughter as perennial slaves were finally set free from bondage. Sadly, the reality on the ground was a lot more gruesome. The night before their Exodus, an angel of the Lord had struck every Egyptian household and all their firstborn children had died instantly. There was loud mourning and a keen sense of God’s judgment upon the land (Exo. 12:29-30).
Numbers 33:3-4 describes what was happening in the fields as the Israelites started their slow journey out of Egypt: “They marched out boldly in full view of all the Egyptians who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck among them…” Mothers and fathers were digging holes to bury their children. Siblings stood stunned at the grim reality that their older brother or sister was gone. Grandmothers wept at the sight of the children’s cold and limp bodies. Couldn’t the Israelites have shown more respect toward the dead and hold off their trip for another day? What was one more day of slavery to a people who would be free from then on?
Instead of doing what is socially acceptable, the Israelites marched out boldly as their Egyptian counterparts buried their dead. They even had the audacity to ask the mourners for jewelry and swanky clothing on their way out! If you don’t believe me, read Exodus 12:35. After 430 years of slavery, it was time to move on. It was time to be free!
This got me thinking. I wonder how many dead we take the time to bury when it is high time to be free? When God releases us from our old job, an unhealthy relationship, even a church home, why do we stay longer than God wants us to stay? Why the tendency to mourn and bury the dead before we decide to enjoy the freedom God has secured for us? Why try to assuage hurt feelings and please everyone—even people that use and manipulate us?
The danger in not leaving right away is that we will stay altogether and trade freedom for bondage once again. I have seen this too many times. A girl decides to follow Jesus and breaks up with her long-time boyfriend. When she returns to the apartment to move out, he convinces her to stay and work it out. She’s not happy anymore but she stays. A couple feel it’s time to leave their church on good terms but they stay six more months before leaving with unnecessary bruises and hurts. A man knows God is calling him to a new city, but his teen-aged children refuse to leave their friends. So he stays and his dream of a new life slowly dies. A hard-working woman gets tired of the verbal abuse at work but decides to stay and help out other co-workers who feel like she is abandoning them.
I am not saying we should bail out of difficult situations when we feel like it. I am saying, however, that when God says a season is over and calls us to follow him, we should not stall hoping for things to get better. They won’t! If God is calling you out of a situation or an unhealthy relationship to follow him, do what he told his disciples in Mark 8:22, “"Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Make up your mind that you will be free and don’t let guilt or sadness keep you from all that God has for you. It’s your time to be free!
- Mercy Alarid is the Creative Arts Pastor of Passion Church. Mercy has a Master's degree in Education. Mercy is a member of the faculty of Central New Mexico Community College, where she is an instructor in the Education department. Mercy has been married to Brian for 17 years and they reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico with their 3 children: Chloe, Colin, and Lauren.