MANY AMERICANS ARE tired right now. They are tired of hearing about the Corona virus. They are tired of being in quarantine. They are tired of the obvious contradictions associated with the stay-at-home orders—like why abortion clinics and Islamic mosques remain open, while Christian assemblies are closed. They are tired of worrying about masks, and gloves, hand-sanitizer and standing six-feet apart. They are tired of being unemployed and not bringing home a regular paycheck. They are tired of waiting on promised stimulus checks. They are tired of the incessant bickering coming out of Washington, DC and how some politicians repeatedly bungle the economic and societal fallout from the pandemic. Perhaps worst of all, Americans are tired of the anxiety that permeates their lives at this time.
Folks are tired—and they are anxious to get back to the old normal.
One of my daughters recently emailed me a quote in the context of returning to normalcy that impacted my thinking. Read it over a couple of times and give it some personal introspection. The author, Dave Hollis wrote, “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” That is powerful. Do we, as twenty-first century Christians, really want to rush back to all facets of the old normal…?
THE OLD NORMAL
Consider for just a moment. What exactly did the “old normal” look like for the children of Israel back in Exodus? Do a little contextual reading and you will remember that “normal” was abject, servile bondage. Watch (Exo. 1):
- “taskmasters” (v. 11),
- “afflict” (v. 11),
- “burdens” (v. 11),
- “afflicted” (v. 12),
- “serve” (2x—vv. 13-14),
- “rigor”—lit. “hardness” (2x—v. 13-14),
- “bitter” (v. 14), and
- “hard bondage” (v. 14).
You don’t have to do an in-depth Hebrew-to-English word study to realize that the Israelites had it much harder than any of us can ever imagine. Adversity, suffering and misery was the normal way of life for hundreds of years and multiple generations (cf. Exo. 12:40; Gal. 3:17). Your great-granddaddy, your granddaddy, your daddy, and you all suffered.
Of course, someone may be thinking, “Yeah preacher, but Israel didn’t want to stay in the old normal of bondage…” Well, it is true that God’s people didn’t want to remain under the oppression of the Egyptians, and they obviously did not want to be pinned between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea (cf. Exo. 2:23-25; 14:30-31), but I’m not certain the people wanted the new norm of liberation either.
Hear me out.
THE NEW NORMAL
The new normal of freedom for Israel included, 1) DEPENDENCE UPON GOD for sustenance (i.e., water and food/manna—Exo. 14, 15, 16), as well as 2) SUBMISSION TO GOD as He guided His people via the law of Moses—Exo. 20-31). The new norm said Jehovah would supply all of Israel’s needs—both physically as well as spiritually, just as He does today (cf. Mat. 6:25ff; Phil. 4:19).
Ironically, only a few short months out of Egypt, despite having witnessed the mighty power of God in a very personal way (Exo. 3:19-20; 12:12; cf. 1 Chron. 16:12), the people of Israel started complaining about what they didn’t have, and then—while Moses remained on Sinai receiving the word/law of God, they grew impatient for his return (read Exo. 32:1ff). In their restless impetuosity, Israel, with Aaron’s assistance, fashioned—of all things—a golden calf to worship (vv. 2-8)! A WHAT?! Let that rattle around in your brain for a second and then ask yourself, where had the children of Israel learned to worship a cow (cf. Rom. 1:15ff)? And the obvious answer is—in Egypt, in bondage.1
Yeah—bondage is painful, but for some it’s also oddly comforting. It’s kind of like the physically abused wife who’s waiting at home every night for when her drunken husband stumbles back in. She knows she’s gonna get beat up again–like she has every other night, but with that comes the odd relief of knowing that at least she as a place to pillow her head at the end of the day. Be beaten again—or not be beaten and trust in the Lord to find sanctuary? Some…many…chose the former.
I’m convinced that Old Testament Israel really didn’t want to learn how to find true provision in the Lord after Egypt. She decided it was better to take centuries of beatings from Pharaoh(s) than to learn how to genuinely submit to Jehovah in the new normal of obedient faith (2 Cor. 5:7; cf., Eph. 2:8-9). You see, Israel’s greatest problem. . . wasn’t getting out of Egypt, but getting Egypt (i.e., idolatry/calf worship – the old normal) out of Israel.
Remember what Dave Hollis said? “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
Okay, I get it. We’re tired and we want to get back to normal, but beloved, let’s be sure that we’re not in a hurry to rush back into the old norm of slavery and bondage to the devil. He doesn’t want us to trust in God (cf. Prov. 3:5-6; Jas. 1:5). He doesn’t want us to learn to submit to our heavenly Father (cf. Heb. 13:17; Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:6). He wants us to remain in the old normal of spiritual wife-beating, and he’ll gladly delve out the heavy-handed blows (cf. Job 1:12; Luke 13:16; 22:31; 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Thes. 2:18; 1 Pet. 5:8).
Now stay with me. Consider:
If I am a Christian who thought my life was too busy to read and study my Bible every day under the old normal (prior to COVID-19)—why would I be in a rush to go back there now? Not reading and meditating on the mind of God is asking for bondage to the devil (cf. Hos. 4:6; John 8:37)!
If I am a Christian who only occasionally attended the regular assemblies of the church under the old normal—why would I be in a big hurry to rush back there once again when the doors are finally opened up? Not faithfully attending (i.e., forsaking) and worshiping and participating with the saints is a personal request for subjugation to Satan (cf. Heb. 10:25)!
If I am a Christian who rarely if ever participated in the work and ministries of the body/church of Christ under the old normal—why would I now be in an all-fired up flurry to go back into Egypt? Not serving, not working and not exercising my spiritual muscles is the fastest way to become spiritually atrophied (cf. 1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Pet. 3:18) and return once again to Egypt!
If I am a teenage/college Christian and I have been in a long-term toxic, unspiritual relationship under the old norm, why would I want to stay there, much less go back there again and again? The person whom I marry will either help me to the Promised Land, OR he/she will repeatedly pull me back to anguish–and perhaps to hell itself.
If we are a Christian couple who is hurting and struggling in a seemingly dead-end marriage because both of us have been selfish, impatient and unforgiving, why would we be ready to sprint back to the old days, months and years of brokenness, frustration and endless Israelite tears (cf. Ezek. 16:8-21)? Not submitting to one another in love in Christ (Eph. 5:21-33; 4:32) is like telling the devil that both of you wants to stay in the prison of Satanic servitude (Jas. 3:13, 15)!
If I am a Christian who wasn’t giving as he was prospered under the old normal prior to the Corona outbreak, why in the world would I want to go back to a lack of trust in God now that the pandemic seems to be subsiding? Not giving to God as He has blessed me is like bowing down to that ancient, golden calf (cf. 1 Kgs. 17:13ff; Mat. 26:7; Luke 21:4; 2 Cor. 8:3-4; Col. 3:5)!
If I was born again and turned (Acts 3:19; 26:17-18) from the devil’s chains of lust and lurid pornographic pursuits, why in the name of sanity would I want to start offering obeisance to cows again (cf. Rom. 6:1ff; Eph. 2:11-13; Heb. 6:4-6)? Pharaoh would be proud! Jesus Himself said, “No one can serve two masters…!”
If I as a parent and father lost track of loving and interacting with my children prior to the pandemic, and now I’m starting to appreciate the importance of spending real time with my loved ones, why—pray tell—would I be in a rush to flee back into the idolatry of workaholism? Is a nice house, a fancy car and a big bank account worth the loss of your children’s souls (Prov. 23:4-6)?
If I have been in the habit of never slipping off into my prayer-closet and turning my fears over to the Lord, please give me one good, biblical reason why anyone in their right mind would want to return there? Prayerlessness is the surest way take a never-ending beating under the devil’s unyielding attacks (cf. Luke 18:1ff)!
Beloved, somehow, somewhere a child of God has to stand up to the wicked one and shout in defiance, “No more, devil! Get behind me! I refuse to remain under your bondage one more second! I refuse to fall down at the feet of my golden calf! I will not ever again find comfort in defeat. I will trust in the living God with all that I am (Mat. 22:37)!
Think about it.