Only after ten horrible plagues, did Pharaoh let God’s people go. Not surprisingly, the people of Egypt were ready for the people of Israel to go –quickly, please . Their land was now devastated by the plagues, they had buried their firstborns, what was coming next? They were afraid all were going to die. The night of the great deliverance, of the great Exodus, Moses told the Israelites to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold and silver, and clothes, and yes, the Lord gave “the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.“ (From the book of Exodus)
This story is wonderful, and that last line? It has become a favorite among Christians. But are we using it rightly?
What exactly did the Israelites plunder? Material things that would serve them well in their long journey to the Promised Land. God in His kindness, provided generously for His people. The days and nights are ahead were going to be many and hardship was awaiting.
There are many instances in the Old Testament in which we see this same thing. God goes before His people, they fight big battles and over and over again God gives them victories than seemed impossible. And so many times the Israelites plundered the nations God gave them into their hands (read the Old Testament to find for yourself all the many instances in which this happened).
And every time God told them what they should plunder and what they shouldn’t take from these nations. And the things they were never supposed to take were their religious views, their idols, and their ways of worshiping and living. The command was clear, but in their unbelief, in their practical atheism,* they brought with them these things, they tried to incorporate these gods, these spiritual ideas, these new ideas of worship into their lives, forgetting -or better yet, not wanting to remember, that judgment would come too.
But, “Why shouldn’t we bring in these ideas with us? Aren’t we being legalistic? Isn’t this *your* own interpretation? What is an idol? Please, define it first.” The Post-modern Christian today joins the Israelites in asking theses questions. “We have been made free, we have God on our side, can’t anyone see how He has given us this land? We are God’s people, we are His, we can certainly bring with us some great ideas that they have used in their worship services, some systems of beliefs, some ways to deal with sin that might work well for some of us, right?”
Hint: Don’t forget that God killed Uzzah because he tried to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling from the cart… Wait a minute, from where? From the cart? The Ark was never supposed to be transported in a cart that was an idea that the Israelites decided to plunder from the Philistines, and of course it sounded more practical than doing it the way God has established it should be transported (read Numbers 4:15, 1 Chronicles 13, and 2 Samuel 2)
Well no. We shouldn’t even start considering plundering the religious ideas from the world, their belief systems, their way of feasting, their way of dealing with sin, their ways of worship. Those things can’t be baptized. That would only bring destruction upon us and our children, it would bring judgement, it would bring corruption to our families and churches. It will bring worldliness into our lives which should be holy. Christian, Friend, we have Christ, we have the Word of God, we own the Truth. Think about that for a minute. Why would we even want to imitate the lives of the pagans and take their advice on how to live this life God has given us in Christ? Why would we want to add to the great and precious promises God has given us in Christ their beliefs? That is not plundering the Egyptians, that is foolishness and sinful, that is to willingly walk into a Baal altar to offer ourselves and our children.
Read the Old Testament. Read it all. Read the New Testament. Read it all. Now put the two things together. We don’t get to define what an “idol” is. We don’t get to define what “worldiness” means. We are the People of the Word, the People of the Book. Let God’s book define that for us and let us flee from all idols.
Many will say, “But wait, are you saying that we shouldn’t read the books authored by unbelievers, that we shouldn’t listen to their music, that we can’t enjoy their art and walk in the cities and parks they have built? By all means, no! What we are not to consider plundering from them is their idols, their religious systems, their definitions of the virtues that pertain to God, the way they think we should be doing life, they way they insist we educate our children, the way the want to get rid of the hierarchy God has established for marriage, the church, and the world.
My eldest son and I have been having some wonderful conversations about this and we thought that we all should start using the term “worldliness” more and more in our conversations with other Christians. Read the epistle of James and read his warnings against worldliness. Read it, Friends, and tremble and “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!“ (2 Cor.13:5).
Why do we believe that we are less vulnerable to be deceived by sin than the Israelites? Consider the weight of this warning, “take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”” Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews
The good news is that Christ has come to destroy the works of the evil one, He has come to set us free from all sinful habits, from all idolatry. Repent and believe, and He will help you see that Christ’s way is the only way to live fully.
Under His sun and by His grace,
*Practical atheism, a phrase I plundered from John Piper.