Why were the old days better?

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

It must have been a frustrating and arduous journey for the Israelites as they trudged through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. It was hot, there were way too many people around, and there was no comfortable place to lay down and sleep. And did I mention the food? Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, and – you guessed it – manna for dinner. No wonder they grumbled and complained so often against their leader, Moses.

At last, after a long journey, they had reached the edge of the Promised Land. The leaders sent spies out to check out the land, and when they came back, the people eagerly awaited the report. But the people’s hearts sank as they heard the news: “All the people we saw there are of great size… we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:32-33). That was the last straw. A full-on meltdown ensued: “If only we had died in Egpyt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword… wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Numbers 14:2-4).

This wasn’t the first time the wandering Israelites had pined for Egypt, and it wouldn’t be the last. They remembered the food they had eaten and the beds they had slept in, and had convinced themselves that life was better back there. But they had forgotten two critical things: they had forgotten that they were slaves in Egypt, and they had forgotten that the Lord had promised to bring them into a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). And so, tragically, as a result of their complaining, the Lord decreed that the whole disobedient generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, would never enter the Promised Land, but would die in the desert.

Take this story to heart. Have you ever found yourself thinking back on the days when you were not walking with the Lord and believing in your mind that things were easier and better then? Perhaps at some point God brought you out of an addiction, or rescued you from an unhealthy relationship. In those early days of freedom, maybe you thanked God and could clearly see the contrast between who you had been and who by the grace of God you had become. But now, time has passed, and like the wandering Israelites, life has become more difficult, and it has been harder to keep walking the path that has been laid out for you. And all of a sudden Egypt, your old life, has started to look more appealing.

Don’t go back! Do not forget that you were a slave in Egypt! Maybe there were things about that old way of life that were easier, but that does not change the fact that you were a slave, and the Lord has set you free! Do not look back, but rather look ahead towards Jesus, remembering that the Lord is leading you to the Promised Land. He is doing a sanctifying work in you, and will complete that good work in you on the day He takes you to be with Him forever in the new heavens and new earth, the place to which the Promised Land points.

It is natural to grow weary and discouraged along the journey, and to find yourself looking back longingly and mistakenly believing that things would be better without the Lord. Do not go back to a life of slavery. Keep your eyes on Jesus and keep on walking towards the Promised Land.

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