In my hermeneutical studies on Typology, Patrick Fairbairn highlights the necessity of Israel to pass through their 400 years of slavery in Egypt before being given the promised inheritance of Canaan. Two reasons are primarily presented, the first being that a desire for the promise might be awakened in their spirits. The Jews had fallen asleep in their desire for the Lord, and had become comfortable where they were. In went so far that on their journey to unprecedented promises from Yahweh, they complained and desired to go back to their foreign captors. Besides the wretched depravity of sin there displayed, it evidences a common lie that the enemy repeatedly throws at us – namely – that we are not pilgrims and that it is OK to become comfortable in this world.
The second point taught by Israel’s four century slavery is that man inherently needs to be forced to work (to some degree or another) and needs to be forced to learn how to be productive. Everything in sin nature presses toward the lazy and apathetic. It runs contrary to sin nature to work hard, to sweat, and to ache. Yet those who work hard (for the right reasons) know the deep satisfaction of seeing their completed work. When Israel was first formed, she was made up of nomadic herdsmen, completely unfit for entering an occupied region, overthrowing those inhabitants, and then making the place their own with cities and infrastructure and government. They learned those things in Egypt and took them out upon the Exodus.
As I sat reading about this, I suddenly realized the correlation between those two truths and my own life. Quite often, perhaps daily, I daydream about having a few million dollars in the bank, so that I would not have to keep a full time job. For me, this has nothing to do with an aversion to work. I love working. I need to work. If there is one thing I’ve learned concretely about myself from being a short-term stay-at-home-dad, it’s that I have to work. I can’t sit around and do nothing. It drives me crazy.
The reason I desire wealth (by American standards anyways) is so that I could pursue my passions and dreams full time, as well as those of my wife and son. Set free from the slavery of the 9 to 5, I would spend my days pursuing intimacy with the Lord, learning to eat very healthy, exercising, crafting anything out of wood, creating art, practicing musical instruments, reading, pursuing my seminary degree, learning new languages, roasting coffee, and traveling the world at large. My hope is that through those passions I could bless the lives of others while being an excellent steward of the gifts God has given me.
See there – I have perfectly justified why I should be rich. So the only natural follow up to these thoughts is to turn to the Lord and ask Him why my wife and I make meager earnings (by American standards anyways) while lacking the time and resources to do something with these gifts and desires He gave us.
With no hesitation the Lord turned my heart and mind straight to the truth, well taught in His Word, that it is next to impossible for the rich man to enter heaven. “But Lord, ” I say, “I have only the purest motives for desiring the financial freedom to avoid the need for a job.” He then reminds me of the depth of sin’s power over the hearts of men by taking me to the Israelites’ status shortly after they were given great wealth. Repeatedly they would praise God for the wealth and freedom, and within a single generation would turn away from God, consider the wealth as obtained by their own hand, and fall into horrific sin. With Yahweh HIMSELF present among them, with signs and miracles on a daily basis, with an orchestrated nation of people governed by the Lord, and with Divine blessings over all their needs, this people could not consistently walk a path of holiness.
Why should I expect to be any different? It’s easy to picture myself remaining Christ-like and righteous under the gift of riches. It’s difficult to admit that most likely I would be just like Israel – or worse, my son would be like Israel.
Therefore I have to apply to principles surrounding the purpose of Israel’s captivity to my own life. I know that to be a biblical application of truth since the dispensations of God have consistently and always built bigger and better principles for each new age of God’s redemptive work. What was true of Israel, is true of me to a much higher degree now that I exist under grace.
Therefore the lack of riches for me on earth is a gift of God given to me to constantly stir in me a desire for Heaven. It is amazing how quickly I would risk losing the entirety of eternal riches promised to the faithful, which I will be free to employ in manners infinitely better and more incomprehensible than I ever could on earth, for the temporary and non-secured pleasures of having riches here on earth. Or in other words, if I desire to have lots of money so that I could build a fantastic wood shop out back and spend all day creating beautiful pieces of furniture, the comparative potential in glory will be that I will have all of eternity, and all of the riches of the Godhead, to craft beautiful things in a manner and of a nature that is infinitely beyond anything I could ever do here. AND I get to do that side by side, hand in hand with the Master Creator Himself.
Why would anyone choose the first option? Why would anyone choose temporary over eternal? Because they believe the lie that what can be obtained now is better than what will be obtained in waiting. My lack of a wood shop, and unlimited plane tickets, and musical practice are given to me, as gifts of grace, to keep my heart longing for the infinitely better versions of those in glory. Those heavenly versions will be magnificent beyond all imagination. That is the promise of God to me.
On the second point then, I am not rich simply put because God knows that I need to be disciplined to constantly work here on earth. If I were to ever find myself without the need to work 40 hours weeks for a paycheck, I would soon drift into a very unwise and selfish use of my time. My dreams and aspirations would give way to my sin eventually. Again, this points me to Heaven in two ways: 1) it forces me to rely on God now for the discipline, patience, and strength to work a potentially mundane job, with great joy and thankfulness. And 2) it sets my eyes toward Heaven, where I will be given work that will thrill my heart perfectly, will not be effected by the curse of sin, and will always produce righteous and holy results that bring endless joy to my soul and endless praise to my Savior.
Typology is a beautiful thing (although breaking down Fairbairn’s page-long sentences is not).